A student of Rudi’s asked him how long it took to have a spiritual life and why there are so many bumps on the road.

Rudi smiled and replied: “It takes nine months to have a baby and one second to die. If you pick an apple or a cherry before it ripens, the fruit will be sour.”

Impatience keeps human beings from ripening. They are always at odds with themselves and find reasons to stop the creative process.

When something positive happens in my life, it is always followed by something negative. The reverse is also true. Whether my experience is positive or negative, of necessity, I must transform both into shakti. It’s a human as well as spiritual awakening that allows me to live with deep quiet and inner peace. To learn to clean up one’s messes with an open heart is true nobility of soul.

Before I met Rudi, I’d attend Satsangs, and I’d listen to swamis, yogis, rishis, priests, rabbis, imams, etc. speak about God and religious practice. I chanted and prayed until “Love, Peace and Eat Vegetables” mantras rang like church bells in my ears. The rest of the day, my mind wouldn’t shut up. My emotions were like quicksand, and I was unable to maintain five minutes of inner quiet. I’d ask myself: “How do I master tension? How do I build a system that’s strong enough to connect with spirit and make it part of my daily life?” I felt like Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” when she sang, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words; show me.” I’d ask questions to religious people, but no one had an answer.

I learned early on that the fear of death didn’t keep me from functioning. It was the fear of life’s myriad shapes, its edginess, and conflicted views that imprisoned me in a narrow and conceptualized box.

Spiritual talk is nothing but a waste of words if one’s inner life remains chaotic. Each day is filled with non-stop chitchat of thoughts that reign supreme. When Rudi taught me a meditation technique that quieted my mind and helped me overcome fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, etc., a meditation technique that grounded me and brought about a state of inner peace, he said about himself: “I’m a technician. I teach people how to do it. If they practice this simple method of breathing, they can build an internal system that will help them live quietly in the world.” The breathing technique grounded me in a city like New York that was replete with tension. I became a more compassionate and loving human being.

I often tell people that my goal is to be “Nothing,” and there’s always an astonished look on their faces. The “less is more” vision of life holds little water with grandiose egos that run our world. I tell people to listen to their friends, parents, children, and colleagues, and even enemies and allow daily events to be a teacher. Their puzzled expressions follow me about the room. Rudi told me, “If anyone ever asks you who the guru is, just tell them that the guru is life.” It took almost twenty years for me to absorb that teaching, to get out of my own way, and to connect with a secure inner state of being. I no longer had to impede the flow of wisdom with my own distorted version of truth. I embraced life with all its subtle and not so subtle changes.

I learned early on that the fear of death didn’t keep me from functioning. It was the fear of life’s myriad shapes, its edginess, and conflicted views that imprisoned me in a narrow and conceptualized box. I realized that life and death were both unknown quantities. When my heart opened, when the fear of life and death disappeared in an aura of self-worth and love, and I stepped out of my dark shadowy world and embraced the wonderment of life, I was no longer afraid to tap creative energies and use them in the world. God’s divine comedy filled my heart with joy, and the first person I’d laugh at was myself…

(To be continued…)

Mandala of Vishnu, Nepal