I’ve been contemplating a lot lately about the act of being taught. I admit, I’m a total nerd. I love to read; I love to self-teach. At home, I have How To and Intro books coming out my ass. Over the last year and a half I've been self-teaching on Zen Buddhism for a poetry project. Alarmingly, looking back I counted 41 books I read to try to “get the jist” of it. Many of those books said clearly that reading books on Buddhism is pointless. You have to practice Buddhism to get it, something which includes meditation. Fair enough I thought. So I went out and bought a book on how to meditate. That books said you can’t teach yourself how to meditate from a book either! Crap. Not only do you need to practice it to learn Buddhism, but you must find a teacher not a book.
But I didn’t like that idea, quite frankly. I wanted to learn it ah-LONE. I was nervous about not picking it up fast enough in front of other people. Besides, meditation is about losing the chaos in your head and clearing out your mind. It’s practiced alone frequently. Why do you have to do it with other people when it's something you must eventually come to understand all by your lonesome? So I practiced alone and it was good enough.
But then two things happened. I started taking a ceramics class (my first adult art experience) and then for work my department started taking Spanish classes (my first post-French trauma language class – I’m so not a left-brained/memorize-it person).
And a strange shift in my brain happened. I loved these classes. Like those green pants in that Dr. Seuss story, at first I was afraid of them; but then I loved them. In Spanish class, I actually started to feel the camaraderie of participation and to not to be freaked out by failing. Just trying and practicing felt good. Laughing about mistakes felt even better.
Then in ceramics I fell in love with my teachers’ passion for clay. At the end of our first class, many of us struggled with the wheel. It was so much harder than we could manage. Recently I found another teacher in a private studio who gently guides us through it step by step. She has a palpable love and respect for teaching and pottery. And I'm eating it up.
After our trip to France in a few weeks, my bf and I are going to start taking yoga mixed with meditation. And I’m really looking forward to finding a new teacher.
These generous acts of teaching truly move and humble me. They have helped me to understand my life is not about amassing knowledge and successes. It's more about comprehending little lessons, these little sparks of life, moments of communication, precious gifts of being shown by hand how to ask a stranger “Te gusta comer los enchiladas?”, how to center your clay on a wheel, and how to center your shit on a spinning life.