Monday, April 4, 2011

Your Inner Guru

For over a year now (I cannot believe it has been that long), we have mused together about the intersection of yoga and law but also about yoga and life in the 21st century. After all, much of what makes law practice so difficult is that it is a product of the 21th and 21st century rat race – except on steroids (or worse, but we shall leave that post to another day). But we have always focused on the “what” of yoga, e.g., the asanas, pranayama, meditation, and even some yoga teachings. But today, let us focus on the “how.”

As the American Hindu Foundation is making clearer each day, yoga came and comes from Hinduism. Like everything in life, however, it has evolved and changed and become its own all over the world. The beginning of this evolution into various “schools” was the result of the “how.” Yoga was essentially a guru-student teaching scheme. A student would seek out a guru and would study for many, many years, then go off and teach himself, yes always men at the time.

In fact, this is how many religions and philosophies have evolved. The martial arts are about a sensei (teacher) and the student – well illustrated in “The Karate Kid.”  In Western cultures, Jesus taught his disciples, and even Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle who influenced the rest of western philosophy for centuries. In other words, the student-teacher relationship is traditional and cross cultural. But does that make it the best for everyone?

Without being too personal, one of the reasons I have never claimed a particular religion or practice (though I learn from and discuss ideas from many both here and in my life) or become a devotee is because the concept of having one guru does not resonate with me. I do not see it as something wrong, and I actually think it can work great for many people, but it does not work for me personally. Longtime readers of this blog will know that I prefer community. Buddhists teach about “the three jewels,” the Buddha (either the historical person or the enlightened state), the Dharma (the teachings to get to enlightenment), and the Sangha (the community with whom you study the dharma). This works better for me, but it still does not fully resonate.

Yesterday, I had a discussion with someone who is incredibly passionate about mentoring, and I came away from the meeting feeling inspired. I started thinking about why I love community so much, what it does, and going back to the conference where I felt my heart open from community and inspiration, it finally clicked. Community is about inspiration; it is about finding the inspiration to keep on going. And that can come from anyone at anytime.

But external inspiration is not enough. I have been watching a lot of TED talks, and they are incredibly inspiring, but they do not always spark that seed within me that makes me want to do something great; they do make me glad that others are doing great things, and that makes me less scared about our future, but I realized that we have something to learn from the “how” of yoga, from the concept of a guru. I must find the balance between strict guru-student and aimless wandering.

Your guru can be one person or many people, but what matters is that you are inspired to do what you love to do. It could be your longest-time friend who can remind you that you always wanted to be a veterinarian (what child did not?), and now you are a lawyer – leave it completely and find something new! It could also be your longest-time friend who reminds you that you always wanted to be a lawyer (yes, those people exist), and on your toughest days, remind you why you wanted to do law. If you still think you can fulfill the why while practicing law, you have your guru.

In short, your guru is anyone who reminds you about your inner guru – that voice that has motivated you and driven you since you were young and idealistic. So, like the yogis and others of old, who studied for years with one teacher, delving into ideas and striving to find enlightenment, I implore you to surround yourself with people who inspire you, who make you want to be great, who make you believe that you can achieve that state of “when you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.”

Who are the people that inspire you to be your best?


© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved


  1. Oh yes, I completely agree, it is critical to surround ourselves with supporters rather than naysayers. I am infinitely influenced and inspired by my husband, god children, step children, children in general... and my teachers too... at pure yoga in NY and in India, they inspire me as well. Glad you asked.

  2. Claudia, what a wonderful list of amazing support and inspiration. And I agree - naysayers should be respectfully asked to leave our lives unless we can find ways to be their inspiration.

  3. I must say I have one consistent guru in my life-- my sister, Jane has believed in my art and in my work since I was quite young, proudly displaying my work on her walls when she was in college and even now in her office in NY. She inspires me with her courage, and encourages me with her devotion to beauty. and within the last 5 years, I have met a fabulous spirit of a Tai Chi teacher, who seems to say just what I need to hear, to focus me and re-focus my vision each week. Deb Adams is a wonderful guide on this journey of discovery each week! With those two dynamic women in my life, I feel so blessed. And now you Becca, in sharing your thoughts and own discoveries, have managed to keep me on track with this new phase of life. Thank you all for your generosity of spirit.

  4. Thanks, Toni. You have been one of my inspirations as well. And I am so glad that you have such inspiring people in your life. It sounds like they have truly lighted the passion within you. How wonderful and beautiful, and dare I say, inspiring!

  5. "In short, your guru is anyone who reminds you about your inner guru" -- I love this.

  6. I am blessed with a moral, and loving family. My parents taught me and my five brothers and sisters how to be strong in the face of adversity and challenges. Their guidance included "do your best so at the end of the day what more could you ask from yourself or this life?" I carried this message forward and raised my two children as my parents raised me. And they too are strong, smart, and loving.