November 19, 2010

I Am No Teacher. (But Really, I Am.)

“What am I doing here?” I thought to myself as I read through some of the articles, “These people…they have so much to say…and something interesting to say. Who do I think I am? Frack.”

I closed the laptop slowly as I felt the cold, slinking wave of reality hit me smack dab in the forehead; I am nobody compared to these people. I mean, have you checked out some of the ele columnist’s bios?  I have! Authors, Yogis, Zen masters, Jedis, Business Owners, etc.  All people who know what they are talking about, all people who have something beautiful and powerful to say.

And then there is me: A 21 year old, nerdy waitress from nowheresville Michigan who is struggling every moment to understand what it means to be not only Buddhist, but what it means to be human.

Not exactly something one would slap proudly on their resume, eh?

Maybe I was feeling a little sorry for myself, but I think it was more than that- I honestly did not the point in my writing for Ele. It felt like being shoved into a room with a collection of theoretical physicists when you only barely grasp the idea of chemistry. You end up in the corner nursing a bottle of whatever, looking at the clock and wondering what you can say to seem interesting. Don’t get me wrong- no one ever once wrote me and told me I was a bad writer or that my articles were crap; I have gotten many lovely and encouraging emails from great people.  But there was always that nagging realization in the back of my mind that I knew so little and struggled so much. What great truth could I give to the world when I was searching for that truth myself?

Here it is- I do not understand the Dharma…at all. When someone asks me what it means to be Buddhist I get flustered and quiet, mind emptied of all logical facts about what I meant to say. I sometimes don’t meditate because I either get too antsy during it or I am just too darn lazy. I struggled hourly to grasp compassion and right speech. I have thousands of questions about Buddhism that will probably never be answered in my lifetime. I started this path of learning when I was 16 and I am now 21- that‘s 5 years of learning and I have only come up with more blank spaces. I eat meat and I still don’t know if I agree with that statement, and is it okay that I don’t do yoga?

I feel as if I fail much more than I succeed and that I do things that Buddha would have rolled his eyes over. Sometimes (most of the time) I make fun of my own path and say things that are probably not very kosher. I was starting to feel as if I had nothing to say and absolutely nothing to contribute to this format. Who wants to listen to the rants of a girl who is failing miserably?

But then (as there are always ‘but thens’) I remembered something I read long ago in Sunday school. Yup, in the Bible even. It was a verse, 1 Timothy 4:12 which goes something like this,

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

I revised it a bit to fit what I was thinking about, but it stayed basically the same, “Don’t let anyone (even yourself) look down on you because you are young (or because you mess up often) but set an example (speak the truth) for the believers (Ele readers and yourself) in life, love faith and in purity (also be honest about how confused you are. It’s going to be important.) I thought about these things as I woke up one morning and logged on to twitter. I realized that I may have had a valid point, but in the end does my valid point matter to anyone else?  I suppose the twitter gods smiled on my feeble life and I saw a tweet from Jack Daw. It linked back to a blog he had written that Sunday and I decided to check it out. It was a wonderful blog about finding a Buddhist teacher which to some people may seem like a simple task, but when you live out in the Buddhist boondocks, as it were, it is very difficult to find anyone.  I read through the blog and stopped at the last point- “As cheesy as it sounds, anyone can be a teacher…”

Oh, Mr. Daw, your words have made me swoon.

I know he wasn’t directly speaking about me, but as I stared at those words I realized he was right- anyone can be a teacher…actually everyone IS a teacher. Mind you, not always a teacher in the best sense of the word. Some people will teach you what NOT to do while others will teach you what is the best course to take, but in the end you are learning from everyone.

I’m not going to be the person to explain to you the complexity of the Dharma and I won’t be the one who talks about the spiritual side of Yoga. I can’t really write anything that will answer your questions or show you the light. I am still learning, still fumbling around with the light switch trying to find my way out of the dark.  But I now understand why I am here, why I am writing these articles; some of us are still learning. I felt alone in my questions for so long that when finally  I voiced them not only got my  answer, but I will also realize there are other people other there trying to figure out the same thing.  If I write about my struggles maybe someone else can feel comfortable with theirs.  I cannot answer many of your questions, but there are many ele columnists and readers that can and isn’t that a lovely thought? I may not always write pretty prose and lovely sounding words, but I will always, ALWAYS be honest and always ask questions in search of the truth… maybe that is all that is needed.

I am a teacher, as are you. I may not be the best teacher, but I will be the one tripping down stairs, looking up at you and saying “Yeah, I would not recommend that so much.” We learn from one another. I learn from other ele columnists, commenter’s, people on the street, and sometimes (but very rarely) from things I watch of TV. We are all learning, and I am right there with you. I think we need to realize the value we have as learners and as teachers. Growing up my mother always used to say “You are a teacher to your little sister…she is looking up to you.” While she was just saying that to guilt me into not doing something dumb it is still very true.  We are all teachers; we all have something valid to teach the world. What will we teach?

I am finally comfortable with my place here. I will no longer be hiding in the shadows pretending I have nothing to give. We all have something to give.  I think I am ready to stop looking at the clock and start talking. Heck, I may not know anything about theoretical physics but I am sure I can find something to talk about.

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