The other day I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years, and she asked what I was up to these days. I said something like “I’m working on some ideas and plans for helping people with personal transformation stuff”, to which she replied “Oh, so you’re going to be some kind of self-improvement guru, huh?”, which gave me a hearty laugh. For starters, the word “Guru” has been so often co-opted as to almost be devoid of real meaning. I think in contemporary American English, it is mostly taken to mean “expert”. And while I wouldn’t mind being considered some kind of “expert” in the field, I don’t think I AM one yet, and perhaps more importantly, the word “guru” in this context makes me shudder. But my friend and I continued to talk about this very set of ideas, and I ended up suggesting that I was more like a rock or something. She asked what I meant, and I shared the mildly cliche parable of how the rock you stumble over can be your most valuable teacher, something that is often referenced by those who admire eastern thought, and is often framed as a Buddhist notion. So I did a quick web search to find the Sanskrit word for this idea, and although according to this source “upaguru” means “an assistant teacher” or “near a teacher”, I think it’s the word I was looking for to describe how the lessons in life are all around us, we just have to remain aware enough to recognize them.
In the end though, all this talk of eastern belief probably muddles a really great practical tool for better living, which is to stop looking outside so much for someone or something that is going to give you some tidy answer. You don’t need to go to business school to start a business, you don’t need to go to church or temple to believe in God, and often, the solution to a problem is either staring you in the face or lingering nearby. You just have to develop the openness and awareness to recognize and accept it.