"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
-- Buddhist Proverb
I have been exploring spirituality since my first son was born in 2002, but I have never been drawn to any one teacher or practice so strongly that I could say, "Ah-ha! I found Him (or Her)!" My guru has been frustratingly elusive.
I looked first in the world of books because books are where I have always gone to find the answers to my deepest questions. Although I found much inspiration in the books I read, I did not find my guru.
Perhaps a guru cannot be found in books I thought, so I went out into the world in search of my guru. I took classes, attended lectures, joined groups, but I did not find my guru.
Then one day, while walking home from the store, I met my guru on the street.
My four-year old son and I had gone to the store to pick up some milk and other staples. As we were walking home he insisted on "holding a hand," even though both of my hands were full, a heavy plastic grocery bag full of food in each one.
I didn't WANT to hold his hand. I wanted to carry the groceries, one bag in each hand, and have him walk quickly beside me until we got home and I could put the milk away.
But I also wanted to be a good mom (and avoid a tantrum) so I rearranged the bags, putting two in my right hand so that I could hold his hand with my left. We started walking again.
We made it about six steps when I felt him tugging on my hand, "Mommy, stop. Look."
I paused for a moment to see what could possibly be as important as getting the milk home and in the fridge before it started to go bad and saw him pointing to a worm crawling across the sidewalk.
"Don't step on him Mommy," my son cautioned as he pulled me into a kneeling position to get a closer look.
I pretended to be interested in the worm, made the appropriate sounds ("um-hum") and comments ("cool!"), then started to stand up and walk down the street again.
"Mommy, wait! I'm not ready," my son said.
So I stood and waited, impatiently, while he said his goodbyes to the worm. He smiled, grabbed my hand and we were off again.
A few seconds later I felt the tug again and with it a bit of annoyance. "What is it sweetie?" I said, in a falsely patient voice.
"Look Mommy, a stick!" my son said, with a look of pure joy on his face.
He bent down to pick up the stick (and because he was still grasping tight to my hand, I bent down too) and off we went again.
But now the stick collection had begun and every few steps I felt the tug again and with it the command, "Stop Mommy."
I was starting to lose my patience. I wanted to get home. I didn't like being tugged on. Why did he have to pick up EVERY stick he saw?
And then, all of a sudden, I got it: My guru! I had found him!
This "pull and resist" dance is one we had done before and, in fact, were doing all the time in various ways, but I had never seen it before. He was pulling me into the moment and I was resisting. Wasn't that what a guru did?
I stopped right there in the middle of the sidewalk and took a deep breath.
And then another.
I was meditating right where I was and making progress on my spiritual journey just by standing still. (And isn't that always when we make the most progress, despite what we have been taught in our overactive society?)
Since then I have continued to try and learn the lessons he is trying to teach.
When he refuses to get dressed for school and we are running late, I know he is teaching me patience. When he does not get what he wants and throws himself on the floor in a tantrum, I know he is teaching me loving-kindness. And when we are walking down the street, moving at a snail's pace, and he is tugging on my hand to get me to slow down, I know that he is teaching me to breathe.