The Trusted Friend

By Nikki Costello, October, 2017

Recently, Yoga Shanti teachers and staff members gathered for a meeting in preparation for the new fall schedule. We welcomed new teachers, introduced ourselves, and engaged in a discussion about our shared purpose as teachers at Yoga Shanti.

I asked the group, “What connects us to ourselves, to our students, and to each other as teachers?” Without hesitation, the response was, “Self-inquiry.”

Have you noticed that a question begets another question? It may take several more questions to extract the answer to the original question—to clarify, to penetrate, to arrive at a place that resonates with truth. This is one way to describe the process of self-inquiry.

Let’s explore this in an exercise. Recall a time when you were speaking to a trusted friend about something very important. Re-create the whole picture: see yourself, your friend, where you were sitting. Remember as many details as possible.

As your conversation began, you may have shared the context, some of the necessary details, but you both knew this was just the set-up. Then you started getting closer to the heart of the matter. You laid it all out. There, you said it. Then what happened? Did your friend ask you any questions? Did their questions allow you to go deeper into the subject? What was your response? Were you surprised by it? Were you able to see something or understand yourself or your situation better? Did it lead to further questions?

I asked you to choose a “trusted” friend. Why? What do these two words, “trusted” and “friend” imply? Does a trusted friend allow you to be more open, willing, and honest? Does a trusted friend listen generously with curiosity and empathy? Does a trusted friend create time and space just to be together? Does a trusted friend hold steady as the truth is revealed?

In self-inquiry, we are both the storyteller and the trusted friend. Have you noticed that most of the time when we are telling ourselves a story, the “enemy” starts barking orders, criticizing our every move, judging other people, placing blame, etc. But wait, what happened to the trusted friend? How does the trusted friend listen? How does the trusted friend ask questions? How do we feel in the company of our trusted friend?

As we practice yoga, we have an opportunity to create a new relationship with our mind—to cultivate the trusted friend within ourselves as we learn to see, feel, listen, and skillfully move our body. It is within our power to start asking ourselves important questions with openness and honesty. It is within our power to listen with curiosity and empathy. In class, each teacher recognizes that you have taken the time to be with yourself and there is space for you to defy the critic, to slay the judgment, to disarm the enemy, simply by asking questions that encourage new understanding. It is a worthy process that leads us toward truth. The trusted friend is our closest companion, our guide, and the resting place for our mind.

Nikki Costello

Nikki Costello is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT) and a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT.) For 24 years, her teaching has been inspired by annual trips to India including RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute) the study of scriptural and philosophical texts and a daily practice of meditation. In 2013-2014, she was a contributing editor at Yoga Journal, writing the magazine’s “Basics Column.” and in 2016, Nikki was named one of the 100 Most Influential Teachers in America. Nikki is passionate about sharing her study and practice of yoga.

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