Published January 30, 2017
A Rumination on Relevant Education and Great Teachers (part nine)
Adventurers on a Journey
“Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two-day journey”. (Rumi)
I remember very distinctly how, as children, we would run through the forest as adventurers on a quest into the wonder and mystery of the unknown. We may have journeyed on previously traveled trails, but in our youth of awe and wonder, one would never know what to expect around the bend or behind a shrub or tree trunk. It was always a total experience of the body at full steam, sweating, acutely aware, senses wide open, the mind imagining, analyzing, figuring, and foreboding. The heart thrilled at new and daring prospects pumping from physical exertion and the spirit was delighted to be free to run through the natural world unencumbered by internal or external inhibiting structures. We were so open to learn, to experience life whole and first hand in all its majesty and beauty. The little kid in us was doing its thing, totally.
But where did the little kid go? Why did the journey have to end? Or if the learning continues why does it have to be dry and devoid of awe and wonder and spontaneity? Can we be functional in our day to day existence and still lead an open and exciting life of learning, questioning, evaluation, discrimination, and most of all, a life of fun for all our years to come? And what are the skills we need to learn at a young age in order to springboard us into life whole, inspired and willing to walk the edge, drawing from our intuition in flowing and dynamic, yet meditative style?
Life and learning are inseparable. It’s how we go about it that can make this partnership of life and learning a rich experience or a desiccated and deserted landscape. If the teacher is not supporting the student and creating a positive atmosphere for learning, the educational process will inevitably dry up into intellectualization and the memorization of tired dead details. If the foundation in the student’s capacity to learn is weak, the ability to discriminate and make distinctions between what is essential, what is superficial, and how they function together, will be stymied. We may be good-standing citizens or breadwinners, or be admired for our job or position, but these identities are a small part of our being. They are simply cut-outs from our human identity. Do they positively impact our potential to experience life as learning and learning as life? The ability to feel and think deeply will only be functional in a human being if the channels from childhood remain open and the soul can be entered without fear or anxiety.
For a teacher who approaches a student or a group of students suffering from years of emotional neglect, care must meet them halfway with courage, openness, awareness and love. A teacher in this situation must carry his or her rich inner life forward and lay all their cards on the table for the student. This is not to say that the teacher is not human and does not suffer at times from fear, anger or sadness. But we must not allow these emotions to interfere with our communication. Ideally, it would behoove the teacher to attempt to eradicate whatever may be separating the students from themselves. In order to do this the educator must make a profound and meaningful inventory of all the emotions and thoughts that colors his or her world and courageously step forward to work things out inside.
If we, as lifelong students, are given a clear mirror of acceptance and trust when we are young, we are already advancing many steps toward taking in life whole, for many years to come. We are then able to share openly our learning successes with others. Again, the life of the teacher, if steeped in the values that heal, encouraging others and bringing love to all situations, is a valuable asset indeed. There is a transference of underlying thoughts and emotions from teacher to student, which we may not see on the surface. The cause and effect of these unspoken currents may be as impactful as a truck slamming into a guardrail or as gentle as the wafting scent of wild roses in burgeoning spring. Again, the choice of attitude in our approach lies entirely with us.
I constantly must ask myself if what I do and who I am reaches the highest ideal to which my life may become a true expression. I must constantly ask myself whether or not I am living out my fullest potential in the moment in all areas of my physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual life. If I am not, I need to stop and take a look around, to change the direction in which things are headed. I need, by an act of will, to place my feet upon a path that will inevitably take me there. Only then, might I be able to enter a teaching environment with all my creative faculties, emotions and reason intact. Only then may I inspire them to learn and go on learning for all time.
May we all strive for answers to our fundamental questions in life and go on asking after we receive answers. May honest reevaluation, introspection and discrimination to know what’s “real” be our constant companions.