We sat down to eat and as he poured our breakfast tea, I decided to tell him how much I appreciate him. "Dharma, I am so thankful to have you as my friend and teacher. Your advice is always valuable and I've lost track of the times your words have helped me to work through a perplexing problem. I look to you as my role model. You practice what you preach. And that is so important! I don't know what I'd do without you." He looked rather embarrassed over my verbal display of affection for him. After a few moments of silence, he began to speak, "Tadpole, I'm happy to learn that you feel this way. The frog who is a good teacher not only instructs others but follows his own advice. It pleases me to hear that I am able to be a living example of the wisdom I share with you each week. You cannot do or be for others what you cannot do or be for yourself. When we make ourselves a priority and work on making ourselves better then, and only then, should we attempt to help others on their journey to becoming better. And that brings me to perseverance." I was eager to hear more from my teacher and he was eager to share.
"Irwin, it's easy to tell others what they should do while we, ourselves, become a bit lazy. If we allow ourselves to slack off from doing what we need to do, it sends a message to others that they, too, can slack off. But if we pursue our journey toward self-improvement while we help others along their own path, we set a good example. That is what I try to do for each of my students. And I'm happy that you've noticed! Now we come to the "V" word...vulnerability. I always try to teach you that it is good and useful to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. That is what builds our connection with others. All of us, myself included, can find it difficult to show our emotions. We are afraid of being seen as weak. With weakness, we believe that others will take advantage of us. We fear being seen for who we really are. We mistakenly believe that there is no good reason to expose our own flaws and weaknesses while we attempt to help others fix their own. But often times, by showing our own vulnerabilites and working through them, we give others the strength and courage to work through their own issues. By allowing others to see us at our weakest or lowest points, we may be surprised to see the love and support that pours forth from others. Vulnerability is powerful. The simple act of being seen, with all of your imperfections, can pave the way for authenticity, connection, and self-acceptance."
Honestly, I was rather shocked by what Dharma revealed today. But, I must admit, I felt closer to him than I ever had before. I clearly see that he is, indeed, a wise and wonderful teacher. "My boy, I've been trying to help my students for as long as i can remember. And in doing so, my own life has become fuller and richer. Every week, after our lesson, I leave you feeling a little better and more hopeful than when I arrived. I’ve discovered that the only way we can really relate to others is to speak from our own experiences—both good and bad. And I know that I can’t request others to do what I’m afraid of practicing myself."
In closing, Dharma left me with this important piece of advice. "If I want my students to make themselves a priority and be vulnerable, then I need to be brave about it, too." And these words are true for all of us. We are all asked to be teachers at one time or another, whether it's to our children, our friends, or our co-workers. The ones that we are humbly given the opportunity to teach and mentor, will never accept our words if they are not backed up with our own actions. Wise words for each of us.
Tomorrow is National Creativity Day and while you may (or not) think it applies to you, each of us is creative. I hope you'll hop back by tomorrow for a look at how we can all be more creative. Until then, I wish you