A mentor who doesn’t mentor

January 18, 2012

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to consider, don’t want to think of mentors in my life. There is a wall of resistance, a feisty child stomping her foot in protest – you will not tell me what to do!

You will not tell me what to do. No teacher ever had. There weren’t all that many of them, maybe that’s why, maybe I never wanted any.

My first Zen teacher – I stayed with her only because she opened the door wide and said: stay or leave, it’s all the same to me. I stayed.

Did I learn from her? I learned with her. I never allowed her to teach me, not her, nor any of the other teachers I met later on.

I never allowed books to teach me. They put stories in my mind, their own stories, their own words. Once there were too many words, to many stories, too many ideas, I stopped reading them.

This is my life, I decided. This is my life and I will learn from myself. I will sit on my pillow and learn from what I feel. I will live and learn from what I experience. So I have chosen, and there, too, was the little girl stomping her foot, crying – you will not tell me what to do!

And yet I allowed Brooks to teach me. I allowed him and accepted him as a teacher. Why? Why did I let him tell me what to do? Is it because he never really did? Did he see me as a student or were we friends, so similar, so aligned in how we feel and experience that it was natural and obvious to flow together, to open together? Of course his eyes were open much wider than mine, but that changes nothing.

He did not teach me, he did not tell me what to do. He did not fill my mind with stories and words. He opened, and my stories appeared, my words. He did not teach me, he opened and held the space for me to teach myself.

He was a mentor I could accept, a mentor who did not mentor, a teacher who didn’t teach. A partner and an ally. And of those … I did meet a few. Brooks was first, then a pine tree in the forest, high up in the mountains, a rock on the mountain trail, a mountain itself. They showed me how I can be, they opened the space for me to grow and experience. They were my mentors.

And what of the girl stomping her foot in protest?

She can rest here. She can rest when she sits on a rock or leans against a tree. She can rest, sitting in a big leather armchair, facing the old wizard. She can rest and grow, grow into herself her own way, into her own shape. She can do that with a mentor who doesn’t mentor, with a teacher who doesn’t teach.

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