Buddhist, Be Thyself! ~ Shy Sayar

Via Shy Sayar
on Sep 6, 2010
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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.


About Shy Sayar

Shy Sayar is a teacher and therapist with over 5000 hours of experience bringing yoga to students of all levels, treating patients, and training yoga teachers around the globe. Shy believes in Teaching People – Not Poses, since the practices of yoga are infinitely adaptable to fit the practitioner’s stages of development, and there is no need to push the body into arbitrary shapes. Instead, his Tantravaya yoga method integrates the classical Eight Limbs of Yoga, equally cultivating the body, breath and mind to bring each practitioner to optimal, holistic health. While the ultimate aim of yoga is to reveal the interconnectedness of all beings as the expression of one eternal life, Shy’s teaching refrains from overstating esoterics and focuses instead on bringing about this awakened consciousness by emphasizing the ease of the breath, the integrity of the musculature at work, and the serenity of the mind. Shy is the founder and owner of Yoga One Studios in Northern California. He has offered coursework on education and pedagogy, as well as yoga philosophy and classical Indian literature at the University of California, Berkeley. In his yoga teaching, Shy integrates his experience in higher education with skillful attention to different learning styles, making even the most complex teachings approachable to every student. His unique Tantravaya Yoga Therapy method has shown remarkable results in posture correction, pain relief and improved balance, as well as healing emotional trauma and addressing the roots of psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Himself an avid athlete, Shy works with both elite and amateur athletes – including equestrians, runners, climbers, et al. – in order to maximize performance while preventing injury, as well as expediting recovery from injury. He is internationally recognized for offering the highest quality Yoga Teacher Trainings around the world, with exceptional emphasis on the sciences of anatomy and physiology, classical and contemporary theory and philosophy, and the most extensive practical training. He also specializes in teaching anatomy, physiology, diagnostics and therapeutics in teacher training programs worldwide.


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.

  4. 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.

  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.

  7. Shy Sayar says:

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