Lessons From My Mentors
The Yoga Sutras contain the Guru Principle : “When the student is ready, the Guru appears.” “Guru” is another name for a Spiritual Mentor. While we may refer to external individuals as “Gurus”, the word’s actual meaning is “one who disperses darkness.” Spiritual mentors “dispel the darkness” by helping us wake up to our intuitive wisdom. They don’t necessarily tell us something new, but rather reflect some truth we already hold dear.
We are all born with the gift of intuition. We “know” certain things to be true without any logical explanation. As we age and become more exposed to societal expectations and thought-patterns, we lose touch with our inherent wisdom. Luckily, we encounter special individuals along the journey who lovingly remind us who we are, redirecting us when necessary.
Live Courageously and Authentically
Susan was my therapist in high school and throughout college. I was deeply unhappy and needed answers, but I didn’t know what I was searching for. I swallowed my pride and looked into counseling. At first, I was hesitant to attend therapy, but it turned out to be truly rewarding in the end.
Susan encouraged me to think for myself and seek out experiences that made me feel alive, despite what relatives and peers might say or think. She reminded me that sometimes fears and thought patterns are not our real beliefs, but impressed ideas from family or society. At some point we need to individuate, separate from our family- identity, and learn that we are more than our limited roles from childhood and early conditioning. Ten years later, I still recall her words:
“Don’t let the opinions of your family or anyone limit you. You’re Renee, so you need to do what makes Renee happy in any situation and trust yourself.”
Susan told entertaining and insightful stories too. Everything she said was something she had learned from experience along the way. Like me, she understood what it was like being from New Orleans, belonging to an opinionated and traditional family, going to a Catholic School, and just needing to get away from it all to see what else is out there.
She taught me to embrace and celebrate my femininity, and to not be dissuaded from pursuing anything just because I am a woman.
Susan gave honest feedback and practical tips for living more authentically. She was the first person who recommended I travel to find more meaning in life. She encouraged me to honor my intuitive longings and heartfelt needs.
I needed this mentor to develop inner strength and courage; Courage to pursue my path and listen to my heart, despite how impractical, unorthodox, or intimidating something might seem.
Live with Dedication and Passion
When I was 22, I worked in an office and needed an outlet for fun and self-expression. I joined a dance troupe that trained and performed in Salsa and Contemporary Dance. My instructors, Mariangel and Derik, were passionate about what they did and recognized that same passion in their students.
I had taken dance lessons from well-known professionals and various instructors, but these two were special. They reminded me to always start from the basics and do anything with love as the cornerstone. When we are willing to work our way up, we learn how to respect a craft that others take for granted or quickly criticize. We must learn to enjoy the process.
“You can achieve anything in the world you set your mind to, despite your background, but you have to choose something that you truly love and can willingly devote all your free time to perfecting.”
I remember those words following a private lesson. I heard this kind of advice before, but these two practiced what they preached. After building the lives of their dreams with patience, dedication, love, and determination they were ready to pass down their wisdom.
I had a conversation with Mariangel one day about focusing on something with complete attention. Her advice was heartfelt:
“This is all I ever wanted to do as a young girl. When everyone else was out with friends or partners, going to bars or to the beach, I just wanted to be alone dancing. I was not concerned with finding a boyfriend or making friends because I knew in my heart I had to dance. When you find something you love that much, allow yourself to get lost in it. Devote time every day to it. You owe that to yourself.” This advice is both nurturing, as well as practical to achieving dreams and goals.
I learned so many lessons about self-love during my two years with Liquid Rhythm. I learned that there is so much honor in living a creative lifestyle, and that it is possible to do what makes you happy in life, even if society tells you otherwise. It will require patience and won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. I became more comfortable being seen and developed my unique expression as a dancer. My mentors nurtured in me an appreciation of my unique style, as well as a genuine love for all forms of dance and physical movement.
While I adapted to the extroverted aspect of dance, I needed time to integrate all that I had learned. I took a break from the dance team and started practicing Yoga every day. This was what I could get lost in and enjoy alone.
Be Kind to Yourself
In Yoga Philosophy, there are eight "limbs" that a practitioner observes. The first two limbs talk about everyday principles for living in the world, and the next three cover the physical poses, breathing exercises, and sensory withdrawal (going inward) embodied in a “yoga” practice. I quickly excelled in the physical aspect due to my dance experience, but I wanted to start from the basics.
The first two limbs of Yoga are called the Yamas & Niyamas in Sanskrit and translate roughly as the observances and restraints, or the “do’s” and “don’ts” when relating to the world. They explain how we can apply the principles of Yoga to our lives. I logically knew what they were but longed to be in an environment that would encourage me to embody them more strongly. I was ready to leave city life behind for a little while.
I signed-up with the non-profit WWOOF to experience nature daily and perform meaningful service. Little did I know I would meet life-changing mentors.
The Guru Appears When the Student Is ready
The first time I traveled with WWOOF, I chose to go somewhere near Austin, Texas. I typed “yoga” into the keyword search and found a small farm owned by a Kundalini Yoga instructor and naturopath. Though I was ready to embody the principles of Yoga, growth is always scary. I remember feeling uncomfortable my first week and second-guessing the decision I had made. Transitioning to a vegan diet, taking 5 minute showers, and turning off the internet between 9 PM and 7 AM felt like a huge stretch outside my comfort zone. Because I felt instant rapport with the owners Craig and Katja, I was willing to follow their rules and learn what I could, even if it felt difficult.
I initially intended to stay and help out at their farm for 3 weeks. I helped them with a green construction project, basic gardening tasks, and their health food business. I enjoyed their calm energy and knew they had something to share, but it took a wake-up call for me to realize I should incorporate their principles if I wanted to heal.
I got in a motor scooter accident while visiting Austin one weekend and fell on my face. Luckily, I did not hit my head or need to be hospitalized. I did scrape my face and chip a few teeth though. For the first time in a while I felt ugly and ashamed for my recklessness. I didn’t tell my parents what happened, and I decided to stay with Craig and Katja until the end of the year. They were so loving and nurturing. They recommended a quality, affordable dentist nearby and taught me how to heal naturally. Instead of using drug-store ointment or just anything convenient to heal, I did so nature’s way. They provided Aloe Vera from their garden and suggested some fabulous natural oils for regenerating skin. They also taught me the importance of Vitamin D (sunlight) for healing bone fractures and boosting immune health. Katja showed me some easy recipes for soups, smoothies, and other soft foods I could eat while healing. Their way of doing things was different to me, but I healed quickly and grew. This was a truly transformative time.
Sometimes we need to explore & get outside our comfort zones to find mentors that help our souls expand.
When I was ready for transformation, my mentors appeared in my life. While each of my mentors were smart, successful, and hardworking in their own right, the personal connection felt is what led me to seek out their guidance.
A mentor is not just someone wise and more experienced, but also a special person with a fundamental understanding of what our souls long for.
They are part of our soul family. We learn from their example and see our core values reflected back to us. A mentor’s presence nurtures and empowers us to live the lifestyle meaningful to us, rather than what is correct by societal standards.
A true mentor leaves us realizing that we know everything we need to know to be successful and happy. We just have to listen within and stop discounting our intuition.
About the Author:
Renee Williamson is a Blog Writer for The Love Yourself Foundation. She is a New Orleans native who currently resides in Austin, TX and works in Green Construction. She has a degree in Psychology and has studied and taught Yoga for the past 2 years. Renee enjoys traveling, hiking, dancing, cooking, reading, watching movies, and going to live performances of any kind. She believes nature is medicine and that respect for Mother Earth fosters self-respect and love for all beings.