It’s mid April, 2015, and I’m standing at the threshold of my home as spiritual teacher Igor Kufayev and his wife Emma pack their luggage and two children into a friend’s car for a week long trip to one of the islands near Vancouver. I can’t help but think they are escaping my house for a dose of outer peace (cause as you know, enlightened teachers have all the inner peace they need).
Their two weeks as my houseguests has been difficult this time round: Igor is in town to hold teaching events and to grow the local following I helped him start up a year before. The first visit to my home was a “summer of love” that lasted forty epic days. We affectionately dubbed my house “The Ashram.”
This second visit ten months later was to be “Ashram 2” but just like any sequel to a blockbuster film, the second round is never as satisfying.
This visit, I’m in the middle of my householder gig in crazy-ass chaos mode. The father of my children, my ex, has just come out of an eight week cerebral malaria coma. My teen daughter has come unravelled because of it, with failing grades, missed classes and a harrowing 3 A.M. ambulance to the hospital for alcohol overdose, replete with her ear-splitting, invective-rich shouting — all while the “holy family” as I liked to playfully call the Kufayev’s are trying to sleep in the guest room below.
Add to this tempest that I am in the middle of an intensive video training course so I can launch an online writing-coach business. And that very morning I’ve walked into my open car door, gashed my head, bled all over the place and am dizzy and nauseous. I am clearly concussed.
Still holding the band-aid in place on my throbbing head as the holy family races out the door to catch a ferry, I am confronted by my guru’s wife. Emma, who I consider my soul sister friend, says something to me like, “Why are you doing this online business B.S. What happened to you? Igor told you that you’re supposed to be a teacher.”
Her tone is a mix of pity, disappointment and her look is pure exasperation.
And in that very moment I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know if this woman is really my friend or simply the devotee mouthpiece for her guru husband. I don’t know if I will have a scar from the gash near my eye. I don’t know if I will finish the video training course this week and I don’t know if Igor is really my teacher after all.
But I do know one true thing. I will never be that person who calls herself a spiritual teacher and stands in line for my turn to dazzle Buddha at the Gas Pump host Rick Archer and his listeners with my spiritual prowess.
Because the truth is, a guru is the last thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up.
Let’s get this straight. Awakening to true nature, self-realization, jivan-mukti-hood or whatever the hell you call it, does not mean that your dharma is to become a teacher of enlightenment. (Dharma is the thing you were born for, basically).
There seems to be a whole lot of people waking up these days and the vast majority will not end up on Buddha at the Gas Pump telling their awakening tales, conducting satsangs, writing books like How to Attain Enlightenment and in general, playing the role of Teacher.
But there was a time when I was seduced into wondering if, by virtue of a massive over night shift of perspective (Holey Moley, I’m Awake), it was my duty to show others the way.
You see, the urge that birthed this blog did not come from a desire to teach, but to report.
I felt like I’d done the rabbit hole trip to Wonderland (no Queen of Hearts, but no Me there either) and all I wanted to do was share the marvel of it all with the world. I’d worked as a reporter in my 20’s and it only seemed natural when my reality shattered at age 49 to report a headline as newsworthy as “Liberation from the Grand Illusion of Separate Selfhood Really Does Happen!”
I should have seen it coming. You can only write about enlightenment for so long before people want to pin the Teacher label on you. Still, no matter how many readers of my blog wanted private “teaching” sessions with me (and there were quite a few) my reply was always: “I am not a teacher, I am a reporter.” (Check the tagline of my blog; Dispatches from Beyond the Dream not Teachings).
But it wasn’t until a self-proclaimed guru pinned that label on me that it began to stick….just for a bit, I was enchanted by the idea of it. The only problem was he wasn’t telling me to go forth and do my own thing. Rather, I was being groomed to be a teacher who teaches the teachings of her teacher. You know, that old-fashioned tradition of sitting at your guru’s feet until one day, that guru gives you the official blessing to enter the downline and teach.
