The Grace of (Threading) the Guru(’s Garland)

When my Guru brought another Guru to town, on the day of his arrival, I was asked to help with some of the last minute preparations. I jumped in, not really knowing why, wholeheartedly, and suspecting I would be going to the airport to meet the entourage after these preparations were complete. The tasks might be considered far less than glamourous yet it was actually a sweet opportunity to connect with the other person who was helping in an atmosphere of pure service. That sounds so cliché to my ears but, in this case, words fail the experience. Through the course of the next few days the word seva acquired a much deeper meaning for me.

I chose to let myself believe that being asked to make the garland that my teacher would be placing, upon arrival at airport baggage pick up, over this esteemed guest’s head was one of the ultimate honours I, or anyone, would ever be bestowed in this life.

I had brought a change of clothes to change into appropriate for a kind and respectful welcoming of such a yogic dignitary. I didn’t want to show up at the airport in my sweaty rehearsal/cleaning clothes and apron.

All these details of the evening are somehow insignificant yet important.

Upon arrival at the airport I easily located my teacher and a few more of his students. He had the garland that I had so carefully threaded, well protected in the plastic bag that I had put it in. As the “dignitary” entered the baggage claim area there was a small flurry of energy among us and, “but are we allowed to go past this point?”, “don’t take the plastic bag!!”, “Odette, put it the empty bag in the garbage.” We each flowed forward at our own comfort level towards this teacher of ancient knowledge. I realized that I might get to witness the moment of my Guru lovingly placing the garland over the visiting sadhu (Guru). A potentially loaded moment since I had made, and was so attached to the idea, that I had made that garland. My mind was taking me on quite a ride! By the time I had ‘flowed forward’ towards the entire honoured entourage my teacher had already arrived amongst them much earlier. At least two minutes earlier than I! Well, maybe one minute. I noticed that one of the esteemed one’s helper’s was carrying the garland haphazardly in one hand. Weird. Everyone gradually, in their own time , while waiting for luggage, began to get acquainted. Baggage conveyor belt jam. More time to get acquainted. At some point I got talking with two of the kirtan singers from France. It was utter sweetness for me to have an opportunity to converse in French with such sweet women. They were so generous and authentically kind.

The Guru’s garland was no longer on my mind.

Later, in the flow of the evening my Guru quietly appeared by my side. He explained to me that being given a gift or an honour, in this tradition, is not about about keeping it, or grasping. It is about that beautiful moment of exchange. If one keeps it, the essence of that moment is lost. So, in this tradition, one must pass the thing on. It’s not the thing, the garland, that is important. It is the exchange, the acknowledgement, the presence. I hope I am conveying that teaching accurately.

Shortly thereafter I was assigned to drive two yogic travellers to their hotel. We had a lovely conversation in the car but the words, in hindsight, were external points of connection that were the tip of deeper feeling.

By the time I got home it was after midnight. The house was dark. My precious family all silently settled in bed. I passed the message of gratitude on to my beloved as we were half asleep, half awake, from my Guru and his beloved of their thanks to him for parenting and so much more, while I was not.

In the morning I awoke, before everyone as usual to shower and do Sadhana. What was that dream? I am swimming in such a vivid essence of something. What is that feeling that a dream can create, to haunt your day, good or bad? But it wasn’t a dream and I must thank my Guru again, again, again, again……

 

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