The teacher, the spiritual ego and a 1001-day practice...

Sat nam! The first thing I have to say before I begin, is that this is a very personal viewpoint of being a teacher, strictly from my own limited perspective of teaching Kundalini Yoga for the past 12 years. There are teachers out there with far more experience than I have, who can bring greater depth, different insights and a and broader perspective to the topic. But this is one of the things I love about teaching and being a teacher - we all teach from where we are now. And that is constantly shifting.

 Me, with my two teachers, Har Nal Kaur and Karta Singh - three generations of ANS teachers

Me, with my two teachers, Har Nal Kaur and Karta Singh - three generations of ANS teachers

For me, and I think for all serious teachers, the most important aspect of being a teacher, is actually accepting that we are all, first and foremost, a student. If what I teach today is the same in one year, it means that I have failed to learn anything from those 365 days worth of experiences, and am not growing as a human being. This means that my capacity to teach others to grow is severely limited at best, and in some peoples eyes my claim to the title 'teacher' could be viewed as fraudulent.

As soon as we think we have nothing left to learn, we have surrendered our right to be a teacher. We are deeply ensconced in what is known as the 'spiritual ego', a state which is easy to slip into, can be hard to recognise, and even harder to get out of. Spiritual ego is the state where we believe we are better than others because we practice more often, or believe our path to be more effective or worthy than other paths. We are in spiritual ego when we look down on others as being less aware. We are all at varying levels of awareness based on our former lives as well as this one - so who are we to say that we are more spiritually advanced or elevated than the student who just walked through the door for the first time. We could be looking at the next guru. 

Being a teacher means constantly keeping spiritual ego in check, and the only way to do this is through the realisation of how little we actually know - and that we are students our entire lives. The greatest teachers I know very often remind me that the more they practice, the more they realise just how little they know. It is their humility and honesty that inspires me.

So, this summer, in the midst of some fairly painful soul searching, I set myself a goal. I had been struggling to keep up a regular personal practice - my ego had been resisting the discipline and commitment that daily practice requires, and I'd been having mini-inner-temper-tantrums, as I call them, every time I came to sit on my mat. The outside world knew nothing about it, but inside there was a micro-battle raging and it wasn't pretty or pleasant.

Then I remembered that some of the most powerful experiences I have had in my life, those which I have been told inspire others, and which I frequently call upon when I need guidance and strength as a teacher, have been those that I have obtained during deep, extended meditation. Quite simply, the only way for me to grow, was for the temper-tantrums to go!

I've done many 40-day meditation practices over the past 12 years but I realised that a 31-minute 40-day practice, while hugely effective, probably wasn't the challenge that my ego really needed for real - and by that I mean deep and sometimes painful - self-confrontation. And that in order to grow as a teacher, I had to really commit to being a student again. And so, here I am, currently about 78 days into what I hope will be a 1001-day (and once you get that far, you may as well keep going forever, right?) meditation practice. 

I chose to practice each of the meditations in the 21 Stages of Meditation programme for 40 days, which will take me to 840 days, and then a further 161 days of the most powerful and highly recommended meditations given by Yogi Bhajan - Sat Kriya, Kirtan Kriya and Sodarshan Kriya, to take me to 1001. My ego doesn't like it, but that's entirely the point!

I have completed the first stage - Conquer Your Upset - and actually quite enjoyed it; a mantra-based meditation, which I always enjoy, chanting Ong Kar five times on each breath for 31 minutes. Now I'm on to boredom, something that comes up in life often, but actually not often enough. I'll come back to that, but for now you can read an article I wrote for Elephant Journal last year on the wonderful state of boredom. I'm on day 38 and about to begin the next 40 days…  of irritation. I'm strangely excited...

!t is interesting to see how committing to something so huge has totally changed my perspective. Finishing the first 40-day meditation wasn't a huge achievement, as it would normally be, and my ego didn't get a chance to be smug or complacent. Instead, it was simply the first step in a much longer, deeper, and as yet unknown, journey. The second stage - boredom - is a full hour-long practice, and my ego is starting to bite back, and I'm trying to simply observe and learn from the experience each and every day. 

Meditation is simply a metaphor for life - how we face the challenges, including those which we and our ego construct for us, is really what defines us. Who knows if I will complete the 1001 days, but I'm certainly going to give it my best.

For now, wherever you are, on whatever path you choose, I wish you the courage to confront your ego and recognise all your resistance and pain as a valuable opportunity to learn and grow.

If you wish to join me, and share this journey please contact me via my website. The Teacher Training starts in January and there is still time to sign up! And do please sign up to my newsletter for exclusive offers and information about programmes and events. 

I send you love and light from beautiful Sinai. Sat nam