Tonight I find myself remembering my first master, Master Gordon.

Master Gordon was, ostensibly, a grey-haired yoga teacher in his late fifties. I started taking yoga classes when I first became interested in eastern philosophies, my mum already attended as many middle class mums did in the mid-90s. I was not only the youngest there by at least 15 years, I was one of only two male students, and the other was in his late 70s. None of that mattered to Master Gordon, who was a man of peace, of humour and unending happiness. He was generous with his time and support, kind in every word he spoke. Over the years he taught me I came to know much about yoga, about pranayama, mantras, mudras and deep meditation. He taught me about prana, the energy field of life. He taught me patience, stillness, and the impossible joy of connecting oneself to the universe.

Master Gordon mentioned various things in passing over the years which gave me a picture of who he was outside of our classes. I knew he taught other groups as well, but he gave much of his week to teaching voluntarily, going into schools and colleges to teach relaxation and meditation to students, for no fee. He believed it was right to pass these skills on to the next generation, and he empathised with the pressure young people faced. I never knew about his personal life – he was my teacher, and that was his space. He taught me for around five years in all, never taking a holiday or missing a class for sickness, until one class when a new teacher arrived. She was nice and followed the same basic routine, but we were anxious. What had happened to Master Gordon?

After the class my mum and I went and spoke to the teacher. She couldn’t tell us anything, as she’d been brought in to cover at the last minute. The next morning we contacted the college who arranged the yoga class – all they could tell us was that Master Gordon had called to take a leave of absence and was being replaced indefinitely.

I soon stopped attending yoga classes. The new teacher was fine, but had none of the silent wisdom of Master Gordon. I was also reaching that age where going to yoga with my mum seemed less appealing than hanging out with my friends, trying to get into pubs and speak awkwardly with girls. Master Gordon quietly left my life, and whilst I missed him, there was no great crisis or drama. He’d decided to stop, and that was fine.

It was years later we discovered the truth, that this great teacher and man of compassion had called one morning to say he needed to take a leave of absence, walked into a local hospital and promptly slipped into a coma. He died that night. No one was with him, and the story only made it’s way back to us via a series of connections linking back to his landlord. For the whole five years I’d known him, Master Gordon had been living with a six month terminal cancer diagnosis. He lived a solitary, humble life with no family we know of. He gave his life to his passions, to yoga and meditation, and to teaching. He made enough to live and gave the rest of his time for free. He lived ten times as long as the doctors expected. He died loved, but not grieved. He spared his students sorrow and left them remembering his smiling, calm face. I can visualise him now, his big eyes closed gently as he settled his long skinny legs into the perfect lotus position, calm, sonorous voice leading us into a slow, gentle breathing meditation. I hope he closed his eyes with that same peace that last time. He was a truly great man.

I remember him tonight with fondness and admittedly some sadness. He taught me many things I am only now coming to understand. He would never have called himself Master, just Gordon, but he has earned the title, from me if nowhere else. Master Gordon is one of the most Jedi individuals I have ever known, and it is with great honour I recount this small part of his story.

May the Force be with us, always.

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