This summer while I was on tour in Europe. I had the opportunity to assist my teacher, John Friend. For the first time, his tour included Switzerland, where he taught a workshop and therapy training. Auspiciously, I was there at the same time and had the honor of assisting him. When I traveled to Barcelona to teach at a yoga conference held in July, John was there as well to teach his scheduled one-day intensive and again, he invited me to assist. It was wonderful to be with him, and I learned a lot.
Ever since, I have been thinking of my apprenticeship with him, and the gifts I received from being around him for a couple of weeks. Let me just say, John is truly one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. In my humble opinion, the system he created, Anusara, is the most sane and intelligent Yoga rubric that is available to practitioners today. The Anusara system's therapeutic implications are so profound that it creates healing in the body, much in the same way that the Dharma I have learned from Jack Kornfield, brings healing to the mind and heart. I have started to call Anusara: "Dharma for the body." I have also been reflecting on the qualities of these two teachers of mine, who, both brilliant, exhibit different qualities as individual teachers for me. I've been thinking about these qualities in terms of archetypes, specifically the "father and mother archetypes" and what this might mean to us, if we learn to embody them into our lives.
John represents the "father archetype". His assistants know that while performing the task of assistance, you have to be ready for him to call you by name and ask any question relating to the Anusara system. I found myself shaking in my boots sometimes; and I prayed in the morning that I would have the right answer to whatever question he would ask that day. Now it is important to understand that he is not putting you on the spot like that in order to humiliate you - not at all. But what he is asking you to do is: Step it up! Expand and be all that you can be!
Often, that entails venturing into the unknown and embracing insecurity and fear.
Jack on the other hand, embodies the "mother archetype" for me. He has the classic "glance of mercy," a quality of such deep compassion and empathy that nothing you could do would result in any kind of failure or deny you his deep and lasting love. Just like the ideal image we might have of a mother, who loves her child no matter what, through success or failure, and whether or not the child feels "worthy" of that love or not.
I truly believe that we need both of these archetypes in our lives. Ideally, we first internalize the mother principle. Meaning that we nurture a love for ourselves, so profound, that it provides us with a grounded sense of security that outlasts any success or failure we may experience. In Tantric Philosophy, for example, it is said that you can never slip past the Hindu goddess Kali. She is the ultimate safety net, catching you no matter how far you fall from grace.
Without that mother principle, no matter how high we reach, how much success we have, how many titles we accumulate. If the very ground we need to walk upon is missing from beneath our feet, none of it will ever be enough. In our personal spiritual practice, we are wise to cultivate the mother principle through the ancient Buddhist practice of Metta, or Loving-Kindness practice. Traditionally, until we sense this self-love has finally taken form, we direct Metta meditation at ourselves. Sometimes this takes years.
Once we have the mother principle internalized it is indeed time to work on the father principle. It is good to be uncomfortable at times, and feel not secure while reaching for the next step, as it usually requires a leap into the unknown. But the healthy respect of the father principle spurs us on to letting go of our comfort zone and stepping into the unknown, and eventually, embracing our courage. When we do this, we enable the larger versions of ourselves to come into being. When we approach these endeavors, supported by the secure and firm ground of self-affirmation, regardless of external success or failure, we are able to work toward our goals with intensity, but also with a lot of playfulness. Should we fail to reach our goals (or not know the answer to John's questions), we can have a sense of humor about it and try again the next time.
I feel incredibly lucky to have found both these qualities so strongly embodied by my teachers and to internalize them into my life and teachings.
I encourage you to reflect on these archetypes also - which one would you like to cultivate and develop, as you are taking your yoga of the mat and into your live?
The last bit of news I wanted to share:
At the end of September, after having come back from Switzerland, I will have a rather complicated foot surgery. The full recovery time will be 3 month to a year. Thankfully, I will still be able to teach, as my community stepped forward gracefully, to help with rides and assistance in my classes during the first portion of recovery.
Honestly I'm a bit scared and any good thoughts and prayers you can send my way, will be greatly appreciated!
Be well and many blessings for the approaching Fall,