Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Inspiration Celebration: being your own teacher

Ten years ago I attended a yoga workshop lead by the world famous yogini Angela Farmer. A friend had given me a copy of her dvd The Feminine Unfolding in which Farmer talks about her journey and specifically how she came to follow and trust her own inner guidance and experience. What struck me was Farmer's use of language, her emphasis upon self discovery through experimentation and encouragement to cultivate the teacher within you.

The workshop exceeded my expectations and was pivotal in my approach to teaching and practicing yoga. Recently, I have come to understand how it is informing my creative and spiritual work. One piece of advice that Farmer gave us and has stuck with me is this:

if you have a choice between taking a class or doing your own practice, always choose your own practice.

Oddly enough, this is pretty a radical departure in how most people practice yoga in our country. Anyone who considers themselves a serious yogi/yogini probably believes they must attend regular classes, follow the guidelines or posture sequence or flow series of the school of yoga that they study. Classes and guidance of an experienced teacher are invaluable but ultimately there comes a time when one needs to tune in to their inner guidance, trust themselves to know what is needed and follow that direction.

The same is true for one following a creative path. And I think this is why is has been difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea of trying to market my creativity: for me, making art is about processing my life and experiences through creative expression; it is a means of coming to understand myself and my history in a new way. Through the process of creating, I approach emotions, memories, experiences from a new angle, one which generates integration of past with present, often resulting in healing at a deep emotional and spiritual level.

I have found this especially true as I attempt to write poetry. Working on a piece about visiting my father before he died, I found myself remembering the visit from the angle of trying to capture the details: the emotions, the expectations, and the actions. It was like like dumping over a drawer, seeing the contents all jumbled up and repacking them in a manner that makes sense today. Going through that process, I had insight into my motivations that I wasn't aware of at the time. Pulling it all out and putting it together was incredibly healing for me.

Is it art that anyone may want to buy or own? That doesn't matter to me right now. And I'm not saying it is it wrong to try to want to make a living from your work but for what I do, the value resides not so much in the finished product but the journey I take getting there.

I am also discovering how my interest in animal medicine has helped me develop a greater trust of my intuitive skills and of my ability to ask the questions I need to ask and then to hear the answers. While there are guide books and oracle cards to use in practice, ultimately working with this medicine is all about sharpening my awareness, seeing the signs, and trusting my judgement and experience. Just as yoga teaches, the answers we seek are to be found within ourselves and not given to us by another. The relationship is between oneself and Great Spirit. Nothing more is needed.

Yes, as I am, I have all I need to be enough.

These are the ideas that manifested in my pieces for my series 49 by 49:

Cordelia, the celtic fairy goddess of Spring and Summer blossoms counsels to find balance in life by spending time in nature and to stand firm in one's beliefs. She represents the beauty found when one is authentic, blooming in their unique manner and form.

Ixchel is the Mayan Moon goddess and a powerful healer. By practicing Reiki I am tapping into her energy and acknowledging the reality of Unity and Flow within all life including me. This has be a difficult practice for me to accept: for the longest time I did not trust I was doing it right or "getting it." But patience and practice have lead me to understand the quiet power of this work, accepting I too am capable of experiencing its gifts.

Angela Farmer told us anything and anyone could be our teacher and certainly Dog has been a constant guide throughout my life. I think all I need to say is summed up in these lines responding to the prompt golden boy, a piece inspired by my previous springer and my Moose boy:

My golden boy,

you taught me

we always return

to our hearts’ home

but detours are fun,

pleasure is a bone

well chewed,

smelling takes place in time,

guard what is yours,

offer the soft belly of you

to those you trust,

and understand

patience is a prerequisite

for love.

How do you honor the teacher within you? Is that a voice you inherently trust or have you had to cultivate that relationship? Always, choose your own practice, choose yourself.


  1. Hmmm, honor the teacher within me. That's an interesting perspective. And one, I think, that is better understood with aging. I, too, have been slowly becoming to trust myself, what I think, feel and want. And saying "no" to much means saying "yes" to other things. I do keep searching, though. Hoping someone can offer up tidbits of guidance that lead me deeper into a full remembering of who I am and what I need to do. *sigh* Isn't life grand?

  2. such great advice and seemingly easy but there are so many voices out there, vying for attention. i really need to focus on what is inside me, for a change. thanks for the reminder. and for sharing your inspiring artwork!

  3. dear Lis-an amazing post...and I think one that can be applied to all aspects of our lives. I think for me-I am still learning to trust my intuition and deeper voice. Unfortunately, my socialziation process was all about...being a girl = always being nice, quiet, not having an opinion etc etc. I have to make a concerted effort day to fight that and learn new ways... I certainly don't want Tara being that way!
    I also see your point about creativity...being a process and a journey of self discovery, healing, inner work. I also don't see anything wrong with marketing our work/creativity is the path of "rightful living...our dharma). And...I can totally see you being a super amazing teacher!!!! Your interview answers really allowed me to see things differently! Your photography tips are helping me everyday-something about the way you described things just struck a chord with me. Also, I have started reading Maya Angelou and Sonia Sanchez with Dr. Seus because I realized I don't have to dumb anything down for Tara! And I am so going to take the Mermaid Warrior class...not now because Tara is still too young but a year or so.
    P.S. will be writing you an e-mail later on tonight xxx
    Also...LOVE the lessons you learned from your dog...SO TRUE!!!!!!

  4. I think sometimes I take a class to AVOID my own practice!(I hate when I realize this)Although I do follow my intuitive self for guidance either way. She never disappoints!At some point it always becomes about "doing the work." And that means committing to my own practice- which isn't always easy.But it is unbelievably rewarding in a way a "grade" is not :)Great reminder,Lis. The line "we always return to our hearts' home " so true for me lately.Blessings-

  5. When we have the humility and expectation of the student then what you say about anything becoming our teacher becomes possible.
    And art or poetry will carry the meaning of our journey for us, but can touch others in their journeys too.
    And I like the soft belly and the patience of your golden boy.

  6. There are so many things I love in this post! Becoming my own teacher is something I have really been working on this past year. Animal spirit medicine has always been a love of mine as well. And I really like your art.

  7. Lis;
    This was a beautiful post . . . so glad to have found you and be connected with you through our 52 photo project. I feel we are two like minded girls! I too love Angela Farmer . . . she has paved the way for so many yogis. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Being a teacher within my own life is a skill I am working on. I try to listen to myself and not the Inner Critic that so wants to wreak havoc. I am a work in progress...I'm trying to let out all that stuff I've hidden because I thought others would not accept it..I'm trying to be as me as I can this comes at the perfect are such a wise soul...I love the way you shine in my life.