July 14, 2006
Me Guru, You Teacher
Jay checked in and said that he recently enjoyed two outings: One was a trip to Point Reyes with a friend for over 40 years, the second was with Prasad to Seattle where Prasad did a workshop for a client. He said he is expecting a third outing with an artist friend shortly. He said these outings are a nice break from everyday life and they make him be in the present without any worries about the future.
A new experience seems to help us be in the present.
Sreekanth said that he completed 10 years of his career as a software engineer and was reflecting on how it has been. He said that he has more capacity and confidence now than when he started out and is less anxious and less hyper than he was.
A series of past experiences seem to help us gain capacity and confidence.
I said that I had a conversation with a friend on the nature of self-growth related conversations (like this session). He said that over a number of years, he has observed that speaking from first person (I think, I feel etc) and speaking from a personal example keep the conversation true and grounded and any other way of speaking, however interesting and provoking it may be, does not have as much transformative capacity.
I thought about it and said to myself that in order to speak from first person one needs a lot of confidence in ones point of view. And such confidence usually comes from personal experiences that serve as examples. In other words, one should first experience truth in order to be able to share it with confidence. So, I made a decision that in sessions like this, I will speak only from first person and with a personal example. Otherwise I will use my energy to listen to others. This will persuade me to practice whatever needs to be practiced to see and experience truth.
This surely would limit what I could share with others and it is true that even those things that are not from my own personal examples (like something I read somewhere) could help others. But I find that the more I allow myself to come from an impersonal space, I increase my chances of inventing truths based on some rationale which could have many flaws.
Conversations based on personal experiences seem to help us get closer to truths.
Prasad said that he just came back from a workshop he did on passion, commitment and fears. He said that he is looking at these for himself too. He said that once, the president of a bank in India told him that he has grown largely by helping others to grow. In this sense, he said that doing workshops help him.
On the other hand, he said that he is questioning himself on what does it mean to be a spiritual person. �Am I a pundit or a practitioner?� he asked. And said that many times, he recognizes that he is a pundit. Sessions like this, he said, help him examine his own life in the company of others who have come forward to do that same. Hence, he said these sessions are very powerful for him because every time it forces him to focus on the practices that are suggested in the session.
Sharing ones internal struggles seems to bring awareness and focus to what needs to be practiced (that is, experienced) in ones life to remove the gap between understanding truths and living them.
Manju said that she has been reading a book on Barack Obama, the Illinois Senator. She said that through Obama's life, she is discovering what does it mean to be black or white in the US. She wondered why some people have more cargo (meaning inherited beliefs, feelings etc) than others.
Looking at others� experiences seems to give us a sense of life from their perspective and help us to sympathize with them.
Dinesh said that he enjoys coming to these sessions because here, he is more present than anywhere else.
Rishi said that currently, in his vacation time, he is experiencing for the first time what is it to work �for� someone. That is, he is interning in a company and is looking at his hierarchical role of doing what others ask him to do (funny that most grownups don�t even notice being in a subordinate role). He said the he understands that when a person is inexperienced, it is necessary for someone else to decide his or her duties and there is a lot of learning. But he already started wondering how long one should play such a role in ones career.
Inexperience seems to necessitate a person to follow other people.
Seema sang a beautiful song in Hindi. The central theme of the song is that one cannot run away from ones mind at any moment.
Manvi said that she was reading the book Conversations with God and decided that she would be her own teacher and not look to others for answers. She said that for long time in her life, she would pray to lord Hanuman and �shift her burden to him� and believed that he will take care of her. She said that recently she wanted to give Hanuman a break and learn from herself. She asked, �Do I really need a teacher or could I learn everything I need to learn from myself?�
Looking within ourselves seems to help us take responsibility for our life.
Manju said that she believes there is a value in having a guru. She quickly pointed out that for her a guru need not be only a person. She said that some times, Kabir�s poems serve as her guru. In her experience, she said, putting aside ones ego allows her to consider anyone or anything to be her guru.
Manju�s view of who or what is a guru seems to indicate that whoever or whatever that can help us learn becomes a guru and hence, may be there is no such fixed entity called guru but only moments of experience that help us learn � and we could call these moments �guru-moments� � as in, �I was reading this book or listening to this person or walking on this road� and I had a �guru-moment�. And perhaps every moment we manage to put aside our ego it could be a guru-moment.
Manvi said that when she is truly listening to herself, there is no question of her ego being present. She said that cultivating that capacity to truly listen to oneself would take care of her ego.
Listening to oneself seems to help one go beyond ones own experiences and touch something that is much closer to truth � a truth that is of the same nature as any external truth. Therefore touching ones internal truth could help us go beyond impersonal concepts and personal experiences and be (and hence think, feel and do) in the world in a way that is true to the given moment.
Mark Krieger said that when he was young, he had an inner voice that would guide him to make his decisions. He said that later he took someone as his guru and after that gradually he lost his inner voice.
He said that the purpose of a guru is to put one in touch with ones own inner guru.
