I have been trying to write this post for many days but I haven’t been able to string the words together. There were two things I wanted to talk about. One, on the topic, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”, a quote attributed to Lao Tzu. Second, that I don’t want to use the word ‘normal’ any more, especially as it pertains to people or their life paths. I thought these were very different topics and didn’t know why I wanted to write about them in one post. I tried writing again yesterday and again, the words wouldn’t come. So, I waited. I went for my usual walk through the forest trails of the hills nearby. Most days, though I take my phone and earphones, I listen to the gush of the streams, the chirp of the birds, and the wind rustling the leaves. Today, I decided to listen to a podcast instead. It’s the Super Soul Conversations Podcast and it was Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on The Curiosity-Driven Life. I was feeling stuck and I needed kind words. And that’s when the magic happened.
First, a little background… I quit writing on an older blog last May for a number of different reasons. One of those reasons was that when I talked about life, creativity, life paths, lessons, etc., I couldn’t be sure anymore. What rang true for me may or may not hold true for others. There were too many variables: what that individual’s journey was, their background, their family, the conditioning that they’ve been exposed to, their personality, their strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges they face. I didn’t feel comfortable writing anything with certainty. (Which is why writing here is not as easy as it used to be. I feel I have to insert caveats in every sentence.) Which brings me to my disdain for the word ‘normal.’ It’s my humble request that we limit the use of this word. Normal defines a spectrum that the majority falls in but somewhere, we have started to believe that normal is the right way or the only way, and we start excluding/ marginalizing people based on this definition. Sure, we can say that normally people don’t commit murder and obviously, that’s good. But let’s be cautious about the inappropriate or excessive use of this word. When we lump together or exclude one another based on these labels, we miss the opportunity to understand and support each other and to help each one of us thrive. So when you read or listen to someone, be they a teacher, a friend, a parent or a random person on the internet, take what resonates with you and let the rest go. For everything you hear from another, ask yourself if it’s true for you. (This reminds me of Byron Katie’s The Work). Discard what doesn’t resonate. Remember when someone tells you something, they are speaking from their experiences and it doesn’t have to hold true for you. I was wondering how all this fit into my Day 3 topic, when we are ready to learn, the teacher appears. As I walked through the dappled sunlight listening to the podcast, I realized that a teacher had arrived and was talking about it. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to understand. Believe me, it was as startling as it was magical.
Day 3: So, back in the summer of 2018, as I was exploring and researching the story I wanted to write, I started with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a book on practicing creativity every day. The teachers began to appear as if they were lined up to share their knowledge and wisdom with me. Someone had mentioned the hero’s myth some years ago and it was but a short (googling) distance to Joseph Campbell and The Hero With A Thousand Faces which, along with his The Power Of Myth, are two books that I recommend everyone should read at least once in their lifetime. What was startling to me was that many of things described in the hero’s journey were familiar from my own life path. I remain convinced that each one of us is a hero on our life’s path and that a hero’s journey is not restricted to a) men, or b) heroes of war or adventure whether in real life, a book, or a movie. From here, I read Jung, Marie-Louise Von Franz, and books by many other writers and thought leaders. Of course, books were not the only teachers. As you may already know, some of our most important teachers appear in our daily lives. They are disguised as friends or relatives or sometimes, they are a random stranger you see on the street. Things they say, how you respond to whatever they say or do, and the feelings that they evoke- those are the biggest teachers. I’m going to leave you with a quote attributed to CG Jung – “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Don’t forget to listen to the podcast! I’ll see you soon with Day 4.
PS: In the fall, the bookclub that I’m part of read Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces and it was fantastic to discuss it with others. I may have driven the others batty.