In Honour of Guru Purnima

by Barrie Risman

Today is Guru Purnima. In the Indian tradition, the full moon of July-August  (the Indian month of Ashadha) is dedicated to the Guru, the teacher who is the embodiment of truth, wisdom and light.  Traditionally, yoga was a path of discipleship. Teachings and practices were passed down from teacher to student through a lineage of seekers. Guru Purnima celebrates this relationship between student and teacher.

The word Guru is translated as teacher, spiritual guide or respected person. In the yoga tradition, the Guru is the teacher who has walked the path of yoga to its final stage and who, as part of a lineage of teachers, is endowed with the authority to guide others on the path. We can also conceptualize the Guru as a principle of wisdom, truth and light within ourselves. The voice of wisdom  that speaks to us in the form of insight, intuition, expansive clarity and that guides us to the remembrance of our own heart – the abiding joyful presence that is our own deepest essence. We can be close to this voice or far away from it. When we feel disconnected from it, a number of things can bring us back to it: spiritual practices  (can be simple, see below), or something we experience in the outer world that touches us.

The Indian saint Jnaneshwar Maharaj refers to the Guru as “the sun within the darkness of worldly life.” Reflecting on this teaching, I remember times in my life when darkness felt so prevalent. And, the moment of shift, when something – the smile of a child, the smile or politeness of a stranger, the sunlight’s reflection, the beauty of a tree – reminded me of the light. Whenever we connect with the voice of wisdom within ourselves that calls on us to be a good person, to take good care of ourselves, to treat ourselves and others with compassion and respect, to remember the blessings in our lives, we are connecting with the Guru inside us. This voice then becomes like a guide, or a teacher for us, helping us to remember our highest vision for ourselves and become more established in the space of the heart.

In honour of Guru Purnima, here are 5 simple practices to open the pathways back to this inner connection:

1. Take a walk in nature seeing, hearing, feeling her presence fully.

2. Pause and connect with your breath.

3. Think of one thing you are truly grateful for in your life and thank that person or thing (inwardly or outwardly).

4. Be present with a child.

5. Be aware of your breath, focusing on the place in your body where the inhalation ends as it comes in, and where the exhalation arises from.

May these practices open you to the voice of your own deepest wisdom. Happy Guru Purnima!

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