Deepak said that he sees many people around him constantly blaming someone else or some external condition for their problems and unhappiness. This, he said, forces people to find happiness by escaping from reality by watching TV or partying. He said that in his own life, he can clearly see that he is in control of his state of mind regardless of the external conditions.
Both Mark and Deepak seem to say that the awareness of the presence of an inner self could guide our state of being.
Seema said that while she is very confident of her ability to sing a song well, she is also recognizing how far she has to go to perfect her skills.
Vijay asked, �What are the signs of a practitioner?� (as opposed to a pundit).
Seema�s realization that she needs to practice more seems to give some answer to Vijay�s question � One sign of a practitioner is that the person is constantly aware of where she is (with respect to his or her goals/aspirations) and how far she has to go.
Jay said that many times he used to wonder why he is not as much puzzled as many others at what does it mean to be spiritual. He said that he kind of �gets it� when he watches some people in his life who are naturally caring, very aware of the present, who love unconditionally and bring peace and joy to their surroundings � all without ever thinking about how to be spiritual.
He said that watching them, regardless of what they are thinking or doing or simply sitting, it feels like they are �being� fully there. They don�t seem to exist for some other moment, for achieving something else but they are just there � fully engaged and happy. That, he said, that is his understanding of what it is to be spiritual.
Rishi said that he was reading this book, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and he felt that the book captures what is it to be spiritual without using the word spirituality.
Dinesh said that once he was in a conference where there was a waiter who carried drinks to the attendees in the cafeteria. He would carry the tray and serve the drinks with such joy that everyone noticed him throughout the conference.
At the end of the conference, when everyone sat together to reflect on what they had learnt, he said that they invited the waiter to come and sit with them because they saw him as an embodiment of many things they discussed in the conference. He said that he later learnt that the waiter had a mentally disabled child. That day, he said that he changed his definition of success.
Deepak said that when he was working in India, he used to buy tender coconut from a roadside seller. And he noticed that the coconut seller enjoyed his job a lot. Day after day, watching him do business with joy made his tell one day to his friends that he wanted to be like that coconut seller. This left his friends wondering whether he is saying that selling coconuts is better than being a software engineer!
Prasad said that in Indian spirituality, only a few gods like Shiva and Krishna are called gurus. All the other teachers are called by various other names (like Upadyay, Adyapak, Acharya etc). He said that each name refers to a different level of teacher and each one of them is useful in helping others learn. He said that a teacher is useful in what is called �mediated learning�.
For example, he said that once he had to go to the Smithsonian Museum of Arts in Washington with Reuven Feuerstein, the originator of the theory of Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) and other learning theories. Prasad decided to just sit outside until Reuven came back because he did not enjoy western art much and did not understand it.
But Reuven wanted to try to help Prasad appreciate the art. So he asked Prasad to take a look at a painting by Van Gough and asked him what does he see. Prasad said that he saw a few boats and people and the sea. Ruben asked Prasad to go very close to the painting and describe what he saw. Prasad moved closer and said that the people did not have clear faces and in general everything looked like smudges of color. Rueven than asked Prasad to step back ten feet and see the same painting. When Prasad stepped back, he said that he suddenly saw that everything in the painting looked like they are in right proportion to each other and created a perspective as if one is actually on the beach.
Reuven then took Prasad to others paintings by painters such as Monet, Matisse and Picasso and in about forty five minutes, Prasad said he could just see a painting and tell who is the painter, he could start appreciating perspectives, use of colors, lightning etc.
After the tour, Reuven told Prasad that what he just experienced is called �mediated learning�. It is a type of learning in which the mediator comes in between the learner and the object or subject of learning (the stimulus) and also comes in between the learner and his or her response to the stimulus. By doing so, the mediator attempts to involve himself in the learner�s thinking process and affects the way the learner comprehends the stimulus. More about MLE.
Prasad said that while we may have to be our own guru, we could have many other kinds of teachers who help us see with new eyes.
- A new experience seems to help us be in the present.
- A series of past experiences seem to help us gain capacity and confidence.
- Conversations based on personal experiences seem to help us get closer to truths.
- Sharing ones internal struggles seems to bring awareness and focus to what needs to be practiced (that is, experienced) in ones life to remove the gap between understanding truths and living them.
- Looking at others� experiences seems to give us a sense of life from their perspective and help us to sympathize with them.
- Inexperience seems to necessitate a person to follow other people.
- Looking within ourselves seems to help us take responsibility for our life.
- Listening to oneself seems to help one go beyond ones own experiences and touch something that is much closer to truth � a truth that is of the same nature as any external truth. Therefore touching ones internal truth could help us go beyond impersonal concepts and personal experiences and be (and hence think, feel and do) in the world in a way that is true to the given moment.
- Awareness of the presence of an inner self could guide our state of being.
- The purpose of a guru is to put one in touch with ones own inner guru.
- One sign of a practitioner is that the person is constantly aware of where she is (with respect to his or her goals/aspirations) and how far she has to go.
- Ultimately, we may have to be our own guru. But we could have many other kinds of teachers who help us see with new eyes.
Posted by Ragu at July 14, 2006 10:28 AM