Earlier today I found out that my teacher, Linda, left her body on Sunday morning. I knew that she was ill. I had the opportunity to speak with her about 3 months ago. It was the first time I had spoken with her in over a decade. She had been through a stroke. She had been ill for quite some time. But our conversation, however brief, was a quintessential perfect last conversation. I had the chance to offer all my very real gratitude.
Below follows my futile attempt to capture a bit of what Linda was like.
Linda offered what I rarely see in today’s “teachers”. A rare mix of heart, fiery passion, love, anger…take no prisoners mixed with loving all that is. There were not loving serenades or flower overtures. But after you had gone through your personal hell, when you saw her looking at you, you knew you were completely supported by someone who saw the whole thing and wasn’t going to leave you. She was a nonduality teacher before nonduality was mainstream…before any of us students knew that phrase even existed. More to the point though, she was a nonduality teacher who encouraged the personal…who knew through and through that the answers to healing suffering were not in sublimation, but down in the soil, in your past, where the scary things were. To be blunt, she “taught” in ways that were so unorthodox, that they defied plenty of good judgment. She cared very little for her personal space, offering herself for support calls literally at any time of day or night. I often called her at 2 or 3 AM. Does that sound unhealthy or unprofessional? Yes. Would I have made it without a teacher who had that kind of devotion? No. When I say “made it” what I refer to is Linda’s overriding goal for every one that she worked with. She wanted everyone to be “pool safe”. She wanted people to find a level of comfort and safety with feeling and EXPRESSING any and all feelings that may arise. Her style resembled a mixture of Sondra Ray, Leonard Orr, Osho, Trogyam Chungpa…she was a New Age, Christian based, Breathworker, Crazy Wise teacher who wore tons of makeup and loved her cigarettes. She got involved. She made us watch Oprah. She had us read a wide array of books. She handed out some pretty wild and interesting assignments. She would lead groups that met weekly for 10 weeks straight, that ran for 12 hours or even more per day…twice a week. We may start at noon and not end until 2 AM. She often showed more compassion and fervent hope for your healing than you could conjure up on your own. She also had a short fuse for seeing her own issues. To me it was the most endearing and frustrating thing about her…you couldn’t ever help Linda. You could not spot a truth that may help her, and have her hear you..at least I could not. And even in that she taught me quite a bit.
Like any of us, she had her own messiness. But I have never seen or heard of any teacher yet, personally speaking, who affected so much change in people’s lives on so many levels at the same time. She wasn’t for everyone. But if it was a fit for you…she came in on every level at once. When I see teachers now, I see them having a slice of what Linda offered. I see them offering a single facet to Linda’s diamond hearted approach. And I know that sounds like a judgment. But I simply have not seen a powerhouse like Linda…since I met Linda. And it isn’t to say, as I keep hinting at, that she taught in a sustainable way. What I keep trying to express, I feel…is this…most teachers I see today keep a distance, a boundary, from their client’s lives. There is a way that they remain somewhat aloof. It is inherent in their seeing, in their way of being. There is a lack of intimacy and closeness. They have their life…you have yours. You go to their retreats..you see their Satsangs…and then you go home, they go home. Yes you are affected. But when you go home, when it is over, your teacher is not involved any longer. Linda happily encouraged the tearing down of this boundary. She didn’t get in your business without your permission. But to be clear, the reason her work went so deep, was when you DID let her into your life. When you did let yourself lean on her when you needed to. There weren’t any apologies for codependent behaviors. It was human. She knew it would be temporary and that you would move on eventually. She also knew it was the love that healed and that LOVE had to be PERSONAL and up close. She would hold you in her arms as you cried decades old tears, and then move to the next person in the group and match their angry screams to help them lose their fear of anger…and then tell the scared person in the corner “it’s safe”. She eschewed impersonal love. She cared little for transcendental meanderings. She loathed poetry…favoring gritty reality every time. No stone went unturned when you worked with Linda. She was there with you, for as long as you could stand the focus. Heck…I do not know what to say…too much to say.
It is no exaggeration to say that I feel grateful for her and for her husband’s support in my life every single day. Her husband, Roy, was always by her side. He was and is an icon of loyalty and devotion in marriage. He was always the man behind Linda, supporting everything. Literally, I know that her work is so interweaved into my healing path…my life is inseparable from her teaching and from my time with her. She and Roy, her husband, officiated my marriage to my wife. She encouraged me to open my heart enough to have children and trust that I could love them. She led me down a road that led to healing the rift between my mother and myself. I went from barely enjoying talking to my mother on the phone, to where I am now…paddling rivers and having lunches together and talking daily and much more. That is why it is hard to write this all down. Not because of sadness. But because of completeness. It is so insanely futile to try to express to anyone how she midwifed a whole new rebirth. And that this rebirth never stopped being reborn. My path as a healer, a teacher, a father, a husband were all silent and asleep until I met Linda. I would say that I miss her. But it is more accurate to say that I have missed her ever since it was clear that we were not to work together any longer….in person.
Since 1993 I have been integrating what Linda was teaching. And now that she is gone, it is even more clear to me how I will never be done.
Hmmmm….don’t really what else to say. Except this, I hope that when someone really is seeking a sincere teacher, that they find one as real, as personal, as unflagging-as Linda and Roy were for me.