The Baby and The Bathwater. ~ Anne Finstad

Via on Mar 8, 2012
Guruji (via gbSk)

Last week I watched a video of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois chanting.

It is a strange feeling to watch footage of someone you know well that is no longer here. When he passed in 2009, my daughter was a bit over a year old, and we had just moved back to California. I had taken her to India at ten months of age, so going back for his memorial just wasn’t in the cards. And maybe what I feel when I see these videos reflects that I am still in the process of accepting that he is gone.

While I wasn’t a student who studied with Pattabhi Jois in the 70s, I spent many months in India practicing with him and this man had a dramatic impact on my life. My heart knows his voice in the most visceral way. Seeing him talk brings back his counted classes, his way of talking to us, the humor, and the long ago conferences where he sat in the old house reading the newspaper and answering our crazy western questions. I remember being put into postures, and being shown how to move through the practice with his hands. I remember laying in Savasana and realizing that human or not, he was my teacher.

Memories like that aren’t thoughts. They are made of feelings, smells and sounds. To see it on film is to remember him, and yet deal with this startling fact he is there, but he isn’t here now. When I first heard that people were leaving the Anusara school I didn’t know why and it wasn’t really something that directly concerned me.

However what I did think about was Guruji and what started to happen after Shri K. Pattabhi Jois died. 

Old Shala (via ideowl)

Pattabhi Jois was a charismatic leader. To an extent maybe all gurus are. On my first trip to Mysore in 2000 one of the fellows living there at the time confessed to not wanting to hang out with the new yoga students. He said that most of the people there were in the throws of the “Tearing down the Guru” Syndrome.

They came to India with a lot of expectations, and they had to deal immediately with what Guruji was, and what he wasn’t. Those who stayed sorted  it all out and decide what he had to share was worth the human side that he exhibited too. But not everyone stayed, and those that hadn’t sorted it out weren’t usually very happy people to be around.

When Guruji died things got somewhat complicated in a different but related way. Looking back now to me it is clear that many of us were following Guruji, and that meant when he died we had to sort out who we were going to follow. Ideally we were doing yoga, not just following some guy, but you don’t always think about it at the time when you are in love with your practice and you love your teacher too.

The ”guru thing” can be complicated. 

And that’s all the more clear today when we are in the throes of seeing in the Anusara world  how a teacher can fall.

The reality is when we love someone we are in love with an image. When they die, or their inevitable humanity strikes, it can be heartbreaking, to whatever degree their failure shatters what we have believed in.

So it would seem valid to question the whole process. I mean, why go through that when you don’t have to? Or, why not just go to the yoga teacher for yoga asana and skip all that belief and faith and vulnerability stuff?

For me, the love I felt and feel for my practice and my teachers (Sharath and Shri K Pattabhi Jois among others), was an inspirational and tranformational force in my life. That love helped me do things I never would have been able to do left to myself, and helped me to find an inner strength and spirit I wouldn’t have otherwise known. They helped me face my fears and overcome my own inner obstacles. And read carefully. They helped me find my own heart.

My own love transformed me. And yeah, often it’s an image we have of them. And often that image will at some point be broken. But the method does work. And it can be argued that even the tearing down that sometimes will happen is a part of the process too. Part of growing up and really getting it again that we are all human.

I know that being a Guru is not easy. I deal with the one image I carry of my teacher. They deal with a lot of people and their images. They deal with a lot coming at them at once. On top of this, short of enlightenment not only do the tests keep coming, to my understanding the traps one can fall into become more subtle and complex. As many would say those aren’t shoes I’d want to have to walk in.

But in end, is the test of the method whether or not the guru falls? Or is it rather who we as the student become?

I would hate in the immediacy of what’s happening in the yoga world for people to forget those questions. And I would hate for the efficacy of any method of yoga, or the efficacy of having a teacher that you surrender to in your yoga practice be written off because of the acts of one individual or a few.

We all have to decide what we can live with in a teacher and where we draw the line, and people themselves have to be accountable for their mistakes. But as long as human beings are practicing yoga, people will be human. As long as there are reporters there will be stories that humanize people we look up to and respect.

For me my yoga is not one teacher, and the inevitable humanity of a human that participates in any lineage does not lesson the power of our own practice or the transformation it brings.

“Do your practice, all is coming.”
~ Shri K Pattabhi Jois

~

Prepared by Emily Perry/Editor: Kate Bartolotta

Anne Finstad started yoga in 1996, unable to touch her toes. After five years of practice she set off to India where she had the honor to study with Shri K Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath in the intimacy of the original shala. After four additional trips to India over nine years, and many years of daily practice, she had the honor of receiving the authorization to teach this method from Shri K Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath, an honor currently granted to less than 100 people in the United States. She has been teaching Mysore Style Ashtanga classes in the manner she was taught in India for over ten years, and she has witnessed first hand the powerful transformation and healing available to practitioners of Ashtanga yoga with patience, practice, and time.

You can find her own website at www.sattva-yoga.com, and most days you can find her teaching or practicing at Yoga is Youth in Mountain View, California.

Desktop/Tablet banner

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

1,738 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

Elephriends - Mindful Partners

190x1902-EJ-clothing

11 Responses to “The Baby and The Bathwater. ~ Anne Finstad”

  1. Wow, what a beautiful and timely piece! Thank you so much.

  2. [...] up and we want to drop out and return to our previous way of living. But that would obviously be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead Patanjali calls upon our courage and endurance, sometimes called ‘the path of the [...]

  3. Emily Perry Emily Perry says:

    Thank you Anne for such a beautiful piece!

  4. [...] started off with this really personal sharing from my yoga teacher, a sweet tribute to Guruji peppered with some important questions about what [...]

  5. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    all very beautifully said. knowing people who's bodies he permanently damaged with forceful adjustments, who were told they were lucky because "guruji broke you," and seeing the following image made me wonder though: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_wwqzK9LZN_A/SrQDT7yfbpI

    i guess a question that comes up for me is at what point what kind of bad/harmful behavior allows us to change our opinion of someone we used to hold in an exalted light, and indeed of their teachings?

    oddly enough i recall originally hearing that john friend had published it (and perhaps taken it himself) on his blog…not sure if that is true, but it would be rather ironic.

    also have never really know what to make of the grammatically confusing and magical thinking-esque mantra "do your practice and all is coming…"

    what do you take it to mean?

    • Anne Finstad says:

      More directly: Pictures can be taken a lot of ways. Intention matters a lot. I've been touched by European women teachers who fully grabbed my privates. But it wasn't sexual in nature. People just love to find something to spin out on. My point here is, if the teacher helps you come to a better understanding of who YOU are, and what God is for you, then you have gone in the right direction by studying with that teacher. And however that teacher might fall or not fall, that can't affect or take away what you have become.

  6. Anne Finstada says:

    You have to work it out for yourself. Teachers will be talked about, but not every teacher works for every one. I break easily and he didn’t break me. But again and again, with a teacher, go and see for yourself. Say no if you need to say no. People need to make their own decisions.

  7. Anne, thank you so much for writing this. As a devoted student of Anusara, I greatly appreciated this perspective. – Jeannie Page

  8. [...] The Baby and The Bathwater. ~ Anne Finstad [...]

Leave a Reply