Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about being a spiritual teacher. This question has re-emerged because new teaching possibilities are presenting themselves. But after some reflection I realized something. It’s not so much that I’ve been thinking about becoming a spiritual teacher, but rather that I’ve been considering accepting the reality that this is what I already do, already who I am. Actually I’ve begun to think that this is what we all do and what we all are, only some of us wear robes or have other outward signs, and may even get paid to do it.( N.B. We can’t be paid to be it). We might even have specific ideas and practices that we think will help others. Nevertheless, right now when I look around I am shocked to discover the presence of spiritual teachers everywhere I look.
Sometimes we think teaching is what happens in the meditation hall, or the classroom. These boundaries are loosening even as I write. The more I sink into the question of who I am and what I want to do with my remaining time, the more I am confronted with the choiceless choice. What else is there to do, when each thing seems to be singing it’s particular blessing. Noticing this it occurs to me that I too must be a part of the chorus . Knowing this, perhaps I should open my mouth. I don’t know. I could choose to be more open or more diligent or more careful or more free. However conscious or unconscious of the ever occurring teaching and learning, always I am learning, always teaching, always blessing. Just sometimes I don’t know that that is happening, and on precious days I do.
There is an often quoted Hasidic story about a Rabbi Leib who went to study with a great teacher the Maggid Dov Ber , successor of the Bal Shem Tov . He said that he did not go study with the Maggid of Mezeritch to learn either words of scripture or techniques of preaching, but rather to study the way he tied and untied his shoes. When I think back over my life I am blessed to be able to recall many masters of the shoe tie. People whose seemingly mundane actions and words manifested a moment of transcendent beauty. A kind of beauty that can be either unnoticed or unexpectedly inspiring. As I am thinking, there are almost infinite numbers of teaching beings of whom I become aware. I have an unusual direct experience of the enumerable enlightening beings described in the Flower Ornament Sutra. What is it that allows this awareness now? I think the secret for me was the willingness for a small infinite moment of teaching/learning. The beings disappear when I want more than a moment. When I want to have or be a perfect teacher, rather than the real deal, struggling to sing what my tone deaf ears hear. I am brought back to a deeper appreciation of what I thought I already knew…the world that appears in “just this moment”.
I wonder what my parents would think knowing that their almost 60 year old son is still learning to tie his shoes, and in public no less.
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