In response to an article I recently read that asserts, all folks in the “spiritual industry” are fakes. It got me thinking…
I’ve found it’s always helpful to maintain a certain degree of healthy skepticism and discernment as both teachers and practitioners -in life in general, when you get right down to it. I’ll admit, reading the article evoked an initial emotional response, which I’ve given myself some time to consider. And while my knee-jerk thought was “well that’s sure a bunch of bologna to call *everyone* out as a faker,” it also gave me a lot to think about. And for that, I’m thankful.
I like to imagine I don’t ever blindly follow a practice, a teaching, or a teacher for that matter - regardless of popularity or length of time it (or they) have been around. If I do eventually implement anything as an ongoing practice (either as a teacher, student, or simply a human) it’s because of the tangible lasting positive impact it’s had in my life. It’s because I’ve experienced benefits first hand. Perhaps it’s because it challenges me to think and/or move in different/unexpected ways. Ultimately it’s because in some way, shape or form, it aligns with my purpose - which is growth, continuous learning, connection, and some semblance of peace in a very wackadoodle world.
Years ago when I was going through my initial yoga training, I vividly remember the seasoned teacher who led the philosophy portion of our training pausing in the middle of class to share with us that after decades of teaching; after watching the evolution of her own practice; after devoting a great deal of her time to exclusively studying both old and new yogic text, she felt entirely comfortable saying “I don’t know” when something eluded her. This may sound simple but it struck me, because of all the mentor teachers I’d studied with, it seemed she would be the one to *know* the most. I can still picture her sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor, surrounded by well-organized folders and notebooks that she’d collected and studied over the years - such a massive amount of information… I can still hear the collective sigh of relief from all of us bright-eyed fledgling yoga teachers who desperately wanted to “know it all.” In that moment, she gave us all permission NOT to know it all, and to say it out loud. I’ve never forgotten her humility. And I’ve always remembered that there’s simply no way for any of us instructors of such a massive, nuanced, and ancient body of knowledge… to come anywhere close to knowing it all. And while this has given me bouts of legit imposter syndrome over my years of teaching, it is also something that keeps me grounded and deeply humble.
I feel fortunate to teach and practice yoga in a community that is for the most part supportive, inclusive, and incredibly diverse. I take classes with instructors who have been teaching for decades, and I’m always grateful for the way their insight and functional teaching style lands on me like a soothing balm. I enjoy classes with instructors who delve into philosophy, and somehow build out entire creative sequences based on rather esoteric ideas. I take classes from very secular instructors who are extremely knowledgeable about anatomy. There are instructors I know who will challenge me both physically and mentally to my very edge, and on certain days that’s exactly what I need. I know teachers who incorporate sound, touch, scent, and chanting… and I find their classes lovely and thoughtful. I enjoy taking classes from brand new teachers who are all at once tender, terrified, and passionate about the tumultuous sea they’ve found themself swimming in. I learn from each and every one of these instructors - whether they’ve been teaching for two weeks, or two decades. I accept what they offer much in the same way I’d happily accept a meal they’ve prepared. It may not always be exactly what I’d prefer, but I’m certainly grateful for it. I won’t say I’ve never left a class and thought it wasn’t my jam. But I’ve never left a class and thought of the teacher as fake. And I’ve never considered a class to be a “performance.” I’ve always been moved by what inspires each individual teacher, and what a gift it is to have the opportunity to take a class taught by a teacher who is being authentic to what resonates with them. At this stage of life, I feel very unburdened by not having to determine what “real” yoga versus “fake” yoga might be. At the end of the day, it’s simply not for me to decide.
Which I suppose leads me to the next shoe to fall. Am *I* fake? I certainly have asked myself that very question after teaching rooms full of students material that any way you slice it, I myself cannot (and will not) master over the course of my lifetime. I ask this same question as it pertains to other aspects of my life, too. I could, by the same token, ask myself if I’m a fake runner. A fake writer. A fake chef. A fake mother, for that matter. Can I really be a master of any of these things? And if I’m not a master, does that mean I’m a faker?
Last week I took a class with a young teacher who is newer to me. His class was so gentle, and yet surprisingly challenging. He cued breath masterfully, and while it was clearly asana based, he peppered in some lovely palatable insight and philosophy. I’ll admit, by the time we hit savasana I wasn’t hearing a whole lot of what he was saying to us. But what I do remember distinctly is that he ended by saying we all have a choice - how we speak, and how we impact those around us. His final thought was that every single person in the room has a purpose and value. His generous words and practice shifted my mood for the absolute better. My guess is that he shifted everybody’s.
And it really could be as simple as that. We choose how we see. We choose how we move and impact those around us. With that in mind, I’d much rather consider everyone to have purpose and value. That is a far, far truer statement, than everyone in the spiritual industry is a fake.