I love a good quest story. You know the one where the main character sets out on a journey (of a thousand miles) searching and seeking for someone or something. Along the way trials and tribulations are encountered and our hero emerges bruised and battered yet victorious and ultimately changed, transformed.
What I particularly love about these stories is when the person meets a wise old man or woman along the journey. This is the sage (guru, master, teacher) who possesses secret knowledge and comes to the aid of the young heroine at particularly difficult passages in her life.
So there I was, about 3 months into my own quest and I began to wonder where was my sage, my teacher? And where the heck was I going to find my own wise old man or woman? I wasn’t on a path in the forest fighting off dragons, nor was I sitting across from a yogi in an ashram somewhere in India.
I began to think up ways to encounter my own sage. First thought was maybe I should sign up for weekly Buddhism lessons as I was sure to discover a Zen Master somewhere. (Yeah of course, easy as that). Second thought was to go on a yoga retreat led by some spiritual dude. (Images of a hippie commune filled my mind. Not for me thanks).
I even dreamed up elaborate scenarios. One of them included the following: I walk into my local library and happen across an elderly person who will be reading The Power of Now (by Eckhart Tolle). I’ll wander over, strike up a conversation and we’ll go off have a cup of tea and I’ll be invited to be their apprentice. Our days with be full of stories, teachings and discussions.
But this was all too hard, not to mention fantasy. Of course those options weren’t going to work. I became quite upset at the lack of teachers in my life. Who could I go to, who would I learn from? Out loud I cried, beseeching the universe, “where are my teachers?!”
It was at that moment that I looked down at the book beside me. It was The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. And the answer hit me: “Hey! This is a teacher right here!”. (Actually, he literally is one.) I then looked at my bedside table where three other books were lying. Again, three more teachers.
I was also reading a few blogs and websites at the same time. Yet again, here were people – a community – who have reached out through their words and taught me something. They asked the same questions that were on fire in my heart. I realised that all have helped me to overcome some problem, issue – a dragon to be slayed.
OH.MY.GOODNESS! I was SURROUNDED by my own wise men and women.
This realisation deeply changed my perspective on what a teacher, a master, a guru looks like on the journey in my life.
I realised that I may not encounter a wise old abuela on a pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago. But maybe it’s that book that you happen to find on a table in the library that someone left behind. Maybe it’s a website that you heard someone talking about on the bus one day.
Don’t worry about it though. “When the student is ready the master will appear.” (Buddhism proverb).
The two heartfelt lessons I have learned so far.
1. Don’t make your journey about ‘finding the master’.
Ever heard the legend that went: “step one, hero starts journey; step two, hero gets teacher”. No? Me neither. I suggest that you don’t spend your time worrying about who is going to help you or where your next ‘lesson’ is going to appear. Your teacher will appear when you are ready.
2. You probably have already met a teacher along your journey.
Think about the people in your life. Also look around you. Is it that book or article that made you think and really question things? Was it a piece of music or a movie that moved you? It could be an artist, writer, sculptor or even your own child. It will surprise you to realise that the teachers are already in your life.
What about you? Who are your teachers?