Some weeks ago I had a business trip to the city where I once studied, Aikido and Physics. My hotel happened to be across the street of the Aikido Dojo where I used to practise every day, in which I even lived for a couple of weeks before I found a flat, and where I experienced my first two years of regular Zazen practise.
In the morning after checking out, I went to that Dojo. A class was running, and I stepped in. Last time I had been in this room was almost 30 years ago, but nothing had changed. I felt like coming here by time machine … and even the teacher looked the same, except his hair turned slightly grey. He did not recognise me, we lost contact after I finished my studies and left the town … or was it I changed too much? Yet he seemed to remember, after I told him my name and the year we last met, and I was happy to see his warm smile once more.
This encounter made me think how much I owe to my teachers … so many wise men took their time to introduce me to their art. Why did they do this? It cannot be for the little money I paid as a tuition fee.
Now I’m old, I have no specific one person I could call “My Teacher” any more.
Everything and everybody became my teacher … yet I feel increasingly grateful for the specific teachers I was allowed to work with. A communication which once started decades ago is still going on, without words, without meeting each other … a constant silent conversation with the ones living and the ones who already passed away.
Sometimes I have the impression I am a very bad teacher myself. I wonder if all my activities are slightly more than organising a pleasant pastime for occasional hobbyists. Yet my really great teachers shared their time and wisdom without judgement or expectation, just let me and everyone else share their practise.
Maybe “teaching” is just this: going your way, and let others join … I have to practice much harder teaching this way.
(1) Image source: screen-shot from http://aikido-oldenburg.de/ , the Dojo where I practised long time ago.