In AA, there is an unwritten tradition of sponsorship, which is when a veteran takes a newcomer through the 12 steps and also acts as a mentor. Like a teacher, or coach, the sponsor guides an apprentice in the ways of recovery, including listening to the dirt from their past, and advising on how they can clean it up. There are varying shades of sponsorship, ranging from borderline parental to a more detached role of counseling. The level of involvement depends on the sponsee’s needs, as well as the sponsor’s style and experience. For those leaning more towards the parental dynamic, a sponsor will do as much as tell the sponsee which meetings to go to, who to talk to, whether or not they can work, play, or date, etc. It can be a highly managerial role in which the sponsor tries to direct prime aspects of the sponsee’s life.
This brings us to the catch phrase with which Yogani ends every one of his lessons: “The guru is in you.” When asked if that meant that no outer guru or teacher should be sought, he replied:
No, it doesn't mean that. We all need outer knowledge to open ourselves to inner experience. The phrase is intended as a constant reminder that your enlightenment depends on you more than anyone, because it is only through your desire and action that divine experience can rise in you. It is only through your nervous system that pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy can be known. You cannot delegate it. It is only by you making a daily effort to purify your nervous system that anything can happen. It is you who are making the journey.
So, while a sponsor can help direct us, especially in the beginning, we should be mindful of how a co-dependent pattern can arise in which we trust the sponsor more than our inner intuition. At best, a sponsor is like a finger pointing to the moon. “Do not concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!” said the martial arts master Bruce Lee. Like that, we need to trust ourselves, love ourselves, and recognize that the greatest gift we have to give is, in fact, ourselves. By giving ourselves to the world, we are paying it forward.
Advanced Yoga Practices is a "pay it forward" project. It is my way of saying thank you to all the great ones who have gone before. It is because of them that we have yoga practices today, enabling us to purify and open our nervous systems to the divine within us. Yoga works, especially if it is allowed the flexibility to be integrated and optimized to suit the needs of every individual. The guru is ever within us all.
On this note, neither AYP nor AA are one size fits all. As Yogani rightly points out, each person has to flexibly mold the regimen of practices to their needs—not the other way around. Some people will lean more towards meditation and self-inquiry; others will gravitate towards karma yoga and service. If we multi-channel our efforts for a wholesome result which covers the major bases, this fullness will be optimal, even if certain styles are accentuated more than others, depending on the person’s needs and wants.
Like a tailor of clothing, a sponsor may be able to make small adjustments, but only the wearer of the clothing will really know how well the clothing fits. In other words, know thyself. Or, as Shakespeare wrote: “To thine own self be true.” These platitudes suggest a course of investigation which yields authenticity, genuineness, and radical honesty. Perhaps the most honest thing we can say at times is, “I don’t know,” especially when it comes to naming the source of who we are. Paradoxically, in this unknowing, we meet a mysterious knowingness which has been called “a peace which passes all understanding.”
To know oneself is not really like asserting a precise fact; instead, it’s more like residing in a quiet place of abiding tranquility, with a spontaneity that renews itself constantly. We’re trying to be here now. All the AYP practices are geared towards arriving, not leaving. Desire for more present awareness drives the adventure—leading to a refinement of senses, and ecstatic bliss, which has often been called…happiness.