Apparently, a person who practices yoga is supposed to have a guru. At least that’s what I heard from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She had (or has) one, but she doesn’t reveal who it is in the book. All we know is that it’s a woman, which is cool enough. There are so many highly revered spiritual men throughout history, and so few women. Maybe because they’re having babies, being silent goddesses, humbly persevering, and nobody stops to notice.
My yoga teachers seem to have a few Indian men they really like, but none of those guys float my boat. (I watched a video of one—he spits when he talks.) I don’t connect with their words the way I connect with, say, Anne Sexton’s poetry, or Ann Patchett’s novels, or Nina Simone’s voice.
But the other night, I had a dream that I was talking to a few former coworkers, working out some kinks in our history in some loft in the city. Behind us was this quiet guy, a chef, moving around in the restaurant-style kitchen, doing his work. When the women finally left, I turned to him and chatted with him as he was cleaning up. He was short and bald and aging. At some point, I realized he was Thich Nhat Hanh (who has a Twitter account, by the way. He follows no one). As we talked, he lifted up a bag of hamburger rolls that was undone and looked at me in frustration, saying something about how annoying people were that they couldn’t even wrap up the bag to keep the rolls fresh.
I looked at him. “Even you get annoyed with people? Even you lose your temper?”
“Of course!” he said, or something like it, and let out a huge belly laugh.
Then we laughed and laughed and laughed, the most joyful laugher I’ve had in a long time.
So maybe I should check out his real life work…. If a bald man comes to me in a dream, it might just mean he’s my guru.