Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wash your own dishes

To teach, do not be a teacher.

As Stephen Batchelor brings out in Verses from the Center, a walker appears only when a person starts to walk. Similarly, a teacher appears only when two people interact in a certain way.

A person may sit in a room and talk about the most profound understandings and insights but there is no teaching (let alone a teacher) if there is no one else present (or no one is listening).

There is no "teacher" as such, but when conditions are right, teaching (and learning) take place. The same, of course, is true for "student".

To see oneself as a teacher is to create an imbalance in the world.

One has only what one experiences. As time passes and one accumulates more and more experience, there is a greater and greater tendency to see the person in the student role only in terms of that experience. Assumptions and projections proliferate, and the results are both inevitable and predictable.

In each encounter, put aside everything you think you know. It won't go away: it will be there if and when you need it. But in forgetting about it, you create the conditions for seeing, to use Uchiyama's phrase, "the direction of the present" and what is to unfold in each moment.

When people thank and tell you how much you've helped them, what they say has nothing to do with you. This is just their way of expressing joy in their own experience. Remember this, too, when people complain or criticize.

Rest deeply in your own experience: you will know, through your body and feelings, whether you respond to the direction of the present, or fall into projection and reaction.

Do not accept special treatment. There is a slippery slope here, because, when teaching, you will sometimes need quiet and space and assistance in routine affairs. Regard these only as things needed for teaching, not as things that are due to you because of a position. In other words, always wash your own dishes.

Some say that it is important to let students treat their teacher as special, as an expression of their devotion and appreciation. Here, the slippery slope becomes a cliff, for in accepting such special treatment, you are confirming an identity in the eyes of such students, instead of pointing them to their own knowing.

Consider carefully the question "Why do I teach?" In the end, it must, in some way, be part of your path—that is, when you teach, you wake up in some way.

5 comments:

Cephas Infinity said...

I am reminded of the observation that the attempt to teach something to someone is in itself a learning experience. Certainly this is an ancient piece of wisdom, but an important one. The act of teaching is actually bilateral, in the sense of there needing to be a student in order for there to be a teacher. The transmission of experience, in this sense, is a collaborative process.

Philip Anikin said...

"When people thank and tell you how much you've helped them, what they say has nothing to do with you. This is just their way of expressing joy in their own experience. Remember this, too, when people complain or criticize"

I never thought about it this way. good point

Pamela said...

Mr. McLeod, I have recently been gifted An Arrow to the Heart and now have found this site. I am touched by this work that breaks open my soul only to close like a flower then open again. Thank you. This is my first look at "duality" and "non-duality" as the same; nothing to achieve; only seeing.

Ellen Fishman said...

When people thank and tell you how much you've helped them, what they say has nothing to do with you. This is just their way of expressing joy in their own experience. Remember this, too, when people complain or criticize.

From An Arrow to the Heart,page 6

" You take a seat and
your eyes meet.
Question, answer;
weave together.
Inside, outside
fade away.
"That's it, " echoes
in timeless space.

You leave.

Everything and nothing have changed.

You are forever lost now.
That's how it goes. "


Such experience can lead to many responses and yes they are the result of the process , not you the teacher. But can't one find joy in the process ?

Jane said...

Is this why so many teachers, say of yoga or spiritual discipline, become enamored of their own hype and lose their authenticity? What about the tradition of devotion to one's guru in India - do the gurus avoid this trap somehow or are we just unable to see it through the cultural differences?

I think this post is very wise and incisive, and explains some weird feelings I've had about the teacher/student relationship. Does this also apply to therapists?