Thursday, September 23, 2010

So Many Teachers

At this point in my life I find myself with formal teachers in three aspects of my life. To count them I have two sensei and a handful of chefs.

In my culinary education, I have attended three schools. The first I don't really count because I didn't really come away with anything and it was just a stepping stone into seriousness. But between the latter two, I have had a dozen very gifted chefs as instructors. Each of them has dedicated their lives to the craft and business of food. Furthermore they have dedicated their lives to passing on that knowledge to the next generation of culinarians.

While I still find myself wavering in my dedication to the art, I would like to follow in their footsteps. I have learned so much with so much generosity, but unfortunately I don't have the desire to use it in the manner that it was intended, in restaurant kitchens.

For a little over a year of practicing Aikido, I have had a teacher to guide me in not just a physical practice, but in a spiritual way to help me deal with life's obstacles by confronting them with single mindedness and courage. Her long-held dedication to the art is apparent in the ease and joy she combines with the strict seriousness of each lesson. Sticking exclusively to either one would not only be against the spirit of the art, but remove the dynamic nature that is needed to perpetuate the desire to learn throughout life.

Somehow she has been able to juggle several interests while maintaining this dedication, showing that it is possible to be so committed to one thing but still live a well rounded life. She has served as both a role-model and mentor.

And recently I have acquired a Zen teacher to guide me in my spiritual practice, to help me deal with life's obstacles with acceptance and compassion. This provides the yin to the yang of my Aikido.

While I have yet to get to know her well, just in my interactions on both a group and individual level, it easy to see that she has something special. Her dedication is easy to see in the joy she expresses interacting with others and in the intensity and openness with which she listens. I look forward to deepening this relationship as well.

In these three avenues, knowledge and wisdom has been passed to me with such generosity, that I really want to share it. I am seriously exploring the possibility of teaching culinary arts formally whether professionally in a class room or as a side job teaching individuals how to cook for themselves at home. As a "veteran" student I have had the joy of sharing many tricks with fresher students and even a couple with my teachers.

I am approaching the opportunity to teach Aikido in the setting of private lessons. While I have learned so much to share, I realize I still have so much to learn. But I have also realized how much there is to learn more about what I know in sharing it with others. I had often fantasized about what it would be like to teach Aikido as an instructor and though it's still a fantasy some of it may be realized some day. Until then I share what I can graciously, and hope I provide more understanding than confusion.

Although I only recently began my Zen practice, I do have almost ten years worth of learning about it that must be processed through the lens of practice. Formally teaching is even further than a fantasy for that, but I would like to think that what I share of my experiences helps others in some way.

In sharing what I've learned in return for such dedication, I am doing my best to live the vow of the eighth Grave Precept as I see it: to give generously whatever I can provide. This concept has always featured prominently in my life so I am happy to have found an ideology that embraces it.

In all of this, I must not forget that learning comes from so many other places than just those with titles. While I treasure the teachers I mention above, every interaction with others is the opportunity to learn from them, to internalize their own life experiences. My practice also reminds me of the opportunity to teach myself with each situation I end up in. I must remain mindful that the dharma gates are boundless and that I vow to enter them.

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