Here's how Jean-Claude Gerard Koven describes it:
It is said that when the student is ready, the master appears. This adage is usually associated with going to India to sit at the feet of some swami-ji who speaks in parables. And certainly, I’ve met countless disciples who waft through life inhaling the intoxicating wisdom of their manifested master. I’ve always been left wondering when I would find my one great sage.
Looking back over my wanderings through the metaphysical maze, however, I see that innumerable teachers have guided my journey. Unfortunately, I was so married to a certain model of what a master was that I failed to recognize mine along the way. The fact is we all have gurus; it’s just that most of them aren’t obvious. They don’t have Sanskrit names, speak with a subcontinental lilt, or wear flowing robes. They appear ordinary in every way, yet turn out to be great teachers.
Yes, the teachers and learnings can come in the unlikeliest of forms, and that's why the first part of the saying is what is critical. If we're so busy looking for our guru, we miss getting "ready." So, what does it mean to be ready? That's probably a bigger question than I am capable of answering, but I can look at my own life and try to pull bits and pieces of the puzzle together, at least for what it has meant to me.
The three words that come to mind when I think about this are curiosity, dissonance and trust. Those might sound like a strange combination, so I'll explain what they've meant to me.
I think curiosity is the most obvious in laying the groundwork for being ready. If we feel we already know the answer, no learning can take place. What we need is not just an open mind, but one that has a drive to challenge the status quo, dig deeper and ask the hard questions. Complacency and certainty that we have the answers are often the biggest barriers to any kind of learning.
Perhaps dissonance is the pre-cursor to curiosity. Unless something doesn't jive or is not working, we tend to not notice. I know that when I began to challenge what I had been taught as a child, it was because that teaching didn't "square" with what I was experiencing in the world. It was uncomfortable and so I started asking questions. Many people fear that feeling and try to deny or avoid it. Others look for a guru to make it all go away. What I've learned to do is to try and just rest in it, knowing that a teacher or a learning is about to appear.
Sometimes that takes awhile and I get impatient. I want the "answers" to that feeling of dissonance to be handed to me all nicely packaged and ready to rescue me from the discomfort. And that's where trust comes in. Ultimately its not trust in a guru (although most of my learnings have come when I listen to very wise people). It is trust in me and my ability to meld my intellect and instincts together to find what it is I need to learn or to see the new path that I need to take.
We are experiencing a time of great dissonance in our country these days. I know you join me in often feeling overwhelmed with the fact that we can't always see clear answers on how to fix things. But what grounds me is the assurance that if we have the courage to ask ourselves the tough questions, embrace the dissonance, and trust our instincts...the teacher (or learning) is appearing.