My first experience as a teacher was in a two-room school in Lillooet,
B.C. I stood at the front of the class and asked the children to
sit up. The whole class as one entity immediately sat up very straight.
They all looked at me, waiting for the next instruction. A question
registered in me at a deep level: What was I to do with the power
I had been given in this classroom? What was my responsibility?
Unfortunately, we have all been trained to defer our power to authorities
in school, in family, and in work. Even more unfortunately, teachers often don't
realize the power they hold. As a teacher, I see that as soon as I sit in the
chair, students will often give their authority to me. People want a dividing
line between the teacher and student, a line that says the teacher knows more.
They want someone to tell them what to do. Yet a good teacher should be searching
for ways to foster independence instead of dependence. A teachers job is to
see the potential in people and want to draw it out.
Through teaching I learned how each mind is unique. I also realized
that there is no dividing line between teacher and student. What
is a teacher? A teacher is also a learner, a learner of minds.
I am learning; they are learning. We learn together. We all have
a duty to help each other, like a big sister or brother stepping
ahead first and helping others take the next steps.
I remember my own education and how I was drawn to windows – looking
out. I wanted to sit in the rows by the windows. I wanted what was happening
inside to connect with what was happening outside. What we were learning in
the classroom didnt have any relationship to my life. There is nothing that
we did in the school that related to the environment in which I was living.
We learned things in our workbooks; the workbooks were marked. It was what someone
else thought I should know. It had no real relationship to my mind, my life
outside the classroom.
We have been conditioned to think of our lives in classroom boxes, in neat
rows. Our everyday life is segregated from the life force that wants to truly
know our selves, our minds, and our purpose. How do we connect with this spiritual
life? People tend to keep it separate, have a different classroom for each part
of their life – one for work, one for family, one for spiritual practice,
one for recreation – but no connection is made between them.
What each person needs are the tools to explore the mind so
that they can find the potential within themselves. We often learn
on an intellectual level, but there is another kind of understanding
that comes from what we call the heart. Teachings or spiritual
tools allow access to the heart by revealing obstacles that have
kept us in safe, mechanical ways of living, just like those neat
rows in the classrooms.
The teachings are available to all who are sincere; the path is open to everyone.
The basic principle involved with teaching is to ask what is best for each person.
We all have what we need within ourselves. The task is to unwrap ourselves from
the covers of conditioning, asking, "Why do I want to wear this wrapper
as my real self? It was a protection once; someone put it on me or demanded
it from me. But now I have other choices."
That's what a teacher does, she tries to get you to remember what you know,
put it into the context in which you are living. Then your life can expand.
Spiritual tools can open minds to a broader perspective, put life into a context
in which we begin to feel gratitude for what we've been given, because things
start to make sense. You will discover that there is a purpose and a reason
to life. You start to learn about your mind and how it creates the world that
you live in. The inner life reflects the outer life.
Life is inconsistent. There is no right or wrong, this or that,
up or down, yes or no, in or out. Often there are no answers.
This goes against what we have learned and adapted to through
education. These dualities are extremely limiting. There is a
bigger context to every situation. The more possibilities you
allow yourself, the less confusing and chaotic life will seem.
There are millions of possibilities and many answers to every
question. It is not right or wrong, but what is appropriate for
the situation, what is serving the best in yourself and others
as you see it. Even if you make a mistake, you will learn from
Question life around you, learn about the place of questions, and the freedom
of having no answers. There is a place inside that can remember, that knows.
There is an inner teacher that can discover the teachings. A spiritual teacher
is only a conduit for the teachings, an inspiration and example on the path.
In my teacher I saw something I wanted – a straightness, a light and an
intelligence. Often a teacher is someone who can see another dimension to life,
who has had an experience of the Light and how it works. They bridge the gap,
make a connection between the sacred and the everyday, not leaving it at an
The question of teaching really comes back to the questions
we can each ask ourselves. What do I do with the power I have
been given as a human being to think and to make choices? How
do I envision the future? How can I become more considerate, kind
and helpful? What life do I want to create for myself? How can
I step out of my old concepts? What is the purpose of my life?