Lapsed Gurus falling off Pedestals
“I only have so much patience!’ —This was a phrase uttered unto me as a child by a well-meaning (one would hope) parent. Most of us remember a few choice phrases used by parents, teachers, colleagues or friends that planted limiting beliefs in our heads. The first fallacy of these sorts of statements, in my opinion, is the assumed limited nature of them. I, (or in this case, my mother) may believe there is only a certain amount of patience allotted to one in any situation, but, is that true? Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine that, when confronted with whatever I was doing to elicit this response, my mother said, instead: “I have infinite patience.”?
Gosh knows I was not an easy child. I may have been doing something exasperating at the time; very likely I was. But, had I heard the second response, rather than the first, I may have been stopped in my tracks; completely astounded. Even now, when I remind myself to say the phrase to myself, particularly in the midst of a busy day or tense situation, my body immediately starts to relax. I have a moment of utter calm. I remember that, unless a train is coming directly for me, and I’m actually standing on the tracks, it’s probably not vital that I act in this very instant!
I learned this some years ago, from my guru-of-the-week. At that time in my life, I was a seeker. A seeker after knowledge; of rightness, goodness, and enlightenment. Anyone I came across who could point me in the direction of clearer vision was welcome in my world. I was always very independent-minded, so I gravitated towards those (and there were many) who would preach or counsel something or other, capped by the admonition: “Don’t believe anything I say! Test it out for yourself, and if it’s right for you, only then choose it.”
I imagine that (like my aforementioned parent), these people really meant it when they said something like this. I think, philosophically, when asked, they would say that of course everyone must choose her/his own path; that their teachings were only meant to shine a light on a possible path; that one must find and forge new pathways. To the extent that a “teacher” really practices this; I respect it. All too often, however, if one gets to know the teacher, and really observes them, it will be revealed that *gasp* they are only human! They have personalities! Full of distortions and personal beliefs! Some would become disgruntled when a participant would indeed reject part of the teaching, in spite of what they’d disclaimed. It’s as if they said: “Well, I know I said you should find your own way, but I’ve so obviously given you the truth, here!”
In the past, in spite of all the disclaimers uttered by teachers; workshop leaders; spiritual masters; neural technologists—call them what you will, I did tend to *admire*, and, in a sense *worship* some of these folks. This is not an easy admission for me. In consciousness, I don’t believe any human deserves to be worshiped. Easy to say; more difficult to feel. On a feeling level, I wanted to belong to something greater than just little me. I wanted answers to the “big” questions in life, and, in that moment, this person seemed to have them. I prided myself in not falling into the “trap” of “needing” an intermediary between myself and the divine, such as the common practice of “submitting” to a guru’s higher wisdom—yet, what was I really doing but giving my power to a person rather than a principle?
I recently read a book I’d purchased after spending a day at a seminar with the author. The book was in the form of a journal, in which the teacher meant to expose his very human shortcomings, just so he wouldn’t create worshipers, or “pedestal-putter-oners” from his seminar participants. Ironic, eh? I’d successfully avoided reading the book for years after I met this man. I only wanted it, really, as a souvenir of the profound and positive change his seminar facilitated in me. I didn’t want to know any more about him than I experienced that one day, because it would, I thought, invalidate his authority if I saw him as a flawed human. He is dead, now. I decided to read the book.
It was very difficult, emotionally, for me. The technique I learned from the seminar caused a major shift in my outlook; it was, literally, life-changing. As I read the story of his life, though, I found myself disappointed; judgmental—at times, even disgusted. He reached his goal of having at least this “disciple” see him as a mere human, with some good, perhaps inspired, ideas.
For the past couple of days, as I’ve been examining my feelings, I have let go of much of the animosity I’ve felt. I still feel this teacher “walked his talk”. He taught me something precious, and vital, and real. I am allowing myself to keep the teaching without needing to revere the teacher—yet another teaching!
Not belonging, or believing, can be a lonely thing. Sometimes I envy “true believers” the comfort and warmth of the embrace of their tribe. I remain a deeply spiritually involved person, but I find my guidance from within; from consulting my own inner intuition and connection. Scriptures, teachings, and philosophies can be profoundly useful and appropriate, and I do, continually, use them. I just strive not to allow them to use me. Peace; Om; Salaam; Shalom