In Eastern philosophy, there is a sentence that says when the student is ready the teacher appears. But the other half of that sentence is when the student is ready the teacher will disappear.
It’s part of your development to let go of the teachers that accompany you in this life.
For me this has been a long road. Years ago, I stopped going to temples and churches seeking answers from men in collars and shaved heads. Men that stood at the front of the room and preached the word of God. Where they were Mick Jagger, and we were hanging off every guitar lick like a groupie in the audience.
I stopped attending retreats. Why sleep on a single bed when my memory foam mattress was waiting for me at home?
I did read Eat Pray Love and thought that was as close to living in a monastery as I’d ever like to be.
When friends asked if I’d like to go to a silent retreat where you couldn’t speak or pray or bring your pen for six days, I said,
“I’d rather poke my eyes out with a sharp stick.” To which they say, “Well unfortunately there are no sticks allowed, either.”
And another thing on retreats, there is a night where people come together to do a talent show, and I find that the most disturbing of all.
I quit walking labyrinths because apparently walking in spirals was supposed to be some form of mediation. For me, they were like corn mazes without a hotdog at the end.
Speaking of that, I won’t do corn mazes either, not after the time I lost my neighbour’s kid in there. For an hour after closing, we were walking in circles yelling out Marco, and him echoing Polo back and when we did get him out of there, he was traumatized. Every time he sees a dish of butter and someone rolling a cob in it he begins to twitch.
I will never ever, walk the Camino. If you have done this I don’t judge you. I am sure it was great. But for me, walking all day in the sun and getting blisters sounds like something refugees do – except refugees are fleeing some land, but my generation of mostly women pay for this torture. Blistered feet in the hot sun, and if this isn’t bad enough, that night you have to stay in hostels with other people burping and farting and complaining all night about said blisters.
Speaking of walking, I love twelve steps. But when all people do is speak the jargon it begins to sound like dogma, I revolt.
I have sold or given away all my self -help books that have five-point and seven-points and twelve-point plans.
I hate to disappoint some of you, but I don’t really understand a thing Deepak Chopra says. (Except for the one point he made in earlier writings when he said to bring a gift when you go to someone’s house, and I do that, every time I visit someone.) That means I stopped following Tony Robbins as I don’t need to walk across fire in bare feet to prove anything to myself.
I do still love Oprah. For years at 4 pm, I worshipped at her church. But now she is off the stage and just sits in a chair and talks to people, so I watch Super Soul Sunday.
I still read poets May Sarton, Mary Oliver and writing coaches Natalie Goldberg and Annie Dillard. I am partial to the work of the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Haan. I read and re-read Catholic Henri Nouwen’s Inner Voice of Love and grief expert Stephen Levine.
They are not up on pedestals but rather my companions, reminders of what I am aspiring to. Like chiropractic adjustments of the soul.
I no longer read their work because they have the fix: Or that I will meet my potential. I have no more potential to unleash. I am already fine. Potential sounds like something that exists in the future.
I can’t tell you the number of men I loved that I thought I had potential. And I found out they didn’t!
Believing people have potential after they reach of the age of 30 is folly. It implies that they aren’t quite there yet: they aren’t quite cooked. I’ve tested this theory in a myriad of ways. I’ve tried to get people I loved to access their potential. I mentored them and sat on a couch as Marie did. I gave them my best stuff, and in my comedy and speaking career, I even got paid to motivate large groups of folks.
I’ve helped some people, but in thirty-three years, I’ve never once managed to convert or convince a single soul with my pep talks.
Not unless they were already on their own path.
Plus, when I have been a teacher there will be a day when the student will fire me The Buddhists call that day killing the teacher but given the world today they had to modify that saying. It’s apparently a great day for both folks. But it stings. A levelling of pride. The ego takes a hit.
It happened with my students and my mentors. I took sponsors Sue fell off the pedestal and my Buddhist friend Marie died and even Danny had been with me along the path.
Letting go is the natural process part of knowing you can thrive. Sometimes that meant the relationship ends by death or estrangement and sometimes it evolves into two people walking sometimes, side by side. Often one running ahead and coming back for the one lagging, behind, saying, “You’ll never guess what is up ahead.”
By the time my brother Kevin go sick, I thought I knew this axiom well. I understood that teachers came and went in my life and I understood I helped people until I didn’t but what I was surprised by was how hard it was to retire the role of teacher I played to myself. There was a deep part of me that still believed I had to stand at the front of the class and call the out of control children to order but after Kevin died I was an incompetent supply teacher. All authority I had over my emotions, disappeared into thin air. As as I posted Missing posters around the neighbourhood beseeching for her to return, I realized I was clinging to my guru standards. I was still acting like that gal in a Buddhist temple thinking life would tap me on the shoulder and make me special. I still could not let myself just be a normal bereft person. I still wanted to live high above life with my head in the clouds where the air was thin and lonely.
The teacher role I had been playing inside my head, also had to disappear for my own growth. I had to let myself be in the state of I don’t know. I don’t know how to stop eating. I don’t know how to grieve. I don’t know where to find joy again.
This hurt like hell and all the gains I had made was not all lost. My expertise did not retreat in but in all the areas of my life, only in the arena of grief. And the one where I was asked to stand in the middle of the herd and be a sister who had lost her brother, just like so many other sisters who had lost their brothers. Once again, I was being asked to put down the cloak of knowing and come, naked with my begging bowl full of tears.
(From my memoirs: Window Shopping for God -to be published December 2022)
Do you want to read my witty and wise blog on Wednesdays? Sign up here.
October 19 Accent on Toronto Danforth Music Hall. ( Click here for tickets)
October 25-26 The Debaters Ottawa. ( Meridian Performance Hall, Centrepoint)