The room was bathed in a butter-tinted glow from the twinkling glass votive candles and bronze ghee lamps. The air was perfumed by exotic scents of sandalwood, jasmine and ylang-ylang. Long-stemmed roses and lilies in asymmetrical vases framed the dais where my guru sat cross-legged, and draped in a birch-wood colored shawl, lopsided around his shoulders. I approached him, kneeled, handed him a single yellow rose and a book by David Sedaris titled Me Talk Pretty Someday, with a note attached, then bowed my head to the floor at his feet, lingering there long enough for a silent and earnest prayer for help to surrender. The note I’d handed him was handwritten, informing him that the book I’d just offered, though he was not obligated to read it, was one of my favorites; and that, although I was not flattering myself at all, I would one day like to write in Sedaris’s style and format, imagining short, candid, humorous essays about my life as a student in his (my guru’s) school. It would be a hybrid, I explained, of Sedaris’s book and Rudi:14 Years with My Teacher, a contemporary spiritual classic by John Mann. As I raised my head, my teacher leaned forward to hand me a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (prasad, they call this ritual exchange of gifts between devotee and guru), and said, “If you write it, I’ll publish it.”
Claustrophobic, in a passenger van circa Chitty Chitty Bang Bang not a year later, careening pell-mell through a hot dust bowl of a southern India town, a baker’s dozen of us were swaddled and pinned in saris and dhotis, sweat soaked, with water bottles in a rainbow of colors slung over our shoulders—a conspicuous medley of Western devotees on pilgrimage. My guru, the master of ceremonies, was seated directly across from me, his voice booming above and through the chitty and bang bang: “Tarini, I want you to write . . . and don’t hold . . . tell it like . . . you always do, and don’t . . . punches . . . or your wicked humor,” he said, as the cacophony of Indian traffic swallowed his words whole by twos and threes. This was day fourteen in India. I looked and felt every bit the horse that had been ridden hard and put away wet. My senses were on overload, my mind a bowl of unfocused mush, and my nerves a jumble of exposed wires. Then, the sound of my guru’s voice hollering—actually roaring—at me to “Write!” and “Tell it like it is, don’t pull any punches, and don’t lose your wicked sense of humor” jolted me, like the victim of a lightning strike now grounded to the earth…
Tarini Bauliya was a buckskin-wearing naturalist, a fitness guru, a model and an insecure single mother before she met her spiritual teacher, the American-born Lee Lozowick, who turned her life around. She has been published in spiritual journals, and currently does sales consultation and freelance writing on such topics as marketing, health, wellness and natural medicine. She teaches “Story-Selling”©—the art of transforming sellers and buyers into values-aligned peers who work together on behalf of consumers.
She lives on an organic farm in the Pacific Northwest—sans buckskins.