Everyone Knows What A Guru Looks Like
Re: Tony Robbins, Becoming Humble Enough to Be Teachable, Self-Fucking-Improvement
More than 20 years ago I wrote Tony Robbins off.
It took me maybe 20 minutes.
I had my reasons…
The biggest—and this one really pissed me off—was that he had the audacity to charge people money for what he was teaching.
I had no problem with the idea of paying a farmer for an apple. Or writing a check to my mechanic for engine work. Or tipping the bartender for pouring my beers…
People need to be compensated for their work.
But when it came to all matters spiritual—the Work with a capital “W”—there was a disconnect…
If you were making a living out of it then you must be a charlatan, a shyster, a snake-oil salesman.
And then there was the way he looked—like a roughneck in gym shorts… like the captain of the football team (if a race of half-breed giants had a football team)… or like a picture on a pouch of Big League Chew come to life.
Even in that imposing 6’7″ frame he was just kind of… normal.
And, at a time when rebelling against the cult of sameness and separation, hegemony and isolation was mission number one—at a time when I was looking for authenticity—I needed something more… exotic.
Or at least its appearance.
In my mind the guru came dreadlocked and smoking a chillum or head wrapped in a turban, prayer beads hanging from his wrist, or with an antler-horn pipe clenched in his fist—in my mind he must be a ghost dancer with the fiercest gaze.
On one hand I was fully on board with the idea that the lessons we need to learn could, and did, make themselves known through unlikely channels—the mouths of babes, the knowing look in the eye of the gas station attendant, or the caw of a crow punctuating the end of a sentence spoken in a moment of clarity…
Those ideas appealed to my sense of mystery and I embraced them. (I still do.)
And yet I dismissed Tony Robbins even though I didn’t know a goddamn thing about him.
It’s insane. It’s embarrassing. And it’s true.
I’m happy to say that those days are behind me now—and they have been for a very long time.
Life Happens… And It Frequently Kicks Your Ass
If you’re sincere, you’ll get help.
My great friend and mentor, Brad, said that to me years ago. And while I’ve verified the truth of it for myself six ways from 3,000 Saturdays, what continually amazes me is where that help comes from, how it appears, and the timing of it all.
We all have our stories, and most of them include a part where you know that life is never going to be the same again—for better or for worse there’s no going back.
For me that was losing my band, my best friend and my marriage in the space of 48 hours. (Sounds like a bad country song. I know.)
My world didn’t come crashing down, it got fucking torpedoed and burned and its earth run through with rock salt.
It sure as shit didn’t feel like help.
But it was…
It was a blessing (an exquisitely painful blessing, but a blessing still the same).
Because any one of those things, any sudden loss, would have been hard enough to deal with… But all three and at the same time?
I went from being dumbstruck to speechless to obliterated.
It was beyond my control—all of it—and there was fuck all that I could do about it.
Twenty years into this trip of ‘staying awake or trying to’ and all I knew was that, really, I didn’t know much…
Life felt like it was happening to me, and it felt cruel. I needed to believe—I needed to know—that it was happening for me. (If you’re a fan of Mr. Robbins, that probably sounds familiar. But at the time he was still pretty far off of my radar.)
Becoming humble enough to be teachable HAD to be part of my mission.
Learning how to turn the circumstances in which I found myself into creative fuel became a matter of soul survival.
So I began making conscious efforts to uncover and then overthrow any prejudices that I’d been coddling, especially where matters of spirit were concerned.
I started over, promising myself that I’d cultivate a wild curiosity about anything—or anybody—that sparked my imagination for even a nanosecond.
And it was liberating as hell.
Eventually, a few years into this new pact that I had with myself, I read a post by Jon Morrow—it was all about Tony Robbins…
And it sparked my imagination.
I Am Not Your Guru
It took me roughly seven hours spread out over two nights to watch this movie—it’s only 1 hour and 55 minutes long, but I kept hitting pause to take notes…
Because regardless of what a guru does or does not look like, there are ways of being that cannot be faked.
Here Are Seven of ‘Em That TR’s Got Down:
1. A seemingly unending supply of energy. It’s got nothing to do with caffeine—he doesn’t partake. Rather, action arises from a place of consciousness, becoming a recharging mechanism instead of one that depletes.
“The energy expended in active inner work is immediately transformed into new energy; that expended in passive work is lost forever.” ~ G.I. Gurdjieff
2. Humility. There’s a love of, and commitment to, service that takes a place front and center—always the case with someone who’s in it for the right reasons. Their own personal history isn’t nearly as important as helping you make peace with yours.
3. They aren’t looking for converts… or dependents. And they know they aren’t telling you anything you don’t already know—they’re helping you remember, giving you tools that you can use to dig into your own wisdom, and showing you the way of your very own path by sharing with you what they’ve learned on theirs.
The last thing they need is someone sitting on their feet. The whole idea is to help you find yours and then use ’em for what they were made for.
4. Honesty. And not the meanness, lack of discipline and inability to bite one’s tongue that too often masquerades as honesty—the “I’m just telling it like it is” bullshit.
Real honesty comes from a place called Love, and the person wielding it does so with the deepest compassion for the intended recipient.
To be truly, fearlessly honest is to know that coddling a person’s weaknesses is doing them a disservice. The aim is to let the light in and let the light out by cracking the shell of excuses and false personality—not the person.
5. Humor. If we can’t laugh at ourselves we may be missing the best joke in the multiverse.
Again, not the mean stuff—that old claptrap that justifies itself by claiming to hold up some kind of mirror to the harsh realities of society.
Not the callousness that frequently lumbers around hand-in-hand with “just telling it like it is”…
Humor that heals is about a willingness—an eagerness—to find, experience, and share joy. And you can bet your best punchlines that the person who has it knows the difference between taking the Work seriously and being a self-important asshole.
6. Presence. “Be present at every breath. Do not let your attention wander for the duration of a single breath. Remember yourself always and everywhere.” ~ Gujduvani (12th c. Sufi master)
Being Present is about a lot more than just existing. It’s a state in which we inhabit the body-whole—mind, spirit, flesh.
It’s “intangible”, but the experience of it is undeniable.
A super short story to illustrate my point:
I introduced a friend of mine to a man who was in the same Fourth Way Group that I was in.
There were handshakes, hellos, and a brief conversation following. Then the guy excused himself politely.
I asked my friend what she thought.
She let out a little laugh and then took a deep breath.
“I’m not thinking anything,” she said after a minute. “I can hardly talk. He’s so… shiny! I think he knows everything about me!”
That… is Presence.
Or, at least, one of the effects it can have on people.
7. Love. A list of this nature wouldn’t be complete without it. Actually, there’s no such thing as a list of this nature without it.
Love is the beginning, middle and end—the Source infusing it all, always and all-ways—whispering, shouting, howling, “Fuck Yes! You Are Worth It! Don’t you know?! You ARE IT!!!”
Love is not possessive nor is it possessed. It is the ever unfolding/infolding and flowing essence of ABUNDANCE.
It is mystery, grace and gratitude…
“Love is the oxygen of the Soul.” ~ Tony Robbins
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