What comes to mind when you see or hear the word ‘teacher’? Likely an image of someone standing in front of a chalkboard if you are of my generation, or a whiteboard with a marker if you are under 20. This person is imparting information that you may think or have thought “I’ll never use that.”. If your association with school was a negative one, you may even groan internally and your stomach might clench up. If like me, your connection with school was mostly positive (with one glaring exception of a math teacher who told us that if we didn’t understand the concepts he was presenting, we must be stupid and on some level I believed him since from them on, my math grades took a tumble), then you may be smiling on the inside and outside. My favorite teacher was Richard Serfling who in 6th grade, imparted both information and wisdom. His playful, outside the box thinking and teaching style led the way to my becoming a professional writer and induced further love of learning. He would fall into that category that Robert Frost referred to as an awakener. I would imagine that if I polled my classmates, they might say the same thing about him. I will have that opportunity to do that on October 6th when we have our (holy moley, Batman!) 35th high school reunion.
Over the years, I have had many formal and informal teachers; having gone through college, grad school and seminary as well as attending so many personal growth workshops and trainings that I have lost count. Each one sprinkled their own version of ‘truth’. The messages that stood out most profoundly were those that were empowering, setting the stage for even more growth. They were living examples of the guidance they offered. Goosebumps are my ‘truth barometer’ and were activated when many spoke. Some left me flat and I took what they offered with a huge grain of salt. Practical experience trumps all the data in the world and I would much prefer to learn from someone who has been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
I find myself in that position now, being looked at as someone who has ‘earned my chops’ and has something to say. I look at my life as an example, rather than just my words. Do I practice what I preach? Most of the time. Am I a work in progress? Absolutely, as I stumble over my well intentioned actions on occasion. Do I learn from the people and experiences around me and see them as my teachers too? Always. My intention is rouse folks out of their sleep of forgetfulness and remind them that they are Divinely Human and Humanly Divine, that they are love incarnate, that they are here to shine their light in the darkened places, that they are living examples of goodness and compassion. Is there a higher calling than that?
I think of the quote by the Buddha which speaks so profoundly to this concept:
When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being. They asked him: “Are you a god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a reincarnation of god?” “No,” he replied.”Are you a wizard, then?” “No.” “Well, are you a man?” “No.” “So what are you?” They asked, being very perplexed. Buddha simply replied: “I am awake.” Buddha means “the awakened one.” How to awaken is all he taught.
http://youtu.be/NXtQ_ck5ZtE We Are Awakening – Deva Premal, Miten and Manose