Friday, January 8, 2010

teachers who've lit the way

Five years ago, as I was turning 40, I plunged into a black hole of despair, sure my life was over, that I'd peaked without realizing or appreciating it and from then on, it was all downhill. I was desperate for an answer, a candle, a light, a teacher to give me answers and set me down a path that wasn't quite so dire.

I wanted a mentor, a guru. Or perhaps what I really sought was a panacea that would take away the fear of encroaching middle age. Someone to support and encourage, boost and stroke. Drugs would have helped at that moment—anti depression, anti anxiety, anti aging, anti reality. Anything to dull the panic and pain.

The teacher who walked into my life in that moment wasn't any of that.

Joe was a yoga instructor at my gym. Thoughtful but challenging. Acerbic. Needling. He pushed and prodded. Asked me questions I couldn't answer. Made me stretch and think into corners of myself I'd never peered into. We'd talk for hours—at times I'd be so frustrated I was beyond words. He gave me books to read that were far more than I could take in. Our conversations often strayed so far over my head I felt lost even though I was there.

And then, he was gone.

He left for India, leaving me exposed, raw with feelings and thoughts that threw my soul off-balance. This teacher thing pretty much sucked. I wasn't in a better place. I was more confused and lost than ever. He didn't answer my questions. He forced me to add more to my list.

While we'd seen each other several times over the past few years, as he'd float through New York on his way somewhere else, we haven't sat and explored the way we used to. Until yesterday. We talked for 4 hours straight. And it was completely different. It was catching up, filling in holes, learning about what each other had been up to. He was so different than the person I'd experienced before. We didn't talk about spirituality, planes of existence or collective consciousness. We talked about the fact that he drank coffee (shocking), played Rock Band (blew my mind), struggled with relationship issues (who the hell was this?!), what the next step in his path would be.

I told him how strange and remarkable it was to discover how he'd grown in ways I'd never thought he would.

After we said good-bye, I realized how much I've grown in ways that I never thought I would. How far I've come. How much I've accomplished. How the yoga practice I'd started with him is now an integral part of my life. And that while my path is often dark, twisting in ways I can't see or understand, I know I'm on one.

Day five is acknowledging the many bright lights who've helped me along the way.


Lynn Walsh said...

And sometimes we aren't aware when we are influencing others. Through your writing, blog and tweets you're inspiring me to get off my @#%* and act on things I've only talked about in the past. Thank you Elissa!

quin browne said...

lynn is right... so often people aren't aware they are influencing others.

this is why i stay with miss ruby.. she was a huge influence in my teen years, and i am paying her back in the only way i can...