The Work is Up to You

"A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary."

~ Thomas Carruthers

From "What to Look for in a [Meditation] Teacher," by Ken McLeod, Unfettered Mind, July 2012:

There are three roles a teacher plays. He or she reveals to you possibilities, shows you how to train and develop the skills and capabilities you need, and puts you in touch with the patterns in you that inhibit your being awake.

You may find these three roles in one person, or, possibly, in three different people.

For the teacher as possibility, your interaction may be through ritual, it may involve transmission, or it may be just being with them.  Periodic interact is helpful: you see what being awake looks like in actual life. Regular interaction is not absolutely necessary. It is enough that your interaction awakens new possibilities in you, and you set out to cultivate them.

For that, you need an instructor. With the teacher as instructor you do need to have regular interaction. You first learn a practice, do it on your own,  and then go back to tell your instructor about your experience, what you have assimilated, what questions you have. You learn and assimilate, and then you are ready to learn more. As you develop the skills and the ways to build abilities, more and more responsibility shifts to you. You first learn how to do the practice, then do it until it becomes second nature, and then train still further until there is nothing left in you that inhibits it.

And that last level brings up the need for the teacher who points out patterns. You can't always do it on your own  — you need actual interaction, in person. Directly or indirectly, the teacher points out what you've been doing for years without ever being aware of it. It can be tough, experiencing this viscerally.

This is not psychotherapy, i.e., working with your therapist to work through the patterns. The teacher's role is to point out the patterns and show you how to apply your training to them. The work, then, is up to you.

Many people approach a teacher, or approach spiritual work, in order to give, or receive, or exchange a certain kind of attention. If you approach practice this way, you are reinforcing reactive patterns, the antithesis of waking up.

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