Occasionally, as it was the case this past week, a student asks me to talk about myself, or wonders why I rarely do. If I did, so the belief goes, it would make it easier to become convinced that 'this stuff' of mindfulness training really works.
You are likely all too familiar with the experience of confiding in someone you consider a friend and sharing a painful problem, only to be met with an avalanche of well-meaning advice that worked for your friend in similar situations. You probably
gently extricated yourself from the conversation, quietly thinking to yourself "good for you, but that hasn't worked for me!".
As a teaching method talking about myself and my experiences in mindfulness would be quite similar to having you read a meditator's biography in the hope you may achieve the same results as the featured meditator. Whatever mindfulness has done or not done for me, it will affect you in different ways, to different degrees, following different sequences of evolution at different times. In other words, my experiences in mindfulness are worth diddly squat for anyone else - except not to feel alone, as you will see below.
Students automatically develop transferences onto the teacher. What this means is that we automatically develop both positive and negative fantasies about the teacher, which are shaped by past experiences with authority figures in our lives. These fantasies have little to do with who the teacher is, but everything to do with who we are as students. They are deeply ingrained in our implicit memory bank and they have powerful unconscious effects on our decisions and actions in life, in both positive and negative ways.
If the teacher reveals too much about himself, the student is deprived of the opportunity to examine her own psychological constructions and get to know herself more deeply. Furthermore, the student begins to want to imitate the teacher and ends up losing herself.
This goes against the principles of mindfulness to discover our own truth through direct experience. As a result, the student who at first may feel inspired by the teacher's accomplishments, protected by the teacher's authority and empowered by the opportunity to imitate the teacher, ends up deprived of the opportunity to find her own deep authentic essence.
As a teacher my main concern is to inspire by my presence, not by my story or accomplishments, and to pass on the skills for using the tools of mindfulness meditation correctly, so that you can become the authority of your own journey of discovery. As a teacher, it is my duty to get my self out of your way, so that I can clear the path for all of us to access the only authority there is - nature's vast wisdom and the truth of timeless Being.
If mindfulness practice doesn't work for you, remember that there are only two possible reasons that I can see: You have either chosen to not make it into a priority, or you are doing something wrong in your practice. It is that simple. Therefore, reach out and ask questions, so that as a teacher I can help you find out how you are practicing and where you are going wrong.
In the end, when students ask me about my journey, I look around the room, invite them all to share what they discovered on their journey, how they struggle in their practice, how they have success, where they get stuck and how they managed to liberate aspects of themselves for positive transformation. Then, I tell them something very simple - that my experience and my journey is no different than everything they just shared they went through.
Like you, I have gotten stuck and lost, and at times believed it didn't work for me. Like you, I persevered and searched to find what pitfalls I had fallen into. Like you, I had to learn to face the fact that the human capacity for self-deception is limitless. Like you, I came to find the passion for this thousand-year project. Like many of you, I discovered the essence of this journey's mysterious grail - that we can always notice improvement.
Unlike you, maybe, I have been at it doggedly and long enough to know that time is limited by timelessness, and that all we ever need to be awake in our lives with peace and love, is already here, right now - as it has always been and will always be.