When the student is ready, the teacher appears. We’ve all heard that one, right? I particularly resonate with it…probably because I have yet to master it. Here’s what I know…
When I’m in student-mode:
- I ask questions from a place of curiosity and understanding
- I listen without judgment
- I am open to outcomes
- I feel unconditional love for others
- I have no preconceived expectations
- I take responsibility for my past and present decisions
- I look for the lesson in life’s daily challenges
- I have compassion for myself
- I am willing to trust and take risks
- I am present and in the moment
- I experience life as a journey and not a destination
- I am in a constant state of wonder and appreciation, and
- I accept that I am the creator of my reality and my destiny
When I’m NOT in student-mode:
- I ask questions from a place of judgment and opinion
- I listen with a critical mind
- I want things my way
- I put conditions on my love
- I feel victimized by my past
- I blame others
- I beat myself up for not being perfect
- I trust no one
- I calculate risk
- I analyze life instead of experience it
- I convince myself that life will be good when this happens or that happens
- I’m focused on myself instead of others, and
- I believe I don’t have control over what happens to me
In many ways, being in student-mode is like being a child again. It’s the purist thirst for understanding simply for understanding’s sake. When we are in student-mode, the world and our experiences become our teachers. In Zen we call it Beginner’s Mind…having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. According to Saadat A. Khan, "Beginner's mind embodies the highest emotional qualities such as enthusiasm, creativity, zeal, and optimism. With beginner's mind, there is boundlessness, limitlessness, an infinite wealth."
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? And yet it can be so elusive.
A friend of mine stopped by my house the other day. As he walked in, he directed me over to the couch and then instructed me to turn the music off. “It was annoying,” he said. Although I jumped to attention and complied with his requests, I found myself getting triggered with his aggressiveness.
And that was just the beginning. My stomach tightened even more as he proceeded to take hostage of the next ten minutes with a barrage of random banter and harsh opinions, each one bouncing off the walls like a hailstorm with no end in sight.
I bit my tongue. I wanted to challenge him, debate him, and argue with him…but for all the wrong reasons. You see, had I been able to stay in student-mode, I would have known that he was acting as my teacher—providing a teachable moment. I would have known that the tightness in my stomach was not because of him but because of how I was reacting to him. I would have known that his behavior triggered my inability in that moment to be accepting of differing opinions and mannerisms.
But that’s what happens when we slip out of student-mode; we stop dancing with life and start reacting, judging, and resisting all opposing energies. We look outward instead of inward for answers.
“Yeah, but what if they started it,” you ask.
Doesn’t matter. It never was about them. If anything, we should thank all the people and situations that trigger us in our lives for shedding light on the work we still have yet to do. How else are we going to keep learning as students?
Teachers are to be honored, whether they show up through difficult people or challenging situations. I believe life is one big opportunity to continuously learn about ourselves. Embrace it and say thank you.
Thank you…Thank you…Thank you!