Buddhist, Be Thyself! ~ Shy Sayar

Via on Sep 6, 2010

When I had been teaching yoga and meditation for a few years, a couple of my closer students insisted that I follow through on an intention to teach an intensive teacher training retreat. I obliged, despite fearing that I would not know what to do, and that none other than they would actually attend.

The retreat turned out to be very challenging indeed, but also very rewarding; we went camping in Death Valley in March and I simply related what I had learned to a powerful group of students—one pose, one sutra, one breath at a time.

One training became two, three and four, and before I knew it, there was nothing else I wanted to do with my time.

Were it today, I would perhaps have known to start being worried; but at the time, devoting myself to teaching all day and every day seemed like salvation. I woke up before dawn to practice and meditate before my students awoke—in settings like Oregon’s Coquille River Valley and California’s Trinity Alps—and then taught asana, pranayama, meditation, and philosophy until long after the sun had set. When the group would have lunch, I would meet with individual students to listen, and to gently advise and direct. Hearts opened, tears flowed, and I started feeling like a genuine teacher.

The fairy tale did not begin to show cracks in the shell until I started noticing how disdainful I had grown of the long, empty days between teacher trainings. “Preference,” I thought to myself, “exactly that which I teach to be a fine foundation for suffering.” The empty quality of life outside teaching bore little resemblance to the luminous, cognizant emptiness by which the masters describe reality. The general sentiment was something like resentment, as though life were failing at its duty to challenge and fulfill me.

When the relationship in which I had been then failed, many of the shortcomings that I had hidden even from myself became public domain, and I experienced much disdain from former students. Some of these had even been on an honor system payment plan for training and chose to stop making payments. Self-loathing arose, accompanied with marvel at how quickly the proud fall, and what a satisfying thump they make when they hit the ground.

It was shortly thereafter that I learned what meditation might actually be, and began responding to the question “who is your teacher?” with “my therapist”.

It was in therapy that I first allowed another to be gently and compassionately “on my side”, as I had tried to be for my students. Self-loathing slowly began to turn into self-knowledge and a semblance of self-acceptance. Meditation became time to be with this one—this fragile, vulnerable being, right here. I realized that my failures were completely understandable, forgivable and human. Yet, trying to hide them from others in order to feel and appear accomplished made them unacceptable by virtue of sheer disappointment. My passion for teaching had itself been a form of sublimated self-loathing; an attempt to cease being this insignificant, suffering being—ugly in all the ways I did not want to be—and to disappear into the image of the true teacher. The old adage proved frustratingly true once more: wherever you go, there you are. The silver lining, however, did not fail to appear.

I still teach and train teachers with just as much enthusiasm, but perhaps with greater honesty. Experience, the greatest and perhaps the only teacher, seems to have conspired to teach its greatest (and perhaps its only) lesson: happiness lies not in becoming.

It is found in the willingness to simply be ourselves, all true teachings of No Self aside.

Simply ourselves. Beautiful in all the ways we did not want to be.

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About Shy Sayar

Yoga Therapist Shy Sayar teaches classical Hatha yoga, underwritten by yoga's ancient scripture as well as by contemporary science. Shy believes in teaching people, not poses - as the practices of yoga are infinitely adaptable to fit the stages of a practitioner's development, and there is no need to push the body into arbitrary shapes. In his teaching, Shy tries to refrain from overstating esoterics, but his methods of training the body aim to recall classical yoga's stated end of freeing the practitioner from the illusion of identification with anything that was born and will die - the experience of immortality and unity with all of being. As such, he emphasizes the ease of the breath, the serenity of the musculature at work, and the peace of the mind over the postures of the body. At his Yoga One studios in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, CA, Shy teaches classes, trains yoga teachers and sees Yoga Therapy patients. He also teaches literature courses at the University of California at Berkeley, including coursework on the classical literature of India. He holds a degree in music and will at times chant for students in savasana. Shy is revered and admired by two wonderful (albeit unreasonable) cats. He loves practicing yoga on his living room carpet while his cats jump on his back to provide added resistance. He also delights in writing bios in the third person. Lastly, he prides himself on being nobody's guru. www.LoveYogaOne.com www.YogaTrainingInThailand.com


8 Responses to “Buddhist, Be Thyself! ~ Shy Sayar”

  1. Amber says:

    This is beautiful, Shy. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Ariella says:

    I wanted to say something profound about the struggle to radiate your true innee being through the mask that you present to others, but instead the words of Sting’s song Alien in New York keep echoing in my brain: “Be youself, no matter what it takes… Be yourself, no matter what it takes.”

  3. Aron Stein says:

    I think this is one reasons people go through a formal process of becoming a teacher rather than jumping into it and being self anointed 'teachers'. Just a thought but most of the monks I have known who became zen masters it was a gradual process.

    • Shy Sayar says:

      It does seem like it would have to be, doesn't it? Perhaps it boils down to experiencing ourselves fully. What my teacher told me when I hit the toughest sh#t was: good, good – soon you will really have something to teach.

  4. Shy Sayar says:

    And I am touched by your kind words. I hope to meet you on the path one of these days, Charlotte!

  5. Shy Sayar says:

    Thank you, Charlotte, it seems that you can genuinely relate to some of my experiences. Where and what do you teach?

  6. Charlotte says:

    I can definitely relate! I've been teaching yoga and meditation in Salt Lake City, and occasionally elsewhere, since 1986. My main teachers are a husband and wife team named Pujari and Abhilasha. For 25 years, they ran a small retreat center in Southern Utah called The Last Resort in Southern Utah. Their intention was to create a space where small groups (10 or fewer) could practice the dharma. At their peak, they held 7 or 8 vipassana retreats a year, including two 30-day sits, along with yoga, relationship and cleansing retreats. The ran their retreats with impeccable integrity, non-judgment and love. I sat many of their 30-day retreats, and in the process, went deep enough to spark a year-long "dark night." It was so hard, but nothing taught me authenticity and compassion like spending a year face-to-face with my sh#t. And of course, the work continues. It sounds as if you have dedicated yourself to this process too. I'm inspired by your generosity in sharing your story.

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