My Spiritual Success
Before I had any preconceptions of teaching yoga or, for that matter, many preconceptions at all, I wanted to write. Before I could spell or knew how to hold a pen I would speak poems aloud while my father transcribed. I began writing in second-hand diaries on a steady pay of a pound per page by my parents.
At the age of nine I finished writing my first novel of 60,000 words, which explored the limitations of my imagination. The second novel, the first installment of the unfinished ‘Assassin Trilogy’, came to about 90,000. A lot of people have since told me that they haven’t written that much in their lives.
Before I knew anything of travelling apart from family holidays, I would say that one day I would travel the world and write. As supportive as my parents are, they remain realists and asked me how I would fund this plan by writing alone. Apparently I thought that positivity was currency, and always replied: “It will happen”.
Positivity and determination have been two unswerving tracks which have kept me on course in life, and I owe the former to my childminder. Her name is Edith, but I called her Didi; a strong, spiritual soul who, with my parents, made me conscious of other perspectives in life I would otherwise be oblivious to, and without which I would not know the empathy that I do.
When my parents were working at Essex University, I would stay with Didi at Kiln Place Estate in London along with her son, another brother, and sister she cared for. During that time she ran classes for us and other children on the estate called ‘Plant a Seed’ in which she would teach the little meditation and yoga she knew of from books and YouTube. Despite that, it was something we looked forward to in the week. Where I am now is a testament to the influence that Didi and her classes had upon me.
Travel and learn
Seed planted, as I grew I sought spirituality wherever I went in life because of its mysticism. I couldn’t comprehend these Buddhist teachings and aphorisms of all life being suffering, impermanent and detachment from material objects. So, when I was in Thailand before starting my degree, I left my best friend to travel from the far south to the far north of the country to stay at a Buddhist forest monastery: Wat Tam Wua. Looking now on Google Maps, it was a journey of over 1,700 km which involved a boat, two coaches, two night trains, a motorbike ride (which involved a crash and a fractured foot) and a minivan.
Through this I learned of dedication and determination and, over my time at Wat Tam Wua, I learned about loving kindness, true mindfulness, the teachings, the ways of meditation from the temple’s abbot: Ajahn Luangta, meaning Venerable Grandfather.
Use your contacts
The other man of influence I encountered on my Thai travels was Joe London, a good friend of my brothers who insisted that I stay with him whenever I was passing through Bangkok, which I came to do quite often. He teaches yoga professionally throughout the city and he invited me to come to his lessons as a friend. Every session increased my interest, but it was an interest that faded when I left Thailand and started university. Faded, but not forgotten.
I stayed in touch with Joe and when he told me he was organising a workshop with his guru in India, I bought the flight tickets and flew the day after my last exam. There, I met BNS Iyengar, one of the last of the traditional yogis and one man I’ve met who I can say is enlightened. He has a certain sway in his presence, a depth to his understanding and an awareness unlike anything I’ve ever known.
Together, Joe and Iyengar trained me intensely in Ashtanga Yoga and I realized immediately what a great misconception it is to think of yoga as just stretching. It is everything from morality to philosophy, spirituality to science, meditation breathing to movements.
Opportunities at University
Returning to uni for my second year, I began teaching as president of the Dharma society twice a week, passing on what I had been taught. All the while, with a gradually opening mind and by being surrounded by such creative and beautiful minds, I was writing more than ever in the notebook I forever keep at hand.
Though my writing style was developing and maturing, I felt I was coming to the end of what I could teach my students, so I applied for a grant of £1,500 to get my yoga teaching training licence. At first, thinking that I was asking the union to pay for a holiday, they didn’t want to give me a penny. But after a great deal of persuasion and generosity, they settled on £800. With that and 2 months of fund-raising, I had enough money and found myself in Mysore, Karnataka under the education of Joe and Iyengar once more.
Travel and Teach
Over the month I went through a 200-hour course of about 8 hours a day going through the ancient scriptures, anatomy, adjustments, philosophy, respiration, meditation etc. By the end, I had a piece of paper which entitled me to teach.
Now in my third year, while making the most of the last year at uni, I regularly teach four times a week. My personal practice gives me the energy and mind-frame I need to keep up with this. As well as that, I’m in the best state I’ve been both physically and mentally. The piece of paper that says I am a yoga teacher has opened doors from being invited to teach on surf trips to both Devon and Morocco, to Joe offering me a job teaching on Koh Lanta, Thailand when I graduate.
But most importantly, I now have a portable skill that comes with an income. I can teach, travel the world and write. Positivity said “it will happen” and somehow it has. For this, I have my mother and father, my Didi, Luangta, Joe London, Iyengar and the University of East Anglia to thank for influencing me in small ways.
Benji Ei Lubbock is an English and Creative Writing Graduate. He is currently living in London but regularly travels to teach yoga across the world.