Johnny Fox’s drishti was always steady, calm, clear and vivid when he carefully lowered the sword down his throat or hammered a nail up his nose. Those same eyes offered a quintessential twinkle when he’d present you with your watch after inviting you to help in his magic show. Johnny was one of a kind—a magician extraordinaire, a devoted yoga student and a warm-hearted dear friend. He had tattoos, boa constrictors, and an unwavering spiritual path long before those things were popular.
One striking memory of Johnny was his story of a trip he took to India. While there he performed his magic tricks—he was truly a master. Everything from simple disappearing (and reappearing) coin tricks to rope tricks and more—each of which he performed with unparalleled sleight of hand. He found that in particular in villages and small-town temples people would crowd around thinking his "supernatural powers" made him in some way divine.
But he never took the bait. He'd play the part to the hilt until the act was over and then he'd grin and drop it. He'd back out of the superhuman role people were all too eager to put him in, and he’d make sure they saw him as who he really was—just a regular guy having fun.
Johnny could have played on other’s projections and made a lot of money as a “guru” who could give Shakti Pat and produce watches and other trinkets for his followers in order to keep them coming back. But he knew the extreme danger and karmic harm that would have been done by agreeing to sit upon a pedestal others placed beneath him. Johnny took extraordinary delight in just being humble, caring and open rather than in accumulating any kind of power. He knew it is so much more fun and compassionate to be normal rather than to take advantage of naïve projections and gullibility.
This teaching of Johnny’s is vital for any of us who are yoga teachers. People will always try to put you on a pedestal, to simplify their path into one that avoids the necessity of not knowing. All of us as students go through phases where we want the shortcut; someone to do the work for us, a path that doesn’t require courage, patience and insight. So as teachers we need to carefully hold space for our students—providing enough support for them to stay grounded without imposing our own ego-driven agenda onto them. This means that as teachers we need to stay awake so that we don’t identify with other’s projections. And as students we need to stay awake too—to be able to laugh when the teacher hands us our wristwatch on our way out the door after class.