In my case, I was also being prepped to appear on the well known Teacher Walk of Fame show Buddha at the Gas Pump. Igor Kufayev was doing his best to engineer an interview with me by Rick Archer during Rick’s visit to Vancouver in the fall of 2015.
I could see it all unfolding with perfect clarity and with utter distaste.
This was not the path I was born for. This was not my dharma.
Three months after his second visit to my home I left my teacher. It was a July full moon blue moon (yes, once in a blue moon), when Igor and I had a falling out. The details don’t matter right now, but maybe one day I will be tempted to kiss and tell, if only as an object lesson for teachers in how not to run a sangha.
As soon as I announced my decision to distance from Igor Kufayev as my teacher and as a major player in his Flowing Wakefulness organization, he wrote BATGAP host Rick Archer an email.
I’ve been told that the content of this email was a bit of a character slam but that is hearsay. Mostly I gather that it was a warning not to interview me after all and a revoking of the guru-seal-of-approval.
Given that I had never agreed to be interviewed at all, this made me laugh and cringe at the same time. How I could have been so bewitched by a teacher that I was almost seduced into seeing myself in the role of teacher?
Over the months since, I’ve looked into my own heart and found this gem: the feeling of being special and being praised was still a hook for the remnants of my personality that ran unconscious scripts. I was spell-bound by my hidden desire not to be a teacher but rather to be a teacher’s pet.
But there is more. Igor is a soul friend. I met him in a dream the night before he showed up in real life. I dreamed his green eyes. I dreamed his name (I wrote in my dream journal, “Who the hell is named Igor except in a vampire movie?”).
And I still dream of him. Some soul contracts are poignant. Some one had to play Judas so that Jesus could “rise again.” I understood at a deep level that I was dancing a karma dance with Igor.
And finally, when the dance was done, choosing to disappoint my dance-partner-teacher was the best thing that ever happened to me other than waking up. And leaving Igor Kufayev as my teacher was the ultimate teaching.
It was also the hardest lesson and the most durable lesson of my life: There never really is a teacher teaching and a student learning. There is simply One Self fluidly moving, flowing into myriad and kaleidoscopic roles, with playful abandon and with crystal clear purpose.
I am purposed. So are you. And no “teacher” can tell you what that purpose is. That self-knowledge is yours alone to discover.
I know that now in a way I didn’t know then. I know it in my bones the same way that a gazelle knows it is a creature of swift grace and that an eagle never doubts it owns the sky.
I know now that the playful flow of Being that expresses as Lori Ann has never had designs to be a white-robed, sat-sang leading guru. (I yawn at the thought of it.)
Rather, this spark of the divine delights in imagination, creativity, written expression, magic, miracles and ultimately, cheerleading others to remember their unique-as-their-fingerprint dharma and in so doing, serve the collective awakening to living a soul-centric life.
Remember those things I did not know that day in April standing on the edge of chaos on the threshold of my home while a guru and his family drove away? I know them now:
Q: I don’t know if this woman is really my friend or simply the devotee mouthpiece for her guru husband.
A: She is both and neither.
Q: I don’t know if I will have a scar from the gash near my eye.
A: I do. The scar looks like a crescent moon and will forever remind me of the day I remembered myself more deeply.
Q: I don’t know if I will finish the video training course this week.
A: I didn’t. I had to quit (the head injury made me dizzy for days) and redo the course months later…yet perfectly timed. I changed my online business to an even more dharma-true direction as a result of the time out.
Q: I don’t know if Igor is really my teacher after all.
A: He was a catalyst, a friend, and a damn good lesson in what happens when I abdicate my own sovereign knowingness. But as for teacher, here’s the deal: I am a student of my infinite heart. And that is teacher enough.
Awareness is here, musing on the full moon.
PS: I did get to meet Rick Archer when he came to town. And instead of him interviewing me, I interviewed him! That’s us below, on a 90 minute ferry ride together.