Two prospective students want to learn how to swim. They find a swimming teacher.
One student argues with the teacher when told that they have to go face-down in the water, reach their arms over head, and kick with their legs. They don’t like the feeling of the water on their face. This doesn’t feel “right” or “true” for them.
The other student follows the instructions. They struggle.
Seeing this struggle, the first student declares that this shows the teacher is a bad teacher. They want a teacher that will teach to swim by lying on their back with their arms and legs dangling in the water. And if there is any struggle, of course, the instructions must be bad!
Eventually, however, the second student begins to swim well. Soon they ask for other ways to swim, follow those instructions, and become skillful at those ways of swimming as well.
The first student leaves, and they still don’t know how to swim. But they believe in time that they’ll manifest a true teacher.
Is there are a good student and a bad student?
As far as learning to swim, yes.
In terms of being a “bad” or “good” person. No, there is not. That is ego judgment.
As you read today, please consider this example. Being good or bad is not about being a good or bad person; it is about accepting the teaching as it is being taught.
The Arrogant Western Student
I have come up against so much arrogance in students. Westerners like to think they know what they need. They think they know what all of their problems are. They think they can pick and choose what they do or do not do.
Again and again, they are wrong. Even when they are right about some of their problems, they tend to choose poorly in terms of how to actually resolve them.
I’ve seen this arrogance since I began teaching in 2010; nothing has changed. If anything, people are every more individualistic.
In this defensive state, the typical Western student does what their ego thinks they should do–which is very rarely what is needed.
Whenever progress is made, it is slow and filled with many mistakes and backslides.
Most of that is unnecessary.
If you find out that this is you, humility is the way out.
Empowered From Following Instructions
Here are things that I instruct people to do:
Meditate for 30 minutes daily–silent and seated.
Journal about from where your emotions and beliefs come.
Breathe and come back to awareness
It’s nothing extreme. But few people actually do it.
The inability to let go of control keeps people trapped, and more than a few try to bargain with me–as if that will work.
People may be like, “Hey I meditated for 10 minutes. That’s good, right?”
Your body barely registered that you stopped moving.
That’s not my rules–that’s your body. That’s part of the world you live in. You don’t change those rules. You only suffer the consequences of denying them.
Thus, it is strangely simple to be a good student.
Follow the instructions.
And they’re typically very straightforward and nothing obscure, complicated, or harmful. The more you follow them, the more you discover about yourself.
You “swim further” on your spiritual path.
From here, you begin to understand freedom and the deeper power of engaging life as it is rather than as your ego wants it to be.
You have to sincerely want to see and embrace all of you.
Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and your teacher’s time.
Ironically, part of the work is to find out that you sincerely don’t want spiritual freedom.
You want other things.
You want soulmates, purpose, better jobs, kinder friends, your mother’s approval, your kids to excel at school, money, lower mortgage or rent payments, better tenants, and other things.
It’s through seeing our insincerity that sincerity becomes possible. This is, in part, because we realize that we can’t keep any of the things we seek.
It is all impermanent.
Because it is impermanent, we’ll suffer if we are attached to these things. It’s best to let go of these attachments.
The Simplicity of the Work
That’s all I have.
Be sincere and follow the instructions.
You can swim far in unlearning your ego when that’s how you come to your spiritual teacher.
And communicate what is going on inside of you.
There’s nothing to hide.
There’s only what Is and the truth of who you truly Are.