Teaching April 2010: To teach? Can I? Should I?

Teaching April 2010: To teach? Can I? Should I?

I think this article might well be read in conjunction with The Teaching not the Teacher, which is in the Introduction section of this book.

People quite often ask me whether I think they are ready/ripe to teach this work, so these are some reflections stemming, largely, from my own experience.

First, lets get the matter of “levels” out of the way; it seems that every time I try to explain something, I have to say, “of course, it depends what level we are talking about.”  I think it is probably necessary, however.  If we are talking about the most efficient and pain-free way to re-set a dislocated little finger, then we have either learned and practiced the techniques, or we have not.

If, however, the work we are discussing, is of a Spiritual nature and, therefore, in my view, not subject to an objective paradigm, then the level and the approach are somewhat different.

In a sense, Spiritual work cannot be taught as though it were an object.  What I believe, can be done is for the so-called teacher to undertake to create and hold a safe space in which the journey to the light can be undertaken.  That is all the teacher can do as the journey is not just that of the “client/students” but involves the un-armoured surrender of separateness by both/all parties.

It is possible that this laying down of armour-plating, voluntarily, by the teacher, is the hardest task that any of us will undertake.  It is a labour of Hercules, a voyage of Perseus.

Just when you think you have learned something, acquired a talent, perhaps, let it go.

Who finds it hard?  The separate self, the role attached ego, everything that we have come to think of as being me; that’s where the problem is.

I remember well my first attempt at teaching.  I gathered together (cajoled) a few clients that I considered to be well-disposed towards me.  I invited a colleague to assist me in case I needed a sounding board.  I read and read all the material that I could gather together.  I surrounded myself with 20 or 30 books, all tagged with yellow post-its indicating learned references that I could use to expand my arguments.

The appointed time came and we all set down and meditated for 20 minutes.  The bell rang to indicate the end of meditation and I opened my eyes, looked round the class and HAD A PANIC ATTACK.  Full-blown and remorseless.  Only two things stopped me from running out of the room….fear of what people would say/think (see how strong the ego is) and, the pile of books!!

Arguably, this was the most powerful learning that I have ever experienced; I had to sit and be with, the panic attack.  I had no option.  Something like forty years later, now that I am eighty, I may still not know what I am going to say next, until it appears, but I do not care.  I just trust, nothing else, and all that eighty years of compost either produces a flower or a weed; it does not matter.

All this is me; your case is somewhat different; you have already done a considerable amount of work on your own journey to freedom.

The desire to teach sort of wells up like water in a spring and wants to flow out.  Consciousness is expanding and teaching has become the latest form that the journey of the Spirit is taking.

You probably just need to wake up, you are actually teaching.  Look around at your relationships, what place do you take in your community.  How aware are you, compared to how you were, of what is going on.  Do people ask you questions (and then insist in giving you the answer, of course)?

Yes, I suspect you are teaching but you would like to formalise that a little?  Then just be clear about that.  Take that on board.  Digest that that is what you WANT.  Great, it is a right livelihood.  This action of clarity will have its own affect.  You will have energised the “I want to teach” energy field around yourself and it will come.  I do not know what form it will take and I now suggest, forty years later, in hind-sight, that not to construct and limit its form too much, will serve you well.  What I am doing now; work that I see as an expression of being, rather than something that I do, has little resemblance to the work I thought I was going to do.  But that too, is an unfolding.

You have nothing to lose, except fear and you will never get rid of that completely, so you might as well work with it.

Give up expecting results and be amazed at what happens.  Jump off the cliff called trust and you may fly.  If you don’t, try again next time and then really trust, don’t  make  trust just a concept.

People often ask me whether they should teach; whether they are “ready.”  It is difficult, if they are really drawn to teach, they will do so anyway, whatever I may say.  If however they want to associate, in some way, what they teach with my work then I have two views.  One is that they should go deeper and teach from their own embodiment, not from mine and the other is that I have a sense of whether they are coming from that embodied place in themseves or are likely to be repeating some well-worn concepts.

Recently Matias wrote to me.  I have worked with Matias, he is a very experienced psychotherapist and trainer.  More importantly, I trust where he comes FROM.  That is it!  If that is right, I have no opinion about what is a suitable background for a teacher.

I reproduce the correspondence. I have very slightly edited Matias words, he is Chilean and you do not have to speak perfect English to be enlightened.  Please note!

Dear Mike,

I am thinking of, starting teaching, some day in the future, even though my own teacher of “The Teaching not the Teacher” is right here.  This day is slowly but firmly coming.

 All my life experience, my Buddhist practices, my daily occupation with people, are converging in a natural way to some kind of teaching, similar to yours. Based on emptiness, silence.

 I was wondering if you select in some way the participants on your courses. There are many nuances, that, if not taken care of, can cause troubles in the unfolding of workshops. Depending on the nature and needs of the participants.

 Do you have something to share on this ?

 Thanks. See you soon.


 Dear Matias,

 I hope you will do this soon.

 Dzogchen is concerned only with what is.  If turbulence is there, then that is what is.  I have no guarantees at all about how people will behave. Some times a person is there who is having difficulties in being who they are and I have to just work with that.

Usually it turns out to be a blessing but it is sometimes hard to see that immediately.

 I am naked.  The way of the warrior is to take armour off, not put on more of it.  Trust the Tide!

 If I selected people in some way I would be dealing only with what I want; what is easy for me.  This way I deal with what we all need.

We can talk more soon.



 Dear Mike

 I love it !

It is very real

And as I feel & see it now,

the only way for me to go.

Of course !!


I have admired your mastery of being naked when facing outbursts from various people.

 I need to work on that in me.

Which means,

Shut up.

Open, go on opening!


 I showed Jo this correspondence, as one of my consultants; she responded like this….

 Dear Mike,

 Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to meeting Matias.

I think you underestimate the skilful means you have in being with conflict and disturbance within individual and group dynamics. Over the years and on many courses with you I have witnessed the courage you have in not veering away from these uncomfortable places when they surface, quite often unexpectedly, and with a lot of charge. It can be a huge learning curve for everyone but only if it is held with spaciousness and openness.

 This takes quite a lot of hard earned experience and the willingness to be naked and yet able to respond into the space. Dropping judgement is bloody hard work sometimes!

Lots of love

Jo x

I was grateful, as so often, that I have such people to work with.

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