The summer after my father died, between jobs and unsure what I could, should, or would make of myself, I attended a recruitment meeting for management positions with United Parcel Service. What I learned that day was, at least in 1984, that everyone who worked for UPS in any capacity started their careers unloading the huge trailers that brought goods from larger distribution centers to regional centers for delivery. The shift was from 4 – 8, part time, and ended every day with The Who’s “Teenage Wasteland” playing on the local rock station, WMMR.
It was a memorable summer for me, one that tested my physical strength, my ability to be part of a crew of largely twenty-something men, and my willingness to do some heavy lifting and leaning in — literally— to the direction my future might take.
UPS is an analogy I often use in speaking to students about the Trillium lineage. Unlike many spiritual paths available in the US today, maybe even the world, that are led by individual, charismatic leaders, Trillium is led by a Circle of teachers. The most unique and valuable thing about this Circle is that every teacher in it was at some point the student of another teacher in the Circle.
Like every lineage, ours started with a single individual, Saniel Bonder, who had left behind a guru-centered life with his teacher Adi Da believing that he would never awaken in his lifetime, in this lifetime. Freedom from that relationship ultimately landed Saniel in his own realization. A natural teacher and charismatic leader, Saniel soon drew students who wanted to discover their own awakening as he had. Once there was a group of realized practitioners, Saniel told them: go teach.
A lot has changed since then, most notably Saniel’s striking out on his own unique teaching path through the Human Sun Institute, and many of those early teachers have gone on to follow their own paths as well. Our teachers are now trained in a consistent manner through a variety of advanced courses, mentoring, and interning teacher roles. Still, in our current Teacher’s Circle, there are a few teachers whose involvement in this work dates back to their own personal awakening work with Saniel.
So we can trace ourselves down the years, the decades really, from Saniel to Van Nguyen, Hillary Davis, and Sandra Glickman, to Krishna Gauci, Michael Grossman, and Jen Mayol, to Jean Marchand, and CC Leigh. From them, the branches spread out to the multiple generations of teachers who were once students of teachers who themselves were students of Trillium teachers. My primary teacher, Allan Morelock, worked with Jean and CC as did I during and after my time working with him. Each one brought a gift for my awakening practice just when I needed it.
What is so important about this is summed up in what we say about our teaching, that we are “One Spirit; many unique voices.” The Trillium dharmic path flows through and from each of us as a lived and living thing. We each come to a Whole-Being Realization in our own way, but it’s a Realization born out of the teaching that began with Saniel and has been refined by all those who have followed.
We greenlight what is. We soak up awakened transmission. We show up in mutuality, standing in our own truth as we know it in the moment and make room for the other to do the same. In this way, we live what we teach, that we awaken to Onlyness, that there is no separation from us and the manifestation of consciousness as an Other, an event, or a place. We meet monthly as a Circle to do this, and we meet monthly in small mutuality groups. We recognize that awakening, Whole-Being Realization, is a process, not a product, something that we each live and integrate as it unfolds in us.
When you consider how many paths there are to choose from today, teachings disseminated by enlivened awakened individuals who gather large crowds both in person and online, it’s priceless to be able to meet one-on-one with a teacher who stands in a safe, ethical, and democratic Circle of other teachers all interconnected through one core teaching, teachers who are branches of the same river. You can choose who most resonates with you in the moment, forging long term relationships with one teacher supplemented by shorter term “tastes” of what other teachers have to offer from their unique lived experience of our work: as a practitioner, a peer group member, sitting and workshop attendee, a mentor, interning teacher and finally a teacher, trained and vetted, and welcomed in by a vote of the whole body.
So when you next meet with your Trillium teacher, take a moment to reflect on this interconnection and reliability. It’s teaching you can trust.