“It's the student that makes the teacher. And that was very freeing, because I'm just still going about my life and taking care of things in a certain way. I’m allowed to be myself, but when a student comes, some practitioner comes to ask me a question or relate to me in the role of a teacher, then I'm a teacher, they've made me a teacher, in response to the situation. But that's, not really what I am. When that's over, then the next thing I do is maybe I'm sweeping the hallway- then I'm a sweeper….” Gil Fronsdal: Stories with my Zen Teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman
Life is full of surprises and opportunities. The future is uncertain and unknown. When one door closes, another door opens, but hanging out in the hallway while you wait might not be your idea of what you want to be doing. Here’s the thing- that’s true every day and has been our entire existence. It’s just that now, in the time of a pandemic and societal upheaval we can’t disguise it.
Last April, May and June, when this was still feeling new and different, I had the opportunity to ask Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Sudanto each questions about how they balanced teaching with practice. I also listened intently as they spoke on questions from others who where having the same feeling of relief and deep quiet during our imposed break.
After the pandemic shut down our community classes, I have not once missed working two jobs or constantly rushing to “fit it all in.” I’ve been practicing for myself, rather that to figure out how to teach it. I’ve been learning about other stuff than anatomy and eastern philosophy/psychology. I found that I really enjoy spending lots of time with my husband, and he likes having me sit with him in the evening. We even got back to doing the New York Times Crossword together- something we had given up for my too full schedule.
I know the incomparable value of having a teacher- and how rare it can be to have one who can point the way along the path one is traveling. Each time one is present in my life, I feel as if I have won the lottery! It's kind of the Goldilocks principle to have that teacher who is "just right".
I just recently was blessed with such circumstances and am getting an enormous value from working weekly one on one with a personal trainer and being referred to a pelvic floor physical therapist who might be able to clarify my understanding of how the muscles work.
I do not identify as a “Yoga Teacher”. Really, I am a practitioner who is intensely driven to study and practice and morally driven to pass it along to anyone willing to also do the work. This was one of the comments given by Ajahn Amaro, too. We only point the way, you must do the work. Both monks also offered that short and longer breaks and sabbaticals were necessary to teaching practice. They each take 3 month and one year breaks for personal retreats sabbaticals.
“It's most like this: whatever the situation he's in, that was the teaching. One of the very important teachings of Mel, and I think of Soto Zen, that has come to me, is the importance of practice. That practice is really the teacher; practice is the center. And we all share the practice, rather than the teacher being at the center. Everyone, including the teacher is sharing the practice, and we're all doing the practice together. We're all engaged in it.” Gil Fronsdal: Stories with my Zen Teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/12307.html
What ever comes in the next month or year, I don’t believe I or any of us will return to the schedules we had before, meaning the daily routine of pre-Covid pandemic. Hopefully we will have all seized the situational teaching and taken it as necessary nutrition: The only practice there is, is to live here and now, this breath, this step, this smile, this affirmation of life in action.