(Not) a good teacher

Hong Kong, China.

I don’t really consider myself a teacher. But lately I have been catching myself using the word teacher now and then. Or not really calling myself a teacher but saying “I teach meditation” or “I teach about personal growth”. I always feel a slight tingle in my lower stomach when I say that; it feels partly a lie and partly a confession. There is a bit of embarrassment around saying that I teach because in the tradition that I practice in (Zen Buddhism) being a self-proclaimed teacher is somebody who bypasses his teacher’s approval and empowerment. If you think you are better than your teacher you either have the wrong teacher or the wrong attitude. In Zen you are not a teacher until your teacher tells you so. Since I am still pretty much in the early stages of my Zen training I am not a Zen teacher by far.

On the other hand it is not completely honest to say I am not a teacher. I guide people through processes of the mind and the heart. I try to show them the way, encourage them, support them and share what I have learned. This is teaching and to call it otherwise is also confusing and somewhat unnatural. So I call myself a teacher now and then, especially when the other person is not so good at English. If I would explain what I do I would create confusion for sure so I try to make it easier on the listener.  But although I call myself a teacher I avoid saying ‘spiritual teacher’. This is too scary. Even when I hear the words ‘meditation teacher’ coming from my lips I fear my own teacher (I wanted to say “real” teacher) will miraculously show up and make me feel ashamed by slowly shaking her head in disappointment.

For once I will not go into the underlying issues of fear, guilt and shame that I am touching upon by describing this. I like to share something else that I noticed lately. What I noticed is that when I am teaching I can say pretty sensible stuff. Last Tuesday I was guiding the Female Bonding session and I told something about posture and I showed how our posture influences our experience of our environment. When we stand upright we feel better and when we pull our shoulders just 3 or 4 millimeters back we feel that our heart opens. So it makes sense to pay attention to our posture, right? Of course my participants say yes when I ask them this. By letting them confirm this out loud I want to bring their subconscious knowing into the conscious. I give them a little assignment to check their posture multiple times per day.

When I am working and I experience some kind “flow” it almost as if “I” am not the one who is talking. Sometimes “I” am listening to what comes out of my mouth and I think: “hey, this sounds pretty good”. Quite schizophrenic of course but anyway: since a couple of days I have been following up my own advice and guess what? It works!

Today I was in a shopping mall and normally I am not too fond of shopping malls. I feel resistance and the tendency to get the hell out of there. My arguments are that I don’t like the hollowness, the greed, the superficiality, the sameness, the consumerism and the overwhelming amount of choice. It is not a good place for such a spiritual and sensitive being like me, you know. But today I actually tried my own recipe: when I felt the resistance come up I straightened my back, took a couple of gentle breaths and pulled my shoulders a fraction back. And my experience changed!

I had eaten some Chinese lunch and was now looking for coffee. I don’t like Starbuck too much but I thought it was my best bet. I kinda got lost in the shopping mall – I know, it sounds too hard to believe but it’s true – while I was staring in my iPhone, using Google maps. Turned out there were 3 levels (duh) and I probably was walking in circles on the level that had no Starbucks. But instead of getting frustrated I stayed grounded, enjoyed my random stroll and coincidently found the best café latte I had in months if not ever (at Fuel Espresso). It gave me a first hand experience of how my little teaching’s can improve somebody’s life, in this case mine. It cracked me up but it also made me feel appreciative of the simplicity of my guidance. I must say, after today I can really recommend me.

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  1. Justyna says

    I wonder how your experience changed when you pulled your shoulders back? your heart opened, your mind wasn’t resisting the ideas it had about shopping malls, so that you could enjoy whatever came your way? just wondering… I often experience heart opening situations…but still can’t grasp how it happens – the mechanics of it. I know that resistance creates pain, in fact, in life, stress happens when we resist 🙂 Now, when I think of it, it seems like you were able to control your mind and not let your mind control you? easier said than done. For me, it’s usually a long process love and acceptance of what is. Only then I am less likely to resist 🙂 “Resistance” is a very interesting and important topic. Imagine life without resistance to life. Most of our “problems” stem from the very resistance. Well done! xx J.

  2. says

    Yes, the heart opens. Our resistance and protection mechanisms are reflected in our posture. By changing my posture my energy shifted from defensive to open. If feels as if I am more grounded, more connected and more accepting. Out of the head and in the body.

    I feel that believing “it is a loooong process of acceptance” is also just believing in a story our mind is telling us. Try resisting resistance in the moment by opening up your body immediately when you feel resistance come up and find out what the effect is for you. It seems to work for me. 🙂

    • Justyna says

      Nice one! Usually when I spot the resistance I tense up even more not knowing what to do, trying to feel the resistance, and make peace with it, but it seems like the very “trying” feeds and gives energy to the resistance. I never tried shifting my posture… I can see how it can help shifting the energy. Nice one! Thank you! 🙂

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