So, let’s be honest: I love cupcakes. They’re delicious, they delight my mouth, and I believe that they are good for the soul.
Now, I don’t have the notion of quitting my job to become a cupcake maker for a living. I haven’t found a cupcake school that promises that I cannot only make the most awesome and profitable cupcakes but also outdo the other cupcakers around (and maybe even eventually create an empire that dominates the original person who taught me how to make cupcakes). So how come in an ancient spiritual practice we see so many bankers, lawyers, actors, salesmen and [insert your profession here] quitting their day jobs to make a living at the thing that changed their life? What is it about the life-changing powers of yoga and its limitless benefits that so often seems to make people hunger to make the big leap to teacherhood?
The answer most often heard is, “Because I want to offer this to other people to experience, since it affected me so deeply.” But here’s the thing: there are enough teachers to teach everyone in the world a couple times over, and there are few—very few—who are able to remain in deep studentship, or who continue to experience the endless layers of deconstruction and reawakening that so affected them in the first place. In fact, to come back to the cupcakes, most day-job quitters stop enjoying the nuances of the cupcake, the various textures and the awe of profound mystery in the experience of the tasty treat because now they are trying to pay their rent and bills by baking the cupcakes they once savored.
How do I know this? Once upon a time I lived in LA and had a demanding job in the film industry. As a place of refuge I practiced yoga. I needed yoga in order not to go crazy in my work environment, but then, as it does, it began to be more important than anything else I was doing. However, in all those years I didn’t imagine that I should teach the thing that I loved to do. Not once.
But that didn’t stop the yoga train from coming after me. Due to several changes in my life circumstances, I was pulled out of my regular (if you can call the film industry regular) way of making a living, and along the way was offered the chance to teach yoga. I had taken several trainings, not to become a teacher but to deepen my understanding of this potent practice, so I reluctantly said yes…to one class. Twelve years later, I could not imagine doing anything else and I am one of those who have managed to make a living as a yoga teacher. But I have also scrambled up the bumpy path to remain in simple studentship and not to have the sweet nectar of this practice become a burden, a have-to, a business transaction.
And I’m not alone here. Over the years I have watched waves of students, upon taking their sacred practice and teaching it, lose the delicate richness of their own devotion and find themselves running from one studio to another trying to meet imposed quotas and bills. I can’t count the number of times I’ve witnessed exhaustion and sadness as a former student takes up the role of teacher and then hungers for the days in which she or he could simply show up and be nourished.
None of this is to say that teaching is not a valid path. It is to say: let’s continue to thoroughly enjoy the cupcake. Savor its delicate unfolding in your life. Allow yourself to fully show up and let the benefits of that cupcake seep into all parts of your living, and then practice and practice a little more cupcake, and then some more, and then if it still pulls you into the mastery of baking—go for it. But stop from time to time to taste, really taste the cupcake again. Reignite your senses to its mystery and magic.