Many years ago, almost thirty to be exact, I met my first spiritual teacher. Cloaked in silence, I spent three months sitting or walking while meditating. The only reprieve was the weekly much anticipated teacher “interview.” My assigned teacher turned out to be one of the first wise men that I had yet to meet, and teaching the Dharma, he held a candle to my darkness. Illumination came at a price, and the worldly journey through my many phases of Samsara left me raw and hoping to once again, at some point, see my true self reflected in his eyes.

Just recently, we met face-to-face. My heart was full; this was indeed a moment I had much anticipated. Imagine the reunion, the inquiry into my world, in return my graceful complements of his work, the impact that he and his writings have had in my own life. As I introduced myself, his dark eyes hardened and remained hidden behind a veil of feigned enlightenment. There was none of me in their reflection. There was none of me anywhere. Much like a beggar on a street in India, I was rebuffed, left to stand empty handed with my anticipation hanging in the air. Where was the mindfulness, the welcoming of the other and most importantly where was the loving attention that was at the root of all teaching?

As that painful moment passed, I began to slowly feel empowered. I saw him clearly for the first time in 30 years. I had caught him without his game face, and he was just a man. He was not my true teacher after all. In fact, in that moment it was me who was graceful, mindful and wise. Realization comes at a price, and between the many emotions that surfaced as a result of our encounter, I came to see that one cannot look outside for a true teacher. Our true teacher does not live somewhere else; our true teacher resides within each one of us. When our hearts are open and our attention steady, and when we greet the unexpected with loving attention, we become both student and teacher, we become the wise one. ~ SDD

Image: Tdukes, 2011