When I was younger I used to hitchhike.
I loved the lessons that strangers taught me.
I also didn't really care if I lived or died. So it wasn't too hard to be fearless.
Through some strange twists in the road, a random kirtan session at a cafe and the intervention of man whom I can't remember the name of anymore, I found myself at New Gokula farm in 2015. About two hours north and west of Sydney, Australia.
The New Gokula Farm is a place where Krishna devotees go to live and work. Everything that is eaten is either produced at the farm or purchased by the Bhakti Café, everything that is grown is either for the café or for the devotees or cows.
Each morning we would milk the cows.
Every day we would pick the rows and rows of marigold flowers.
In the evenings we would make flower garlands that would be worn by the alters of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha. His divine feminine. His expression of Shakti. And his greatest wealth.
The garlands were not always for the alters.
About a month into my time at the ashram we received news that a Spiritual Teacher would be coming...the devotees refer to their Krishna Conscious Spiritual Teachers as "Spiritual Masters"...so, I mean...obviously the word master carries a different kind of weight than the word teacher.
For the sake of focus, I am not going to dive into that...I'm just going to carry on using the word "spiritual teacher". This is the way I acknowledged this individual anyway, so it is the only relevant expression of this experience.
My parents have always low-key worried that I would be the type to drink the proverbial "Kool-aid" throughout my wanderings around the world.
Heck, Lee and I were watching the infamous Tiger King when he turned and looked at me while the show unpacked the yoga-tiger-sister wife life of Doc "Mahamayavi Bhagavan" Antle.
"Would you have stayed there?" he asked me.
I laughed and then genuinely reflected on this.
"Yea, tough to say" I smiled back, "I mean, I wouldn't rule it out" I winked at him. I'm not saying that I would have stayed or not stayed. Its just impossible to say how it would have gone. Because it is not the way it went.
While at New Gokula I grappled with the frustrations of trying to walk a path that was not what my soul was calling for.
I struggled with falling completely into line with "one-way-of-being".
To be a Krishna devotee in an ashram requires that the individual surrenders much of their individual self to the path mapped out by Lord Chaitanya. Rules about temple in the mornings, chanting throughout the day, regular asana observances and constant aspiration to Krishna Consciousness.
Every organized faith in the world will tell you that there is one way of doing things.
They need people to believe that their way of doing things is the one way in order for it to become an accepted reality...the belief structures that people subscribe to are extremely relevant to the shaping of reality.
But here is the thing...
What you feel is, bottom line, the only relevant part of the practice. Experience begins and ends with you. And with everyone else in the whole world.
We are all expressions of the same whole. And if that doesn't make sense now, but you want it to make sense, then that knowing will come.
A spiritual teacher will not ask you to become anything other than who you are.
A spiritual teacher actually will not make you do anything. But you will be guided.
Some people seek spiritual gurus the same way that some professionals seek "mentors".
I know I have.
When the spiritual teacher came to the Gokula Farm from Los Angeles there was an air of auspiciousness all around.
The freshest cream.
The largest marigolds.
The brightest robes.
"And you?" he interrupted the men who were surrounding him in the pasture, "you are a devotee?"
In fact, I wasn't sure what the heck I was, I knew I was living at an ashram, I knew I was responsible for overseeing the painting project of the new guest homes, and I was certain that I was born in Canada.
Other than that, I was not really solid on anything about who I had been or who I was becoming.
I blushed and looked down at the ground, "I don't know if I am good enough to be considered a devotee"I replied. Kind of a limiting belief for myself, but it was how I operated back then.
"What do you mean good enough?"
"Well, I don't know that I stay in Krishna Consciousness all that much. My mind wanders. I don't feel like I am a devotee because I don't know if I'm very good at being devoted at all times".
He smiled at me.
What he said next here has stayed with me always.
"Do I look like a spiritual [teacher] to you?" he asked.
"Look at me -- do I look like a spiritual [teacher]? Do not let your eyes be influenced by the words your ears have listened to."
I kind of shrugged and gently shook my head side to side with a smile.
No. Nothing about this man physically appeared to be different than that of any of the other men surrounding him.
"Do you believe that a perfect stranger would immediately recognize me as a spiritual teacher?"
"No." I was beginning to get it. "They might walk right past you."
"Yes." He smiled again. "Does this make me less of a spiritual [teacher]?"
I don't know what my face did here, but I still remember these words and focusing my eyes on him. I didn't offer an answer but rather waited for the lesson.
"I will not be acknowledged by those outside of me as a spiritual [teacher] in every moment. There will be students who do not acknowledge me as their spirit's [teacher]. There will, more often than not, be people who do not acknowledge me as a spiritual [teacher] -- but for those who do see me as a spiritual [teacher] my words will forever remain relevant." He took a pail of milk from me at some point in this conversation. "You will not appear the devotee by every one's standards if you rely on the standards of those who are outside of yourself.
I did not ask you if you remain in Krishna Consciousness.
I am asking you if you are a devotee.
Whose standards is it that you measure your own experience against?"
In kundalini theory and philosophy there is a necessity for the student to accept the guru...to trust the guru.
The third eye is considered the sacred space of the guru. Or...like...the space in which knowledge from the guru is able to enter.
Some people will state that "the guru" must be in the physical flesh -- but much of what I've read seems to suggest otherwise.
There is no doubt that working with a teacher for intense breath work makes sense for safety.
There is many accountants of the necessity of a teacher through the experience of awakening kundalini -- or else one might appear as if they've lost their mind. Performing life in a way that no longer makes sense to those around them.
Since COVID-19 has globally swept out consciousness, I've noticed two self-talk patterns showing up online (running with the concept of memes as an indicator for reflective consciousness).
A.) The world is ending and we're all damned for the atrocities that humanity has been.
B.) The old paradigm is ending and the birth of the new world is at hand.
Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, it doesn't matter. We're all going to bear witness to this and our own personal belief structure and outlook of the world will determine what messages are emphasized in our experience.
The biggest lesson I seem to be sitting with, valuing and appreciating these days is that there are so many spiritual teachers stepping into their stride, stepping into their voice. It is blowing my mind the work and teachings that are digitally available these days.
Not every spiritual teacher, guru or guide is going to resonate with every and each person.
But that's the point isn't it? To find what speaks to you?
Who are you?
Seek what speaks to you and you will find yourself closer and closer to your answer to that question.