I was recently given the divine opportunity to teach yoga as part of the Laughing Lotus San Francisco/Jivamukti Sydney Mystic Madness India Pilgrimage. I had not been to India before, though I had dreamt of going to Vrindavan since I was a teenager learning how to chant Lord Krishna’s holy names. We would meet our fellow pilgrims in Delhi and then we would spend time in Varanassi (City of Death), Allahabad (Life) and then Vrindavan (Birth/Rebirth).
I had heard the term ‘Guest is God’ many times over the years and I really had no idea what it meant until I landed in Delhi. It was here that I first met our guide, Seema. Seema-ji is the kind of person who is impossible to dislike. Upon meeting her, I felt instantly at home. Later I came to realize that she really represented India.
The evening of our meeting, Seema took me to her family home and had me sit down and eat a blessed home-made dinner of dahl, vegetable curries and bread. All made with love, and incredible flavours that re-ignited my flame for Indian food (Seema’s father was the late Harish Johari, renowned teacher of Ayurveda. So not only was the food delicious; it was healing on many levels. Harish Johari was also a deeply gifted painter whose works have sold internationally; as well as an author of many books whose subjects ranged from the energetics of gemstones, an in-depth study of the chakras and of course, Ayurveda).
The following day, Seema asked me what my favourite vegetable was so she and her lovely daughter, Anushree could prepare curries based on that vegetable. I made it difficult by admitting that they are all my favourites…
Over the next few days in Delhi, we sat and shared our favourite stories about Krishna (the ones where Krishna played his flute and the ladies of Vrindavan dropped EVERYTHING to be with him) and also our favourite Bollywood movie stars (male: Sharukh Khan, female Aishwarya Ray), movies (Devdas and Ashoka) and scenes (Khabi Kushi Khabi Gham where Hrithik Roshan enters college and dances his way into the hearts of all the girls in the multi-racial campus. Incidentally, Anushree admitted that, although he was a sensational dancer, she thought Hrithik Roshan’s face was ‘too sharp’ for her liking). Within days, the separation of visitor/guide disappeared. We got along like crazy and we could see that the pilgrimage would be madness for sure, but a familial madness…
Throughout my trip I met many people who were just like Seema: people who would walk several kilometres out of their way to take you to the place you are searching for; people who would invite you as a guest to their daughter’s wedding simply because you looked like you were enjoying the wedding parade and people who would literally give you all their lunch because you happened to be walking through their farmland. I came to realize how important it is for us to ‘disappear’ out of our own preferences in order to make others feel at home. That is, to help everyone see God in the form of completely selfless hospitality. And since my trip, I’ve tried to remind myself – in my vocation as a teacher as well as my role as a human being – that sometimes I have to get out of my own way in order to give the very best I can.

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