Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Deva, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…
The Guru Mantra. A sacred chant learned from one of my precious teachers last summer. It means that our Gurus live within us, transforming darkness into light. That we, the teachers, merely bear witness to the ancient wisdom of this practice and act as vessels for the Gurus before to pour light and love into us, through us.
I’ve silently chanted this mantra before every single class since last summer. It’s a reminder to my ego that any attachment when it comes to teaching is absolute and complete bullshit. That if I tap into Source, connect with my Gurus, then whatever words or asanas or meditations roll off my tongue aren’t truly mine at all.
Sometimes I think about the ancient Gurus when I chant this mantra – Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma – but more often than not, I channel my own personal Gurus. I see my mom and her divine ability to comfort and find joy, even in the darkest of times. I see my first grade teacher, who hugged me when I slipped on the playground. I see my great grandmother, who I can’t remember ever meeting in person – but whose love and baking and kindness has been passed down, generation after generation. I see my mentors and cherished friends. Past lovers. Yoga instructors. All of the people – my true teachers – that have walked alongside me on this journey.
And on Sunday afternoon, one of them died.
I wish I could say that I’m not angry, that I wasn’t ripped raw by shock of learning that someone far too young, far too healthy, far too vibrant and pure died suddenly while teaching a yoga class of all things. I wish I could channel her wisdom now and understand how exactly this practice didn’t completely fail her. I wish I could understand why she had to go, and not me. Why she had to leave so prophetically seated in lotus, meditating. Why dozens of teacher trainees were meant to witness her passing instead of her loved ones in the next room. I wish I could bear witness to her divine light and truth one more time so she could explain this to me.
But I can’t.
What if it had been me? What if, in the middle of my Yoga Nidra class on Monday, I just slumped over and had a heart attack? It could have been any of us. It should have been all of us instead of her. She walked the walk, and I’m 30 pounds overweight. I’m on anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants for fuck’s sake. How on Earth does she die and the rest of us lost suckers get to carry on?
I know what she’d say. She’d tell us that’s exactly why she had to go. That she had taught us all she had to teach and it was time for us to put it into action. Detachment, she’d say. Let it come and let it go. I’ll see you soon. Trust.
I want to, I really do. I want to believe that the lessons I’m sharing in class actually make a goddam difference. I want to believe that this life is just a stepping stone along a much greater path. I want to believe that you were somehow meant to give us all that you had to give in such a short time. I want to believe that your sisters and mother and children were able to bask in your brilliance long enough to absorb your light. I want to believe that all of the love you shared and the way you guided me through one of the darkest times of my life was meant to end. I do. I truly do.
But right now I don’t. I can’t.
It all seems like some sick joke. I keep waiting for the follow up email that you’re actually meditating in the mountains and we’ll see you in a month. That I won’t be going back to Boston or Cape Cod or Vermont soon for your funeral. But the truth is, you’re gone. My dear Guru, you’re gone. You’re gone and I never had a chance to tell you just how important you have been in my life. Dear teacher. Dear friend.
I don’t have a wise conclusion or nugget of wisdom to end this with. Some prophetic reason that this happened and a way to move past pretending, to move past the anger and the hurt and the confusion. I’m not you, Aida. I’m not strong like you. I’m not pure like you. I don’t know yet.
I’m just a seed. I’m not even close to understanding.
But you did. You always did. You know. You see.
Good bye dear Guru. I hope that somehow you know just how cherished you were by so many. That your light and love and laughter and teachings will live on in the hearts of every single soul you met. I hope somehow you know what a big difference you made to me, even though I was too proud to ever say it out loud.
I hope we will see you again.
I hope, I hope.
Guru Brahman, Guru Vishnu, Guru Deva, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.