Friday, 11 October 2013

Gurus and recommendations.

Since nineteen years old, I have looked for gurus.

When I was fifteen, I met Jesus.  This changed everything.

That same year I found St Francis of Assisi, and began to travel in the long train that since the 1200s has quietly followed him; a pilgrimage of laughter and simplicity – of prayer and tears too, and delight in our mother the Earth. 

But still I looked.  When I was sixteen I found Siddhartha Gautama, through the writing of Herman Hesse first, exploding so vivid on my surprised imagination.  I wore sandals like Gandhi’s (from whom I also learned) and walked through the English countryside to sit on the warm tiled floor of the open church, at the foot of a stone pillar with the sunlight falling on it, just in quietness.  And on my way there, I stopped in the place where the river made a ford across the road, standing barefoot in the joyous company of our sister the Water.  And it was almost the case that Francesco and Siddhartha were with me.

I worked with monks and nuns, in different communities.  I borrowed Sister Felicity’s book Barefoot Journey.  Almost forty years later I still have it, that borrowed copy.  I still feel guilty.  The ex-nun from whom I borrowed it will be dead.  I must make a note to have it tucked in my coffin when I am cremated, and thus – if it may be – take it back to her.

When I was nineteen I discovered Zen, and found the book Unsui, by Giei Sato, and Ina May’s book Spiritual Midwifery, and Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching.

That year, I asked for a guru, knelt and begged: ‘Please send me a guru.  I need a teacher I can ask and trust.’ 

But the only answer I heard was ‘If you want a guru in the world, you must be it. Put the guru there yourself.’

Since then I found David Whiteland’s Book of Pages, and I found the writing of Thich Nhat HanhBeing Peace is my favourite, and Peace is Every Step.  I look at the pictures of his face, I listen to his voice and his teaching.  I went to the peace meditation he led in Trafalgar Square.  This is a man I can learn from, and I hold it a sacred and special gift to have been here on Earth at the same time as he is.  Thich Nhat Hanh is a man who can help us wake up.

About ten years after I found Thich Nhat Hanh, I came across Eckhart Tolle.  He is what he says; enlightened.  The wisest person I have come across so far. He has been a teacher of mine, a teacher in the truest sense – still is.  And I have the profoundest sense of gratitude to have been here on Earth at the same time as him.  The vibration of this man translates into my centre as courage, steadiness, a peaceful hope, or a hopeful peace.

There are two more.  In recent years I have discovered the work and teaching of Vandana Shiva.  She has taught me a little bit about ecology and politics, but less than she might have hoped because that was not what I was paying attention to.  Really, I was looking at pictures of her, videos of her, and learning what it is to be a woman.

Most recently of all, through my friend Michelle Wilbert Everett, I have been introduced to the poetry of Mary Oliver; and in that poetry, that face, that awareness, those attitudes, I know I have met another true teacher.

With only one of those, my teachers, have I ever been in the same room at the same time – Thich Nhat Hanh – and that was in Trafalgar Square with several thousand other people.

It surprises me that these are the ones I have learned from – I thought I would learn in church, from Christian Leaders.  But the church has been more an arena of contribution than of learning, for me.  I falter in saying this.  Should I be embarrassed?  Ashamed? Does it reveal my arrogance?  Who knows.  Plough on.

So, all these have been my teachers, and perhaps William Penn, Frederick Leboyer, John Holt and A.S Neill too; but still sometimes I long as much as when I was nineteen to go into the room of another living human being, and find wisdom that can guide me.

But even so, I have been grateful not to have that because, if I had, I think it might have distracted me from what I actually do.  You remember George Fox said, “Christ has come to teach His people Himself”?   Well, so when I am perplexed – or any time, really, every day – I go into the low rough chamber of my heart; a rustic kind of place, like a cob house.  You have to stoop going in under that lintel, the step is worn and the door ancient.  In that room, which opens onto a garden where birds sing and wild creatures pass through unmolested, I meet with my master, the one who bought me, whose property I am, the Lord Jesus.  And I talk to Him, and tell him what’s on my mind.  And He teaches me, Himself, just as George Fox said He would.   He still maintains that if I want a guru in the world, it’s my job to put the guru there.

For all these who have taught me, shaped me, guided me, I am so grateful.  And if you read the work of these people, watch their videos, look long and deep at your faces, you will know everything I know that is any good.  That’s assuming you also know the living Lord Jesus, who I think will meet with you in the quietness of your own heart’s chamber, too.


Paula said...

Thank thee.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Julie B. said...

I'm not very familiar with most of whom you've mentioned here (except when you share about them on your blog), but I've loved Ina May and really feel the road to my home birth started with her boo. I love St. Francis and Mary Oliver. I was introduced to Mary Oliver by one of your readers, Roberta, and I love her poetry! Have a blessed weekend, dear Ember.

Pen Wilcock said...

I think who our teachers are is a very personal thing - related to our individual path in life. What's interested me especially when I reflect on this, is that the people who have really, deeply, helpfully taught me don't come from the same faith background as my own.

This alerts me to how important it is to avoid goldfish bowl syndrome, avoid being tribal and territorial in our own practise, or we could miss what would have been most helpful to us.


rebecca said...

Keeping that last sentence both FIRST and LAST, I believe, will protect us from the "foolishness" that passes for wisdom in this world.

Jesus said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)

Pen Wilcock said...

There is much foolishness that masquerades as wisdom in the church, too, I think. In every step we rely on the Spirit that is in us. xx