31 Jan The Wise Teacher
Once I said to God, “How do you teach us?”
And he replied,
“If you were playing chess with someone who
Had infinite power and infinite knowledge
And wanted to make you a
Master of the game,
Where would all the chess pieces be at every moment? Indeed, not only where he wanted them,
But where all were best for your development;
And that is every situation
Of one’s life.”
-St John of the Cross
Life is a teacher, and a good one if we are open to her guidance. How deeply we care about ourselves can determine if she is a hard teacher, one that we are not interested in learning from or a wise one. I believe that life is teaching us how to love more, to return to the knowing that life is sacred and worth paying attention to. To live with a greater capacity for love is lifelong work and we will be challenged in every way conceivable. What breaks our heart in the world will bring us to our knees and ask for everything we have. In exchange for this great effort, love offers us a healing balm that brings awe and meaning to our lives.
When I first began to teach yoga, I had a wonderful mentor who would come and sit at the back of the classes I taught, in order to offer me feedback afterwards. Now— this is not the most comfortable way to learn, especially when you have a lot of respect and admiration for said teacher and would do anything to impress them— but it is undoubtedly effective. Being able to listen and hear to feedback from a skilled teacher is an incredible gift; alas not one that I was inherently born with.
I have been known to be critical of myself and very much a perfectionist. These qualities, despite what you may think, do not a good student make, they are just another way to defend yourself. I’ll never forget one particular exchange. After teaching class, I was preparing myself to hear the worst as we waited for the last of the students to pack up and leave the studio. I was so nervous yet held hope that she would have only positive things to say. Not shockingly, this was not so.
She looked me in the eye and said that I was talking to the adults in the high soft voice that I spoke to my children with, which is appropriate for children, but can be condescending to adults.
I knew she was telling the truth as my cheeks reddened and desperately wanted the floor to rise up and swallow me. However.
She was giving me some pretty solid advice at that moment, some that would greatly enhance how I taught. But, upon hearing her critique, I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I closed right up and was fighting back tears.
Being the compassionate and skilled teacher that she was, she could see what was happening.
“You know that I am on your team, right?” she said. “I’m not here to tear you down, I’m here to build you up.”
I’m not here to tear you down, I’m here to build you up.
It was as though a lightbulb lit up in my head. She wasn’t giving me feedback because I was terrible at teaching and thought I should quit. She believed in me and wanted to help me be better, and more importantly, she believed in what I had to offer and was in service to making that offering the best it could be. She was in my corner, and coming from love. At that moment I could feel myself stand a little taller. My heart opened instead of shutting down, and I was ready to get out of shame and back the business of deepening my skill as a teacher.
This story comes to mind as February makes its entrance. In my experience, February can be a tough teacher. Rarely have I gotten through one without a big lesson in some form. But sometimes the best learning comes in ways that we find uncomfortable.
When we trust ourselves, we trust the teacher that is our life. We know that our life is on our team and wants to make us better. We discover that we can be brave and take the step that will propel us forward into the big, beautiful, messy world because everything serves our growth. We can make the phone call, answer the ad, ask that person out on a date. We can risk being seen, share our stories and reach out to one another regardless if we get the outcome we desire.
The only way we can test if what we believe in is true is to put it out there and see what happens.
It’s true that we may bump and bruise our ego, we may see a part of ourselves that we prefer to stay hidden, we may discover that we have had it wrong all along.
What a generous opportunity to learn to love better.
What needs to be seen and cared for so that you can show up and be truly present? What brings you back into your heart so that instead of defending, you can listen deeply with your whole being? What new teaching is dropping into your life, and can you accept it for the gift that it is?
February wants to remind us that Life is on our team, and when we open up to the teacher it is and the teacher we are, we can do difficult things for the benefit of great love.
in the classroom with you,