My name is Leanne Wood, and I am a Guru Chaser. Errr, well, I was. They say that the first step in conquering a problem is admitting you have one. So here I am, admitting it. I wasn't alone in my guru (spiritual teacher) chasing ways, by any means. Oh no, I kept company with a large crowd. How do I know? Cuz I saw the same people over and over at different guru events all over this town, year after year. And other towns--even states. It didn't take me very long to see that we were all on the chase.
Los Angeles--La La Land--is a hub for most, if not all, the traveling gurus. In the city where so much is unreal or surreal, the gurus arrive to provide an ever-growing population seeking the ultimate in the only thing that is real: Love.
Or so I suppose.
Were we all just chasing Love with a capital "L?" While I speak for myself, I have a sneaking suspicion we were likely all seeking the same bag of spiritual goodies. Love, yes, but also acceptance, guidance, recognition, grace, enlightenment and a splash of God-only-knows.
I didn't start out chasing anybody. I was highly skeptical of the whole guru-disciple yada yada initially. Also, I was turned off by all the rules of engagement by their devoted followers and brahmacharya (monks/nuns), which were pretty challenging for my slightly rebellious nature. There are requirements of modest dress: no shoulders, no cleavage, no shorts, no skirts above the knee or above the ankle in certain instances, no shoes--yeah, take them off and leave them in the shoe pile outside and my favorite color, black? Also a no-no.
And requirements for even more modest behavior (The unwritten, "Do this, Don't do that, and Don't you dare!" list): No sitting with your feet facing the guru, kneel--do not sit--at guru's feet but no leaning on a guru during blessings, don't pester the guru with questions during darshan (meeting with holy person)!--unless the guru engages you--of course, cup your hands to receive the guru's prasad (blessed food--usually a little chocolate, unless you're special and you get a big piece of fruit. Yeah, a banana's a special blessing)--under no circumstances do you take or grab it from the guru's hands, and sshhh! at all times unless essential, follow the rules and don't question them or those making them up, act with deference to devotees and brahmacharya, are you performing for the guru? then face that guru and not the audience, lest you steal focus from the guru, touch the guru's feet (they are considered holy) but only lightly if available for the touching--don't go digging around looking for them under a guru's robe, for heaven's sake!, darshan lines are to be stood in silently, wipe off all your makeup with the tissue provided before seeing the guru face to face, try not to laugh, cry or moan too loudly, decide to prostrate? Do it efficiently then, donate your time, money and resources and be willing and humble about it, those pretty rose petals on the pathway to the guru? Leave them alone! They are not for you, silly rabbit, and So. Many. More. Rules. Lucky. You.
All of this just to hang out with "insert interchangeable guru name here _______," hear the satsang (holy teaching), receive darshan and get shaktipat (divine transmission). I was sure my resistance to all of the dogmatic rules of respect, modesty and protocol which supposedly-allegedly-maybe come from the Hindu-ish bent of most guru's lineages, ruled me out as guru-worthy material. As I had to be around so many gurus for my job, I mostly shut my rebel mouth and played the guru game.
The band I managed performed spiritually-inspired music perfect for the traveling gurus, and they got their start regularly performing for them and their faithful flock and curious newbies. The band would usually get paid a small performance fee, but the crowds were quite spendy when it came to buying up all things spiritual...prayer beads, pictures of the guru, meditation shawls, blessed sacred objects and of course, music. Without fail, those legions of spiritual seekers bought a ton of my band's music, and I'd usually secure another gig while there from yoga studio owners, devotees of another guru, a random interfaith church leader, festival rep, etc. So as you can see, being in the guru game was great for business.
But somewhere along the way, I got hooked in. I craved the next guru arrival, the next darshan, the next spiritual brewhaha...and because I was "with the band," I got an all-access pass to private meetings, dinners and hang-outs with many gurus. And I craved that too. So in the mix of just doing my job, I began to secretly hope that one of those gurus was mine. It all seemed so special and the norm to have a guru in the circles I was regularly running in, and who doesn't want to be special and feel like you belong? I'd look for signs, ask other people who had a guru how they knew that he or she was "The One," and ponder guru content many times a day. They say the teacher appears when the student is ready...or in this case, the guru recognizes his/her disciple when they cross paths in this life. So where was mine? After years of seeking my guru and not one had "claimed" me, I wondered if I was to blame? Was I blocking my guru from ever getting close to my heart? Was I spiritually unfit to be "found?"
In the middle of pondering my limitations and potential failings, a guru I'd been around for several years and to whom not only many I knew claimed as their guru, but I was also starting to feel was mine, fell from grace. It was revealed that he'd been anything but the celibate enlightened swami (actualized teacher) he professed to be and was all-too-human. He'd allegedly been having secret sexual dalliances with many of his young male followers.
As more sordid details came to light and more guys came forward with similar stories involving this guru, I fell into a disillusioned spiritual funk. Understandably, so many were outraged by his betrayal. Less understandable to me were those who professed unending allegiance and insisted he did it all with some evolved reasoning that was beyond our mere mortal abilities to perceive.
When the dust settled and that disgraced guru left the country, all I wanted to know was why I'd chased after this guru--or any of them--in the first place? It might be surprising, but it took years to unravel and face why I joined the guru chasers.
I believe it was about learning to be my own best friend, to not follow those who chase others, to listen to my heart, define my own moral compass and to trust that many will come along my path to teach me important lessons and give me consciousness-shifting and elevating revelations...and that those "gurus" will come in many forms that don't necessarily hold the official guru title. The student in me is always ready for a lesson, a shift and an evolution. The form the teacher takes isn't so important. And the teacher isn't a constant or singular figure.
I'd like to say that today I'm "cured" from being a guru chaser, but that wouldn't be wholly true. The truth is that I'm mostly cured. I occasionally wander into a new traveling guru's satsang and darshan, or go get a Divine hug from a being I think of as a living saint and whom many thousands call their guru. I feel different in my skin when I enter the Divine play unfolding at a traveling teacher's event these days though. I am not seeking to find "The One" anymore. I am there to be open to the gifts s/he or a regular attendee might share. Or not. As far as I'm concerned, it's All Guru. It's All God.
If you have a particular guru, I honor that as a real and profound path for you. If you identify with my experience, take heart: teachers come in all forms. Maybe you don't have a guru in a traditional sense. Maybe like me, you realize your whole beautiful, blessed life is your guru. And if you find yourself still on the chase? I hope you find whatever or whomever it is you are seeking.*
Om Namah Shivaya.
Om Mani Padme Hum.
Be still, and know that I am God.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. ~ Shakespeare
What brings you Authentic and True Bliss? Chase that. ~ From my Bliss Bubble Heart To Yours.
*I used a lot of lingo in this blog that is likely unfamiliar to many. They are all commonly used terms--mostly Sanskrit, in the guru world. I placed a very basic translation in parenthesis next to each of the terms but if you are interested in learning more, there are much more detailed descriptions to be had online including my secret guilty pleasure learn-about-everything site, the Wikipedia.