This will probably date me (Martine), but when I first started practicing yoga, whenever a teacher would say “guru”, I would immediately think of Gang Starr, the hip duo led by Guru (Keith Elam) and DJ Premier. Guru’s moniker stood for “Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal” and whenever I heard the instruction to listen to my inner guru, my brain would rifle through its rap catalog and land on a handful of lyrics:

Stop, think for a moment ok?
And then sway while I convey that we must do away
With all the stress and the strife, so God bless your life
Use kindness, and never blindness
And you will find that this perspective is best, check it out
These are the words that I manifest, I manifest

For at least the first few years or so, I stumbled over the word “guru,” always relating it first to music before remembering that it means “teacher” or “weighty one” in Sanskrit. To break the word down even further, “gu” signifies shadows and “ru” that which disperses them, so the word itself expresses the way in which the light of knowledge chases darkness away. Gurus do not simply retain wisdom; they also have a responsibility to lift up those around them by disseminating it.

Photo: Elephant Eye Films

My friend Sara reminded me about the Guru Principle the other day. It’s an idea that Dr. Douglas Brooks talks about, adding more “weightiness” to the term. Naturally, “guru” still means teacher -- the person who instructs you, imparts something of value to you. If you just leave “guru” at that, though, it sort of feels like there is only one type of guru, one person, right? However you know through experience that teachers come in many guises, not just as single-serving oracular humans. Wisdom is also conveyed to you by your community, friends and family. Surely they are “guru” too! And finally, what about the intuition that guides you? Is that not “guru” as well? Yes, it is!

And just imagine if each one is teachin’ one

We’ll come together so that we become

A strong force, then we can stay on course

Find your direction through introspection

And for my people out there I got a question

Can we be the sole controllers of our fate?

Now who’s gonna take the weight?