Friday, May 6, 2016

Becoming one's own teacher, part III— The smallest things are teachers

Karttikeya, God of war (son of Shiva)
12th Century A.D.
National Museum, New Delhi

Becoming One's Own Teacher- Part 3 of 6 

 So this is a tricky matter, and begins to sound like some kind of sophistry.

I become my own teacher by not being a teacher.

But this is exactly how it is. I become my own teacher merely by actively inhabiting my life; and it is this question of presence, of a sense of nothingness, of the taking in of impressions through the organic sensation of Being, whereby I no longer matter and the teacher becomes, simply put, everything in life.

In this way, even the smallest things in life become my teacher; Meister Eckhart pointed this out in his last words, something I mentioned quite often, as he truly wrapped up all of the teaching in a single concept there.

 Life itself is the teacher; not some part of it, and not a single individual. All the individuals in one's life play roles as being teacher; but then again, all of the objects, events, circumstances, and conditions play those roles as well. We single out individuals who have helped us and call them teachers; but all of them are merely, if they act responsibly, shepherds who guide us towards this penultimate understanding that life is the teacher.

One's life is specifically crafted, sent, and designed by God in order to help us understand our Being. Every adversity and other circumstance is part of that teaching. The air we breathe is part of the teaching; the children we raise, the pets we feed, the jobs we love or hate.


 It's easy to rapturously conceptualize this and mentally picture it; and it's even easy to talk about it and bandy it about as though it were magically true. But it is much more difficult and unique to experience it through sensation, feeling, and intelligence at the same time, throughout life, in every moment. Once one begins to inhabit one's life in this way, one will definitely have moments where a real understanding of this question comes in; and then, one sees how the teacher is life, which flows into us.

Readers will recall that I have said the first great truth is that we are vessels into which the world flows. The question in front of us is why we are such vessels — and the reason for this is that the vessel is made to contain the teaching as it flows in. There are two great influences in life, the natural one, which is the ordinary experience of life in the material world which flows into us — but the second great influence is spiritual, which flows from the opposite direction and comes from God. If we open ourselves to the teaching from both sides — each one of which comes from God, but from opposite directions— we may find ourselves in the confluence of a rich conjunction of experience in which a more profound sense of understanding arises.

So I become my own teacher by inhabiting my life, which is a simple thing, and doesn't involve all the secret spiritual exercises, magical formulas, and snottily lofty attitudes that everyone projects in life almost by default.

I can become much simpler; and I can offer myself to life.

In this way, I am my own teacher by not teaching; I am my own teacher by allowing my life to teach me inwardly. A close reading of Meister Eckhart's last words (which are quite intentionally abbreviated on the webpage in the above link—readers may want to acquire the book and read the whole piece) will reveal that he exactly understood this question.

 I would remind readers once again of what I consider to be a fundamental principle:

one cannot inhabit one's life in an organically responsible manner without developing the organic sensation of Being.  

My advice would be to forget about teachers who pretend that they know something without first correctly understanding this.

Responsibility plays a key role in becoming my own teacher, since to become responsible is to inhabit life with appropriate responses that are correctly informed by right ordering of the feeling center, grounded in both organic compassion and organic humility.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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