The Feeling of You (aka, What it Feels Like to Have a Guru, Part 2)

A pink lotus flower and lily pads with saturated colorBy Tadiya Dasi

In bhakti yoga, this is emphasized: sanga, meaning the company and community of others on the path, is considered to be something that we absolutely need in order to grow in and sustain our faith. Bhakti yogis are instructed to develop intimate and confidential friendships with others on the path. Loving God includes loving all those dear to him. In bhakti we progress by cultivating positive attachment, not by detachment. Love and trust are the two skills needed to do just that.

I wrote this poem originally intending to write about how my guru, my guide and teacher in bhakti yoga, feels like a friend of the soul to me and how the very feeling of him seems to sustain my soul. But in the process of writing, I changed it from a singular friend to plural, as in “friends of the soul”, realizing that God’s grace comes to me – yes, in the form of my guru – but also in other friendships that nourish my soul.

Besides relationships, God’s grace and good will toward me sometimes takes other forms. For example, I consider the feeling of hope and faith as such good “friends of my soul”.

Inspiration for this poem came also from an often quoted saying by Srila Sridhara Maharaja, a beloved teacher of bhakti: “the environment is friendly.” Meaning that when we are able to see the world through the eyes of faith and love – and approach it as servants rather than exploiters – we will see how everything in our lives is indeed friendly and helping us.  And “a bad worker quarrels with his tools”, Sridhara Maharaja continues. Meaning: we must start where we are, work with what we have and use our circumstances – good and bad – for spiritual growth.

What I have, personally, is a lot of shame and sorrow, and doubt as well, to work with. And I certainly have wasted a lot of time quarreling with myself, and my circumstances. And, at times, to my regret, that has created considerable distance between me and my friend(s) of the soul.

But what has pulled me through – and near – has always been the love of my guru and my friends, their love for my soul.

This poem  is dedicated to all my friends, especially to my guru, a dearmost friend of my soul. This, my friends, is what it feels like to have a guru: something in him makes my soul come out and be near. The feeling of him a space that’s widening in my heart; and I come out bigger, having been in it.

The Feeling of You

Dear friend of the soul,

I’ve been holding my distance
from you

knee-deep in
I have stood my ground on nothing

for fear gave me
such impossible marching orders that

my feet, for a year, refused to go
near you.

Only distance grew big in me
as I leaned into it

I became small,

holding onto

of the concrete of despair

and sorrow
let me tell you –
should never feel like your only friend

but sometimes
she does

So, I stood still
wearing the heavy shoes of hesitation;
feet in the cement of my
own pouring

and the place I once hurried to,
became just a blurred vision on the horizon,

as I let the
the feeling of you
fade away;
and doubt to wear myself thin

somehow, I lost touch
of the Meaningful

let my hope
be reduced to a tiny whisper in the corners of the self

made my home into the alone and
housed myself in the smallest possible corner
of the self: shame.

I fell so far and away
from you

But then, as
the very ground beneath my stumbling
rose up to hold me

I found out that

a little hope
goes a long way

for everything holds a possibility
for entering the Meaningful.

There are two ways to live:
as though everything has meaning
or nothing

The nothing, got me nowhere

but the everything,
got me cornered: I had to face myself in all directions

pull away far enough
and you are pulled near – almost by accident.

Such is the crookedness of grace. It gets you
while you’re getting away from it.

And the something missing
in everything

your heart’s
longing for

the Meaningful

in search of us

until you recognize her
as the very Friend you’ve missed all your life

and then you will see how
God has sent so many good friends to meet you on the way!

Friends of the soul, who come
with hopeful news about the meaning of it all

who hold your heart
in such a way that
the very feeling of them

is enough of an answer.

Dearmost friends,
coming with arms full
love letters to your soul

Think about it: you can be
best friends
with the Forever.

Oh my friends,

I fold the feeling of you into a corner of my heart
and keep it there, in the chambers of my
unsteady heart

ready to be pulled out when and if need be

I hold on to this, the faith of you
that gives the Meaningful into my empty arms

giving me
so much to hold onto
that I am held

from here to hope, to love
and my soul is received in such a way

that nothing can no longer
claim to fill me.

My friends,
everything about you pulls me nearer to the Meaningful

as I lean towards this feeling of you; this vastness
that’s holding my heart

– and the things
it has to say to me,

my head can hardly believe it

so like an unsent letter, I hide it away, tuck it under my heart
and wonder if there’s a way to say it?
Or if I can even feel it tomorrow

Still, the feeling of you

is now a space that’s widening
inside of me,

and I
come out bigger
for having been in it.

Something in you,
makes my soul
come out and be near.

In the presence of friends
who love my self like their own self

distance is no longer an option.
I know this now:

to have this kind of intimacy, even for a moment,
between you and the one that needs no introducing

and to feel the vastness of that love

that somehow squeezes itself
inside your little heart and makes it bigger,

is the miracle we were born into.

The embrace is such
that your prayers become short: just wishes
for everyone to have friends like this!

To come across a friend of the soul
is the reassurance of ten thousand loving arms
wrapping themselves around you

To know that God has such friends for your soul
makes everything appear friendly;

you might even begin to befriend
the stranger in your own self,

so difficult to love, to embrace

for it’s like spring, when someone receives you
like this:
you grow without trying to.

And friends like this
who welcome your soul,
like the sun welcomes the day

giving it
it’s light: illuminates

your absolute need for mercy
and the existence of it –

God does not just give grace
– she becomes it

and you see it
in your friend’s smiling face – in your own smile, too

like a thousand suns
appearing across the horizon of your heart

and you feel it,
as the heart you’ve held closed
now pours itself out
almost involuntarily

What the world needs
is this space
widening in every heart

may the something missing
lead you there

and your soul come to know
the embrace of such Friends

may the feeling of them
guide you

to the Meaningful
in search of you.

Look around: Everything wants to be your friend.

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