Be your own guru


If you are doing things right and you have a certain amount of luck, you'll live past the elders who were once your principal sources of wisdom and unconditional love.

Mom. Dad. That really cool uncle (I had one!). That pivotal grandparent (I had a couple of those, too!).

And, if you had a certain amount of luck and you decide to do things right, you'll also graduate from your various mental health care providers, friends, colleagues, agents, editors and other tutors in Stuff You Need to Know at Various Points in Your Life and Career. Because really, how horrid and dull would it be if you had the same 25 people in your life forever? Especially, usually, if they were the first 25, there by virtue of chronology.

The trick to getting the most from the people you meet as you move through life is a two-parter: paying enough attention in the moment to absorb the material in your first time of need, and developing the skill of recalling them when the second (and third, and fortieth) time arises.

My beloved paternal grandmother who showered me with the truest love I've known is long gone, but opening my heart just a little brings her rushing back to me, and with her, that feeling of support.

My father, who was probably the best-organized self-made business person I'll ever meet, and also the person who liked talking about it and his systems and processes the least, has oceans of wisdom to bestow upon me in my time of need, if only I can see my way to invoke him. And them.

Those people who wear the initial bracelets have one thing right absolutely, no matter who or what it is they are invoking: to stop and ask the question is the main thing, the most important thing. I'm a bit lost; what would this older, wiser, calmer, more together soul have to say about the situation I face right now?

When I have absorbed the principal bits of wisdom I am supposed to from the people who have them to disburse, I can (usually) answer these questions for myself. And if not, and if they are not present (or no longer there, period) to consult, I can triangulate: I can ask the me who has been through similar things before and invoke the spirit of those who have advised me in the past and turn to those wise souls I've been fortunate enough to collect around me. I can ask, "What now, please?"

And if all else fails, I can be the guru to myself I would try to be to someone who begged it of me. Would I advise a friend to walk down this dark alley unaccompanied, to answer this email in this way, to make this decision in this moment?

Thinking I'm all alone is as much of an illusion as pretending I'm not. All I really have to do is ask the question in the bright lightness of the truth, and pause, and answer it the same way...


Image by kalandrakas via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.