Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shopping for Gurus

I’ve embarked on a search for spiritual direction, and it’s freaking me out. The very label makes me twitch, conjuring up scenarios of surrender and domination, and not in a good way: genuinely scary Jesuits, instead of sexy Jesuits with five o’clock shadows in well-tailored black cassocks.

I’ve already had more than enough experience of somebody else trying to coopt my inner life: the tsunami of my family’s over-the-top emotional pieties swamping my own unfolding spiritual discovery as a child. My longing for mentorship as an adolescent ending in seduction by a duplicitous, closeted minister–whose advances might actually have done my sexual awakening some good if they hadn’t been so dishonest or so fraught with the abuse of his authority and the trust I’d placed in him. The abbot of the Benedictine monastery where in my early twenties I almost made a profession, brushing away, as a sign of insufficient humility, my hard-won insight into my own God-given self-worth.

I don’t need a guru to teach me submission. I need a witness. I need someone who will take time to build up a sense of my spiritual history, who hears what I say and takes it seriously, then asks questions that help me see a little further than I’d seen before. I need someone who’ll remind me to stay on my path, but only once he or she has a feel for what’s authentic in my search and can distinguish my path from his or her own.

OK, I’ve got major authority issues. I’m also a confessionally promiscuous slut who’ll pray with anyone, a church-going Christian who also attends shul with his boyfriend, grooves to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and is happy to help pull Lord Krishna’s chariot down the street at Rathayatra. Maybe I’d feel better about someone who called himself a soulwork coach.

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