I have had a teacher

Geeta Iyengar has passed on the 16th December, 2018, she was 74 years old.

I have learnt about life at this woman’s feet. Today what I know is that it is not what I leant but the transformational impact of that person. My emotions, my grief and loss are separate, in a way only my own. She changed the world around around her by who she was and how she lived. In the small mind when someone is alive we constantly have small communications, about how things are done what we like or dislike, how we are interrupted or helped. We are all like this, despite words like non attachment, love and respect.

When the big mind is freed we can see Reality.

My teacher was one of those, a big mind, a Reality teacher. If there was an interest in the knee or alignment it was so that we were transformed, not so that we corrected our small mind. Our knee is painful and we want it not to hurt, so she went there, correcting and adjusting, so that we could get on, understand the power of this thing called yoga, which we know so little about. Our small mind knows much about everything, but to taste the Big Mind it is a matter of Grace and jumping off. We must relinquish ourselves, our small knowing mind to the other, a teacher, to God.

With Geeta you could smell the Big Mind, catch the fragrance, feel the light. Our souls were awakened. We necessarily be pulled through the small mind, focusing on anger, discomfort, but what we were discovering was that there is pain in light. For all of us, the teacher included. Nothing smooth or sweet. This is a transmission of fire. Save your life, wake up from your small preoccupations that close our ears so that we cannot hear, or our eyes that will not see. We want to see and hear only what fits in our known world, she raged no, look deeper.

Geeta was pure and somehow innocent. But she could identify the shopkeeping minds that we have in the west, happy with what we can collect on the outside, confusing this with the inner transformation.  She was not distracted but focused, she had made her choice long ago at sixteen, it was Yoga, a solitary simple path with no husband or children or gold around her neck.

I think we imagine yoga as a small thing, but it was about life, transformation, integrity. It was how we live, breathe, always with the transcendent as the focus. That is all.  She only had to go deeper.

She was re reading her fathers books seeing more and more what lie there. She was always able to get out of the way, as students who loved her sometimes we wished she wouldn’t. We were full of ourselves and she was busy with the act of emptying. We were filling up, perhaps interested in becoming something/someone, using yoga, she was walking the other way, into the relinquishment.

That was a force to feel. Our small minds want everything kept small, even the other.

We don’t know another, so we make things up, make them familiar to our world. She was not familiar, she did seem to follow rules about how she should behave, to be nice and palatable, she just taught. She was not our friend, there was no stickiness.

She showed me God. I had always had God as my centre, but she lived a religious life in the sense of her identification. It was how she spoke about things, rarely using the G word in the beginning, more toward the end, but it was the simplicity of her orientation. She was walked the path of the pilgrim, as a woman, as a yogi, as a Hindu, a path that is the same for all who seek this way. It took me a lot of time and re calibration inside myself to see this. She stretched us into ourselves, often not gently, or so that we could happily understand, nor that we could be at ease with with what we found out about ourselves, she was not a familiar.

On a cellular level in the silence of a being, we knew. We were not being taken the path of understanding, we were not her candidates for her blue book in steps for a teacher in developing body wisdom, we were thrown from cliffs, forced into long silences with ourselves, left empty and exhausted, but simple.

Over a long time she uncomplicated yoga. I never had any words for what was happening to me, I wanted to be able to speak and explain but I couldn’t. There was the outside changing of the body, the wonders one feels when you begin to feel well oiled and light, but it was on the inner layer that I had no idea. I was not becoming a better person, a good person, I was becoming a cellular person, feeling spaces and movements, stillness and presence. I was also learning about inhabiting the body of a woman, inhabiting a world that was emotionally and intellectually connected to that body. We often break this up into things about us, like mensuration or menopause, or childbearing. But these were the surface things, inside I was learning about the cellular tension of being a woman. What did woman need emotionally, mentally, how did their wombs respond to this and that. The wiring of us as women.

I know that we could only go to these places because she had travelled the path.

She was my light, my teacher, and she was my companion. She was what I will never have words for, she could somehow show us that words were thin, experience was all. She was in all senses a student of her Guru, also her father, she was a woman who was born to look straight into the light, a teacher to show others that light.

Caroline Coggins

December 2018



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