As we head into the final series on managing holiday stress, I have two things to offer you:
1. The importance of questions
2. The importance of self-love
There is a scene in the yoga docudrama, “Enlighten Up!” between Guru Sharan Ananda and Nick, the film’s protagonist. Guru Sharan Ananda sits on an elevated seat. Nick sits at Sharan Ananda’s feet, looking up. Nick’s guide lists all of the Guru Sharan Ananda’s qualifications which intimidates Nick. When prompted to speak, Nick apologizes and says, “If I ask you any stupid question or am in any way offensive -” Guru Sharan Ananda interrupts him and says, “Questions are never stupid. Answers are stupid.”
Questions are never stupid. Answers are stupid.
As a teacher, Guru Sharan Ananda immediately recognizes Nick as the most important person in the room. His questions, whatever they are, are the spark for understanding. And that spark, is the most important ingredient in the knowledge soup.
Questions are the pivot point for all learning. In a Socratic dialogue, the discussion happens not from Socrates just pontificating on something, but because a student asks a question. In the Bhaghavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna the Dharma because Arjuna asks him questions. In our quest for understanding, the need to know is primary. I mean, without curiosity, what use is knowledge?
This is an important distinction between what makes us learners and what makes us teachers. A teacher is not just someone who knows. A teacher is someone who can answer a question well. Each time we teach we are being tested. The student is always pushing us to see not only what we know, but how well we can convey it.
Knowing stuff is great. It is empowering. But knowing is not teaching. Being an expert is not teaching. Experts pontificate. Teachers illuminate.
After this week, the earth will start to shift towards warmth and light. It is a predictable, arduous process towards illumination. Like learning, this happens, not just by brute force of the sun, but by the effort of the earth yearning towards the sun.
The art of teaching extends well beyond the classroom. It is a daily practice of awareness. This week think of what it means to be a teacher in all aspect of your life. Are you listening well? How do you illuminate? Are you appropriate? Are your answers relevant? Is it kind?
Which leads me to my next point; when you are not, forgive and love yourself regardless.
This past couple of weeks I have made many mistakes. I have not been my best self.
And that is OK too.
The other side of the teaching coin is that you must always, always be a student. A teacher that gives up their desire to learn, is not a teacher. Therefore, treat yourself the way you would the student who is struggling most in your class. Be gentle, be loving, be encouraging, be kind to you.
This time of year is wonderful and hard. It is fun and stressful. And we are humans being, not humans done. So, forgive yourself. Trust that you are enough, that you matter and know that there is a place at the table for you. I know there is a place for me.
And, if there is a place for me, there is most certainly a place for you. ;)
Wishing you much love warmth and joy.