Updated: Jul 18, 2020
*This story was originally published in "Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder", a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, and is available for purchase here!
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
WHO ARE YOU?
The weekend retreat led by Guru Garysheema was packed. The guru’s promise claimed that by Sunday morning, during the final hours of the retreat, all in attendance would have a completely new perspective regarding the age-old concept of what it meant to discover “who you are.”
For a number of years, I’d been searching to discover the secret answer to the eternal question everyone grappled with at some point in their lifetime: why am I here? which ultimately led to, who am I? The retreat topic caught my eye and caused me to ponder thoughtfully on the message the guru would cover. If I could determine who I really was, maybe I could finally quench my thirst to discover my own life’s purpose.
I scraped together enough money to pay the five hundred dollar registration fee, actually “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul,” praying the entire time I was not about to waste hard earned money on the latest New Age gobbledy-gook.
Every seat in the large conference hall was filled. Soft murmurs created a light buzz, somewhat heightening the awareness of our common search for truth. I took my seat and skimmed over the complimentary program distributed by the welcome staff in front of the building. There was only an itinerary and meditation practices to “prepare the mind for the message.” Soon, the lights flickered on and off to signal the seminar was about to begin. As the buzz faded away, all of a sudden, walking deliberately from the back of the conference room, strode Guru Garysheema down the center aisle to the stage before us.
The guru appeared to be in his seventies but was actually approaching one hundred. Although his build was slight, he was very sturdy in stature. It was hard to tell what his ethnicity was, and, although I was leaning toward Middle Eastern, it really didn’t matter. What did matter was the very obvious difference in his demeanor from the rest of us in the room. This was a man who was very comfortable with himself as well as in his own skin. Of course, I surmised, if you’re approaching one hundred I would think you should be comfortable in your own skin.
A loud but respectful clapping rippled through the auditorium as the guru climbed the stairs to sit on the raised stage. “Thank you,” he said, silencing the applause before adding quietly. “Come to center... Center yourself.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in. After several long seconds, the members of the audience did the same. A deep breath out from the stage signaled the end of the brief meditation. “Good,” he said, “let us begin.”
The guru gave a brief overview of what could be expected over the weekend and then, to everyone’s amazement, announced, “Your registration fee will be returned to you at the conclusion of the conference.”
“Did I just hear that correctly?” I leaned over to whisper to the lady beside me. “Did he say our registration fee will be returned to us?”
“Yes,” she whispered without breaking her gaze from the stage.
“Wow.” That meant the conference was free.
Guru Garysheema explained, “I have no need for money, but I do know that many times if there is no commitment, in this case measured by monetary exchange, there is no impetus for learning. If each of you were willing to spend five hundred dollars to listen to me speak, you are all most certainly committed to learning. Since I now know you are committed, I am giving your money back to you. Think of it as ‘Christmas in April.’”
The guru continued with his overview, beginning with his life’s history, and spending the next couple of hours discussing various lessons he had learned over the past century, which included exercise, nutrition, vocations, relationships, travel, and observations. A pin drop could’ve been heard in the silence of the immense auditorium, partly because he spoke softly, but mostly because what he had to share was enlightening.