Finding the Teacher

About 5 years ago, sitting on my porch upon my meditation cushion, I had an experience that permanently changed my life for the better.  

That particular day I was admittedly feeling really unclear about the world, my direction, feeling my lifetime of emotional wounds pulsing inside me…

I wanted: a Teacher.

As someone who has read many romanticized spiritual tales - I had read so many stories of students finding their teacher, or of teachers saying some version of:  “When the student is ready - the teacher will appear.” Fuck ALL That  I thought as I sat on my cushion - I was ready.  I’d been ready over a decade.  

So I sat there feeling that vulnerable - “I need someone to show me” kind of feeling, kind of like a kid who just wants someone to take his hand… And I opened my teared up eyes and said out loud: “Where is the Teacher?!  I’m ready!”

First, there was a notable stillness.  Then, the wind blew…. and almost instantly it was as if I had the answer instantly.  I am one who will always question what God is - but I do have this faith that whatever this unifying force is - it’s in all things.  It makes up the fabric of Reality. And what hit me was - if God was trying to teach me - it would do so through reality itself. What if Reality is the Teacher?  Perhaps the teacher is right here and I haven’t been paying attention to the lesson. What would happen anytime I need the teacher, I gave my rapt attention to the teaching that reality was offering me?

This concept is not new.  Pema Chödrön talks about this idea of leaning into reality as if it were our precious teacher:

If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

 ”…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.
— Pema Chödrön

From this moment on I developed two mantras that I say in my head when I need the Teacher:  “Reality is the Teacher.  Surrender to your Teacher.”  Or simply: “Thank You Precious Teacher.”  What I took away from this moment of insight was that I have almost never felt alone again since.  I realized that my limitations in regards to guidance are only limited by my willingness to look for it.  

If you want to try this on, you might start by considering the person or situation that makes you most angry, pushes your buttons, or irritates you on any given day and reframe it as the most perfect teacher.  What if this person or event is a mirror showing you exactly what you need to work with in order to be happy? In my experience, reality has a way of showing us where we’re stuck – and challenging us where we think we’ve grown.  Furthermore - it has a way of repeating the lesson, again and again, until we get the point.  Look to your body first, often the teacher speaks from there.  Then look to the people around you, your pets, the environment, the subtle desire to do something or go somewhere.  The invitation to go somewhere we're on the fence about.  Another good rule of thumb is that discomfort is often the sign that there is a lesson at hand.  Don't mistake this for doing what feels wrong - but sometimes we may be saying no because we're scared of the stretch of our comfort.  Throughout history, all evolution has taken place from the catalyst of stress to an organism.  The best teachings involve a safe amount of stress.  And even if there is nothing at all going on, just us feeling bored sitting on the couch, before turning to your favorite media distraction, listen to see if the teacher may be telling you to go for a walk, to go expose yourself to life’s classroom.

If you are feeling curious, I challenge you to not take my word for it. Try it on for yourself for one day.  See for yourself if there really is something to learn from viewing life in this way.  If you decide to take the challenge, please comment below - I'd love to hear about it!