There have been some spectacular sunsets here in Michigan along the lakeshore. This is a photo of the South Haven pier and lighthouse taken by Tom Fouts. The image aptly evokes that sense of wonder that we feel when looking at something so beautiful. The whole nature is there for us to enjoy and bring us into a simple state of awe and devotion.
When I first met Swami Satchidananda, he became my sunset. Being near him I immediately felt the peace and serenity comparable to being blown away by the glory of nature. If you’re looking for a Guru, and you meet a soul who creates that space of wonder for you, take his/her card!
What is a Guru anyway? It’s more than just a teacher, although my Guru used to say the mother is the baby’s first Guru. The word Guru comes from the Sanskrit–Gu means the darkness, and Ru “the one who dispels”. The Guru is the one who dispels your darkness or ignorance. My friend Deepa Lani says “The Guru is the one who removes the goo”.
Personally, I had been asking for an enlightened teacher. It was the 60’s and I was in a band enjoying all the perks of that crazy, hippie dippie lifestyle . Friends were experimenting with harder drugs that I had decided not to try. I was already smoking too much pot and drinking too much coffee. I decided to bypass snorting coke and I began taking yoga classes. I was seeking to get high naturally, and yoga was definitely taking me there! When I heard that my yoga teacher’s Guru was coming to town, I prayed to meet him and ask him to be my Guru.
I didn’t know exactly what a Guru would act like. When I met him, I was somewhat taken aback by Swami Satchidananda’s quiet demeanor. Everything he did, he did with complete attention, intense focus. Today, we might say he was very “mindful.” I was expecting something a little more bombastic, more exciting, but what did I know? Since I obviously didn’t know–from my mind’s perspective–I decided to go with my heart. There was a lovely calmness about his presence that was like that glow of the brilliant sunset, spreading light everywhere. I asked for his blessing, and a blessing on my band. Within the next year I took a ten day silent retreat hosted by the Integral Yogis and received mantra initiation from Sri Swami Satchidananda himself. It was a magical time in my life.
One of the people I met back in those early days was Swami Asokananda. He was running the New York Integral Yoga Center where I began teaching a couple years after taking initiation. I have always been impressed by his dedication to the variety of yoga practices–serving, meditating, studying and teaching the scriptures, teaching and practicing hatha yoga, and his demonstrating an enduring devotion to our Guru and the teachings. To read a lovely article about how he chose his Guru, click his name.