As I walk my path of personal growth, that is, spiritual discovery, I gain more understanding and ability to utilize the gifts of wisdom I receive from every event or person who touches my experience. These people, unlike the traditional positive stereotype of teacher or leader, often carry a particular ‘dis-ease’ reflecting their own inner conflict. Nonetheless, the mirror they provide reminds me to reflect on my daily experiences and to choose wisely from the various options available.
With these teachers of unorthodox lessons, I am compelled to understand why I am in relationship with them and to exchange the gifts they bring to me with those I am able to offer. Warren Bennis, business guru, suggests “one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership [teaching] is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances.” For example, Jesus Christ role modeled how to love through his willingness to turn the other cheek. On the other hand, Adolph Hitler, also a leader, role modeled how to hate by committing racial genocide. Whether the circumstances confronting us are virtuous or vile, they reflect the spectrum of possibilities for leading in our own lives. It is up to each of us to choose which role of teacher we wish to emulate because we are all teacher-leaders.
As I consider my own role of spiritual teacher-leader, it closely resembles Arthur Young’s (inventor, philosopher, cosmologist) depiction some 30 years past:
In earlier times there were those who went into the desert to discover within their own depths, or to the mountaintop to commune with god, and returned with a teaching for their followers. But that is all past. Twentieth century humanity has come of age. It is not to be led, but must draw out of itself the wisdom it needs. [. . .] It needs no new doctrine because the printed word makes available today the accumulated wisdom of all ages and of all teachings, which, with the help of science, we can now sort out and interpret.
For just as the world with its oceans, continents, and nations presents many facets, yet is one body of matter, so does our culture with its religions and sciences present many facets, yet is one body of life. Our task then is to seek out this unity.
Although we are confronted with many traditions from which to choose our path forward, I believe it is in the unifying of many where we will discover the essence of each (of self). At our very core level of functioning, both Christ and Hitler taught us something about ourselves as individuals and as a species, which we then refined into essential truths or operating principles. These truths, once internalized, guided our next generation of worldly thoughts, words and deeds showing up as new attitudes and behaviours. The practice of these new teachings provided new choices that, in turn, required further discernment. In this ongoing process, we integrate “the all into the one” transforming internally as well as collectively.
What principles guide you in your role as teacher-leader? How are you practicing these principles daily?