Be My Own Teacher

I forgot our interview. Again. I did not remember until after the time had passed. Panic, condemnation, sadness. A big part of my first reaction was, what will she think of me?

As part of my mindfulness practice, I have a phone “interview” with my teacher once a month. In the tradition of Zen Buddhism, an interview is a time when student and teacher connect with each other in the moment and reflect on the student’s practice. An astute teacher can sense where a student is moving off course and either gently nudge her back or shake her out of her deluded thinking.

Without a teacher interview for two months in a row, I realized that I could either freak out or take charge. Perhaps it is time for me to step up and be my own teacher. After all, I am the only one who can engage this practice right here, right now. Let it practice me. Be open to the mystery. And call myself out on my stories, stories, stories.

Speaking of deluded thinking and stories, I have realized how many rituals and mini-rituals and mindless rituals I use every day to set up my environment and make me feel okay/ safe. What stones to wear (to protect me or encourage a field of positive energy), what I have to do to prepare for my day, what music to play to get my mind working, what to eat when. What set up or mood will make me feel okay, prepared? All these and many more. And beyond that, in my mind I attribute meaning–good or bad–to almost everything that happens to me. “I noticed the time at 11:11. In computing that means yes, yes. Ah, yes, yes, I am on the right track.” Every moment of every day, the mind’s mindless chatter. But down deep I know that all this preparation and attributing actually keeps me away from real life. …What is actually happening right now.

What drags me through the ruts of unreality? What makes me fear judgment and condemnation from my teacher? She is an object of the familiar rutted scenarios that play out in my mind. What I fear from her is what I fear from the world at large–perhaps even from myself. Living nightmares that create shame, uncertainty and feelings of inadequacy in me are triggered when I am not feeling safe, not feeling okay with who I am. So I spend lots of time making sure that I feel safe, that I feel okay. The problem is, I can’t really feel safe or okay until I have a deep sense that I am safe, that I am okay.

The beliefs I carry around about myself create a lot of crap in my mind. I can see that when I am aware of what is going on up there. As my own teacher, I have been paying attention to the chatter more closely. Listening to it. As I see the stories come up, I stop myself–cut them off. Recognize them as part of the chatter. There has been a nice sense of ease with that. Freedom.

Are these questions, related to my beliefs about myself, real, or are they part of my storytelling:

  • When will I come to see that I am not somehow deeply flawed?
  • That I am just as good as anyone else?
  • That I am okay?
  • That I can be me without even trying?
  • That I am safe where I am, whatever happens?

Maybe part real, part story, part of the time. The time is 11:11. What is the meaning of that? Being my own teacher, I can let it all go and enjoy the warm fire, quiet dogs, instrumental music, and ending to another blog. This moment, just as it is happening right now.

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