L to R: Sister Sharon, Dad Michael, Stuart age 11

At the age of sixteen I had a transformative, but tragic moment that affected me for the rest of my life.  My father suffered from acute colitis and 106-degree fever for three weeks. He didn’t recognize my mother, my sister or me. A few hours before he died, I went into his hospital room. He had clear eyes and a calm demeanor I’d never seen before. I took his hand and asked him if he knew me. He shook his head, “yes.” I left the room for a few minutes and met his nurse in the hospital corridor. I asked her about my father’s calmness and the clarity in his eyes. “To my knowledge,” she told me, “Just before people die, their eyes become clear, and they grow very calm. It’s like they’ve let go of everything.”

I’d never seen my father so calm. A few hours before his death, he entered a state of surrender that touched on spiritual enlightenment. “Why did he have to wait 49 years to experience such a deep state of inner peace a few hours before his death?” That question haunted me as a sixteen-year-old and transformed my entire way of thinking. It demanded that I look for a teacher whose wisdom and knowledge could help me find inner peace years before I succumbed to my own death.

I searched for that person: a nine-year journey that took me half around the world until I found him in my hometown (New York City), nine impossible years filled with intense suffering and misguided adventures, a great deal of disappointment, but a firm knowledge of what I was looking for. Somewhere in this crazy world a teacher could open a doorway for me that would lead to spiritual awakening, somewhere there was a teacher who had the power to transform planet Earth into a sacred temple. I met that person seemingly by accident, but realized, early on, it wasn’t an accident. It was a gift given to me by God to transform my life. There are no accidents. There are just opportunities to grow, and we must be smart enough to take advantage of them.

Six years later, in an airplane crash, my spiritual teacher, Rudi, died. I was in the plane with him.

Knocked unconscious for five or ten minutes, I awakened to discover that Rudi had passed, but never, strange as it might sound, did I feel any loss. He was in my heart, alive, vibrant, transmitting shakti, guiding me to a place where my consciousness transcended both life and death. “People we truly love live eternally in our hearts,” I heard him once say, and thanked him for allowing me to be with him the final moments of his life.

“Now you’ll find out what the last six years were about,” I said to myself. “Now you’ll find out if you truly learned the life lessons, he taught you.”

He once said to me: “If anyone asks you who or what is the guru, just tell them that the guru is life.” It took me twenty years to digest that teaching, to learn to surrender deep enough in myself to give up any position and embrace the great teacher called “life.” It took twenty years to learn that patience is one of the key elements when it comes to inner growth. It could’ve taken twenty lifetimes without the kundalini meditation I learned from Rudi, and I thank God for the time he and I spent together.