Five years ago we met for kirtan in Albuquerque. One day we were singing an exercise we had learned. From upstairs, Bhai Baldeep Singh called out “what are you singing?” “Rāga todi,” we replied. “I don’t hear rāga todi,” said the teacher. “But this is your composition,” we replied. “It’s not rāga todi,” said the teacher.

We thought we had the notes, m’ g m’ p d p. We needed the teacher to set us straight. What do you do without a teacher? How will you know if you got it right? I was remembering this story this week, preparing once again to meet up with our little group in Albuquerque, and coming upon this shabd in rāga todi. “Māi māiā chhal,” Mother, māyā is a fraud. In the asthāi the notes come m’ g m’ p d p. I immediately recognized the pattern and the shabd opened up.

It is just a little story and it was just a little moment, like many others that have come before, realizing the gift of having been taught. It is one thing to read, to figure things out on your own. It is something else altogether to sit with a teacher, to receive, to learn, to clean up another mess. I look forward to that gift these next two weeks. Now I must go pack for the trip tomorrow.