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Outgrowing your Guru

I am a long time fan of Natalie Goldberg. But I fear I have outgrown her. As I review my favorite of her books, Wild Mind, I realize that focusing on drinking a glass of water or on Zen breathing is not only tedious but doesn’t help my work at all.

One of the things I admire most about Natalie is she not afraid to change. From her complete embrace of Zen practice in Writing Down the Bones to the discovery that her Zen instructor was not all she thought him to be, revealed in The Great Failure, she writes with truth and clarity. But I actually have advanced beyond her advice.

It is possible to outgrow our Gurus. We learn everything we can, then move onto to another person, another message or a new author who is just a few steps ahead of us in enlightenment or skill. And we follow her.

How do you know you’ve moved on? Pull out your favorite books and read those original pieces that encouraged you to try writing or trapeze or accounting. Is the advice still relevant? Then great, read it and get a jolt of your original mojo. If the advice and language seems dated, then you know you’ve moved on, congratulations on your growth!

I am still a fan of Goldberg’s. What now inspires me is not her advice for writing practice but her complete willingness to live out loud and share her wild mind, great failures, and all with the rest of us.

~Catharine Bramkamp

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