My inner guru can lick your inner guru

Published on April 2, 2013 by      Print
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By Tony Briggs

None of us need to be encouraged yet again to follow our inner guru.

Not a day passes without somebody posting another homily from the Dalai Lama or Martin Luther King Jr. or Albert Einstein or Big Bird reminding us that the deepest truths lie within our own hearts.

Actually, sometimes following your inner guru can be a whole lot like the 1212 CE Children’s Crusade, when a charismatic 12-year-old French boy who had received a holy vision persuaded several thousand other young, poor and disenfranchised folks (he must have been a real good talker) to embark with him on a journey to the Holy Land to free Jerusalem from the infidels. Some turned back when the sea did not part for them as prophesied, some starved, some perished in a shipwreck, and the rest were sold into slavery, probably by their fellow Christians. Not one of them made it to the Holy Land alive. Where, by the way, their plan had been to subdue the unbelievers with love.

When you imagine you’ve found your inner guru in your own bosom, you might want to pause and reflect. Don’t get too excited; don’t get too carried away, as they say. Consider that your inner guide might, just might, be delusional.

It’s because of misadventures like this that humans long ago invented teachers.

Of course, by now we’ve all heard enough horror stories about out-of-control teachers—drugs, sex, rock’n’roll, money-—to  be properly cautious. But somehow we keep giving our inner teacher a complete pass.

It’s as though, since some teachers can’t be fully relied upon, the only possible option left is to trust only your own mind. So what happens when your own mind is a house of mirrors? You know.

This is why humans long ago also invented practices. Practices outlive teachers, generally. Real practices incorporate the experiential wisdom of many generations. They’ve been tested and tweaked, and the trash tends to get thrown out. Over time, real practices grow and evolve to suit the changing needs of their practitioners, to remain relevant and suitable.

When in doubt, trust the practice.

But here comes the fun part: real practices always come packaged in flesh-and-blood teachers, and the depths of any real practice can only be fully passed on by person-to-person transmission, by putting yourself in the room with a real, live teacher, and by giving yourself over to that teacher, at least provisionally. Books won’t get you there, YouTube won’t get you there. A dead guru won’t get you there. Why? They can inspire you (we all love that), but “Dead gurus don’t kick butt” (which we’re not so fond of).

What’s a poor boy to do? Nobody ever said this being-human thing was going to be easy. We’re all just wanderers on the path here, after all.

My only suggestion is try not to go it alone.

Get a teacher. Do your best to find a real teacher teaching a real practice. And then spend real time with them. A lot of time—as much as you can, even when it’s not convenient. Don’t waste time telling yourself, or anybody else who will listen, what you think you already know about the practice. Look, listen, taste, feel, smell what the teacher knows—or imagines she knows. At the very least, you’ll have pleasant company on the road to bedlam.

Tony Briggs About Tony Briggs

Tony Briggs studies with some of the most accomplished yogis in the world in the early days of his training: B.K.S. Iyengar, Judith Lasater, Manouso Manos, Ramanand Patel and Zhander Remete. In the last ten years, he has also studied Taoist Chi Gong with Larry Johnson. Today, Tony teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area—particularly the North Bay—and invites student of all levels who want to penetrate into the depths of yoga, where the truth lies. You can find more information about Tony at







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  1. Kimberly Johnson says:

    Wow, what an honor to have Tony Briggs write here. I am listening.

  2. Dosavasana says:

    Thank goodness for grownups

  3. paul says:

    Why does someone who tells us that we only need one teacher have six teachers named in his bio?

  4. Emile Sorger says:

    Sounds like someone is really in need of students, I’ll stop trusting myself and just keep reading your blog, maybe even pay to be in the presence of your flesh and blood.

  5. Bonnie says:

    I disagree. Ultimately, it is the inner guru who’s going to decide whether to go with a given teacher, to buy into the teaching, and make it (or not) a positive part of one’s world.

  6. Lisa A says:

    Wow, I feel like this post really missed the mark. From my own understanding yoga is or can be a vehicle of self realization. Not just talking poses here. Of coarse we all have to use discernment when it comes to our own “inner Guru”. Making sure we aren’t just being a narcissist and calling it the inner guru-which many can be guilty of. But placing all our trust in a “teacher” seems ultra precarious to me. I equate the word teacher with “lecture”-no dialogue. Many teachers-especially the popular ones-can be total ego maniacs. Using the guise of “instruction” as a way to enhance their sense of self. I do agree that “practice” is key, ultimately the deeper you get in a practice the less you need another living human (with their opinions, judgements and faults) TELLING YOU how to become enlightened. And listening to Martin Luther King or reading the words of Yogananda can be just as relevant now if it pulls you. I actually feel it can be safer as those words are just there, open for your own interpretation taking into account your own life experiences. Which can then allow your own “inner Guru” to become activated. Maybe then take a cue from John Muir and go mediate in God’s Cathedral of Nature. Peace!

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