Through a body oriented practice I am doing, I am required to listen to a particular teacher for about 40-50 hours once or twice a year. I find that he is pushing a good number of buttons for me (including about what is “good teaching”) which is uncomfortable for me but also invites me to notice and work with some deeply held beliefs.
Through this, I see more clearly that a teacher can either be a model or an annoyance, and that each has its value. In Zen, I am used to a teacher being precise in words, yet also challenge their students in different ways – often through their behavior.
But here, it goes even further since the words themselves push buttons. (Some of my stories about it: Imprecise, coming from a “should” about needing to shock his students, talking down to his students, pretending the teachings are more profound or unique than they are, being deceptive about the hierarchy of the organization and the history of the practice, and so on).
It is easy to relate to a teacher who is obviously a good model, such as Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Joel, and others. It is comfortable, and also very helpful.
And while it can be tremendously difficult to deal with teachers who show up more as an annoyance, it can also take me even further. I am directly faced with some deeply held beliefs that sometimes remain more hidden when I am with “good teachers”, the teachers who follow my expectations.
These beliefs will of course come up anyway, just through living my life, but in the presence of these types of teachers, they are dredged up more thoroughly and directly. I sit in the fire whether I want to or not, and have to face it. (Including the belief that since life will trigger these beliefs, a teacher don’t have to.)
This particular teacher comes from the Gurdijeff lineage, so I shouldn’t be surprised by this since it is an important element in that particular tradition.
I may not like it. I certainly wouldn’t have sought him out if it wasn’t a requirement for doing the body work (which I love). I may not chose to act in that way myself. But, although I don’t like to admit it, his teaching style is helpful to me. Through pushing so many buttons in me, I have to face them.
I have to reluctantly admit that it works, whether it is intentional from his side or not.
It is even possible that rather than being a “bad” teacher who unintentionally is a “good” teacher, this is all intentional… How would I receive it differently if I knew it was all intentional?
Some of the tools I get to explore when listening to him…
There and then
- Noticing all as awareness itself, playing itself out.
- Noticing when attention is absorbed into a story, take it as true, and creates stress and a sense of split.
- Allowing experience, as it is, and allowing the shift that happens to work on me. (Soften, heal.)
- Finding the grain of truth in his teachings. How is it true for me?
- Bringing my attention to sensations. Shifting it out of stories, and notice what happens.
And between sessions
- The Work: Identifying beliefs/fixed positions and inquire into them to find what is more true for me.
- Tong-len for the teacher, the other students, and myself. Opening my heart. Finding compassion and well-wishing for all of us.