There’s a man sitting poolside. Palm trees stretch skyward. Turquoise water sits still as glass by his side. Closing his eyes he rubs his brow, taking a long slow breathe before returning to the impermanence we call life… and I chuckle aloud, thinking he’s frustrated with the thirty naive students he’s promised to mentor over the next month.
It’s day four and he’s a sweaty mess, looking less like guru with the passing of every vegan meal. White cotton clings to him like freshly microwaved Saran Wrap as he slowly lifts his guitar to lead us in our morning meditation for gratitude.
His voice is weaker than it should be, yet somehow I struggle to keep up. His tone is off, yet somehow it resonates at a depth I can’t access alone – like he has the strength of a senior mason, but it’s built from spirit rather than stone.
My eyes well with tears as long buried emotions flood to the surface dragging rusty epiphanies into the light of day… Independence is my weakness. Guilt serves nothing but fear. What I am isn’t who I am. Love is acting without expectation. Learn to be and let the doing happen.
Eleven minutes later my heart opens to all I am, all I have and all I’ve experienced – the good and the bad – my cupped hands filling with blessings as my subconscious mind pulls warm lessons from the harshest of life’s offerings.
Six weeks later I’m sitting on a small sheepskin rug across from woman I just met. We’re dressed in full white, perched under a pavilion shielding us from the desert sun. Two-thousand others sit attentively beside us in long rows stretching East to West.
We lock eyes, raising our arms to begin a one-hour partner meditation. Pressing our index fingers to each other’s foreheads we start chanting a Sanskrit prayer. Within minutes the awkwardness fades, only to be replaced by searing shoulder pain. She wiggles forward, changing the angle of her outstretched arm hoping to ease her pain. Minutes pass. She wiggles ever closer, forcing me to uncross my legs and extend them long over her hips.
Her eyes smile in return as I relax my body, unleashing a machine gun style fart that richochets off her thighs and reverberates through the crowd like a grenade dropped down a slot canyon. An army of shell-shocked yogis erupt in laughter as I shrug my shoulders and continue the meditation feeling lighter than ever.
Day two begins with a new partner sitting across from me. The meditation leader calls for quiet before projecting an image of my guru onto a giant screen. It’s time to pay tribute to a man who touched thousands. To a man who knowingly gave the final weeks of his life to teach a group of strangers how to fall in love with themselves – believing that contentment is built from within upon the foundation of self acceptance. To a man who embodied the prayers he sang and the lessons he taught, patiently answering every question with conviction and sincerity while pancreatic cancer chopped at his body – felling him the same way my mother passed a few months earlier.
I wept as they played a video of his final song, feeling both the pain of his illness and immense gratitude for having the privilege to learn from such a humble and generous soul.
When done, the leader took a moment to implore all the creatives in the audience to share their stories, their art, their music and their creations with the world – citing Guru Dass Khalsa’s work as a treasure for future students to learn from and imploring us to share that which we have to give, for it is through expressing our own uniqueness that we each play our role in the theater of life.
Yesterday I did yoga at the studio where I took my first class. I found a spot in the back behind a guy who reminded me of myself nine-years earlier, bending slowly and reluctantly like a crowbar trying to lift the moon – and I chuckled once again, seeing no end in sight to the path he’s just begun and every yogi seeks to follow.
Teachings of Guru Dass Khalsa:
On why we do morning Sadhana…
“You do it to feel blessed and open to the infinite within yourself. To know yourself. The purpose is to grow as a spiritual being and quiet your thinking mind. You do it to open your heart to every blessing. To know God loves you, that you are complete just as you are, that you are worthy. You do it to free yourself from feeling unwhole and disconnected.”
On the first Sutra of the Aquarian Age… Recognize that the other person is you.
“Everything is within. The world is a mirror of our awareness and understanding. As we change, our world changes. Our ego separates us from the whole. Desire creates suffering. Suffering is born from thinking. We are born enlightened, without a thinking mind. There is no should, could or would living in the present. We are born happy. Our story of our self is based on our memories… it’s not real, it’s just perception, an illusion – our story is not our true SELF, our Atman. What we think of others is a reflection of what we think of ourselves, our judgements. Our true SELF is permanent, unchanging – you do not find your soul through the thinking mind. True devotion comes from knowing that it’s within, feeling connected to your own soul connects you with the divine, that which is all, the divine love within all of us.”
On the second Sutra of the Aquarian Age… There is a way through every block.
“Blocks are created by our ego, which fights against what should be. Our mind creates blocks that makes us feel powerless and frustrated… when you feel loved and complete, blocks are impermanent. Don’t trust your mind, don’t attach to how it is. Feeling love for yourself is empowering. It makes you feel powerful and deserving.”
On the third Sutra of the Aquarian Age… When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.
“We put pressure on ourselves because we are attached to the outcome of our choices… trust your intuition. Act and the pressure will be off. Stagnation and indecision causes doubt, confusion, stress and suffering – but know the outcome is out of your control. The one who thinks, doesn’t do.”
On the fourth Sutra of the Aquarian Age… Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.
“A compassionate mind accepts people of all types. Judging people harshly makes them feel imperfect, that they must be perfect to receive love and acceptance. Everyone deserves love. If you hate, you are the one imprisoned. The perception of mistakes comes from desiring a certain outcome. There are no mistakes. Compassion flows from believing we are all one.”
On the fifth Sutra of the Aquarian Age… Vibrate the cosmos. The cosmos shall clear the path.
“Do your practice! Start your day by feeling connected. Losing your self. Clearing your mind. To trust. To live. To surrender. To flow with life.”
“Spirituality does not lead to perpetual happiness. Accept that all emotional states are impermanent.”
“When you begin to believe that you are the source of your pain, everything begins to change.”
“Pleasure, pain. Love, hate. Pride, shame. You must experience one to know the other. You know through opposites. It’s what creates balance.”
“Self love is acceptance of ones weaknesses and shortcomings, but realize that you can mature and change to leave behind the things that aren’t serving you.”
“There is no God judging you. You are the only one judging yourself. Pleasure and pain happen because you’re alive. Don’t seek the extraordinary, the extraordinary lies within.”