Friday, February 27, 2015

"Long Quiet Highway"

There is a book from the early '90s I recently re-read, called: Long Quiet Highway by American author Natalie Goldberg. It is a autobiographical memoir of a writer who is immersing herself in Zen study while maintaining a career as an author and writing instructor. In the book, she reflects upon many aspects of Japanese Buddhism, including, in one passage, what it is that makes a good teacher. The fact that Goldberg is referring to Zen isn't necessarily the point. The skills and ideals are transferable to instructors of any kind.
"That is the work of a teacher, not to get caught in the likes and dislikes of a student, but to come forth always with the deepest teachings. Often the student does not like this, thinks the teacher is mean, unfeeling, but a good teacher knows that if he or she plants a real seed, someday, maybe years later, even in the most ignorant of students the seed may sprout. So the teacher's job is to close the gap between the student's ignorance and the teachings, but often the student does not understand any of this. That is why the student is the student. The teacher understands this. That is why the teacher can have abundant patience."
In the next paragraph the author discusses being a student, and what pushes us to want to expand our minds.
"But if the student doesn't know about the gap, how can she learn? There is something in us, an urgency to meet the teachings on the other side, that gnaws at our ignorance, that desires to meet our own true face, however lazy and comfort-loving we may seem to be. This something was working in me, albeit slowly, and often underground."
As a student of martial arts, I understand this. As a student of life, I also understand this. That is why finding the right teacher is so crucial, no matter what it is you wish to learn. And the responsibility of being a teacher is maybe even more immense. One has to be selfless, patient, and look at everything as a whole. After all, a teacher is really a student as well, as in the end, teaching and learning are one in the same.

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