by Michael Ketterhagen
Although, according to the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, Consciousness (Brahman) is the teacher for the universe and all beings within it, most of us don’t see Consciousness teaching us every single minute of the day. Most of us, unlike the ancient saints and sages or Francis of Assisi, are unaware of how much our physical environment and the sentient beings living within that environment are teaching us.
I learned a funny thing about teaching during my 29 years at Marian College and University—unless the students in front of me were either open to what I was professing or ready to hear the information about Christianity and theology, they did not seem to enjoy coming to class. They heard what I was saying but the information didn’t touch their lives. It didn’t appeal to them unless they knew that it would be on the tests or expected in their writings.
It’s the same way with Nature (Prakriti). Prakriti, the manifestation of Consciousness (Purusha), is always offering its insights, its help, its suggestions as to what is going to happen to me or about that which I should be aware. I was not ready to learn from the butterflies, the rabbits, the squirrels, the birds, etc., who entered our back yard. I was not open to their “medicine,” as my Ho-Chunk friend Jamie Mallory, would say about all these creatures.
The saints and sages of the Himalayan Tradition learned much from animals, too. That’s why most of the postures are named after animals. One particular sage had 24 gurus (teachers) to help him “disperse (ru) the darkness (gu)” in his search for understanding the wisdom of Prakriti, the Divine Mother. It took me quite a while to enjoy watching one ant go back and forth from the food source to the hill for future storage just before the winter season arrived. Nothing seemed to deter it from completing its mission. This ant taught me about the dedication and perseverance is takes to nurture myself and prepare for more challenging times. Now I consider ants one of my teachers, one of my gurus. They have dispersed darkness for one of the areas of my life.
Now, I look very differently at the birds, the insects, the animals that cross my sight in our back yard and wonder what they want me to know. After all, it is Consciousness, the Divine Mother, the Source of all Life that wants to teach me something and I need those teachers.