The Teacher’s Task

The snow is slowly receding, a process that will be accelerated by the rain and seasonal temperatures expected during the next few days. Most days now are marked by well below freezing nights and sunny days with temperatures in the mid-forties, Fahrenheit. When the sun shines warm and bright, the sap is likely to flow generously.

The squirrels are mating, running willy-nilly, and paying little attention to anything but one another; this results in greatly increased mortality as predators, including cars, take a high toll. Sometimes there are disputes over potential partners or territory, other times the mating is frequent and apparently random; all this makes for engaging viewing for us humans.

We have arrived at the juncture when the sun has moved to the north side of the house in the afternoon, filling the downstairs with rainbows as its light passes through the crystals and prisms residing on our windowsills. In the morning the south side of the house is filled with shadow puppetry as the sunlight creates silhouettes on the walls.

Jennie has taken up residence in the studio where she is undertaking an enormous, remarkably well contained, sewing project. We move stacks of cloth from one place to another as needed, sometimes being stabbed by hidden hem pins in the process.

The other day we were asked to offer a ceremony for a person who had experienced a difficult time. As is very often the case, we felt remarkably fortunate to have been asked, and blessed to have been able to conduct ceremony. We were deeply aware that our role is to be the human face of a profound, iceberg-like, process involving many beings, in which we are the most visible, the very tip-top. Those who support us may remain largely invisible, yet without them our efforts would likely lead to little.

A bit later in the day, having arrived home, we noted that our usually quiet feeder was teeming with birds. This gathering of the winged people continued for some hours, culminating in a visitation by an entire flock of blackbirds, infrequent visitors to our feeders.

The timing of this event was striking. Over the years we have noticed that quite often birds or other animals visit us during, or immediately after, a healing ceremony. Once a buck and doe came conspicuously crashing along the top of our hill in the very midst of ceremony; this was particularly attention demanding as we seldom see deer, and almost never see bucks, and all present took the visitation as a blessing.

As the afternoon unwound, we found ourselves embraced by one, what Jung called “synchronicity”, after another. We have come to accept the ancient understanding that in our profoundly entangled, connected, universe no act of healing happens outside of a diverse community of caring. We are repeatedly reminded that we are most effective when we acknowledge the many realms of support that are available to all of us who ask, rather than becoming beguiled by our roles as healers.

A couple of the young people I know have chosen, or been chosen, to explore the path of becoming healers. They are engaged in learning many useful skills, and are frequently captivated by the results of their attempts to be helpful. I work hard to be supportive, reminding myself that forty years ago I was in that same place. I also quietly attempt to teach them that while techniques are useful, even important, the spirits and the world will likely teach them exactly what they need to know as they need to know it.

The task of the teacher, I suspect, is to subtly remind excited, sometimes awestruck or terrified, young people their job is to learn to work with the spirits on behalf of those who ask for aid, to suggest repeatedly that there are many beings who are wiser and more talented than us yet need our aid to bring about healing, to insist that healing is a joint endeavor. It is our task, I believe, to insist that, very often, healing arrives as the person or persons seeking our aid realize they are never alone, even as they may experience moments of overwhelming loneliness or feelings of abandonment. We are here to remind ourselves, our students, and those who seek our aid, that we are held by an immense community of beings, and by a force that we humans have named “love.”


19 thoughts on “The Teacher’s Task

  1. Really a beautiful and very positive post, Michael 🙂
    It is a gift to be able to help others in need, when possible. You and Jennie are doing a great job. I agree, we learn, as we are ready to and what we need to know in very short time, all will come in right time.
    Thank you for sharing this uplifting post.

  2. Very powerful, beautiful, and insightful, Michael. I do believe that your insight is the gift you have received with aging. I can tell that you enjoy who you have become, but from a position of humility, born of experience.

      1. And sometimes, maybe we just do it because we have to. If the voices of evil make a difference, we have to believe that our voices of good also make a difference. Think of how the uniformed people who are filled with hate speak to each other and reinforce false narratives. We have no less power. Besides, from what I heard from your brain so far, you don’t have a choice but to speak out. I, too, get frustrated that I am only one voice in the wilderness, that maybe all the effort I put into getting a good education, developing ideas and programs to educate future generations means nothing now. The only people who listen to me are those who agree. But my Creator is telling me “hope, faith and love abide. But the greatest of these is love.” Your words are spreading love and justice. They touch me and I in turn touch others. Hang on and keep faith, Michael, because you have so very much to give and the world needs to hear your wisdom.

      2. Pat, I am certain that love and caring will again have their day, although I fear what is happening and will happen between now and then. I wish we humans were more apt at holding empathy and complexity, and at seeing the likely long term impacts of our actions. Fortunately there are a good many articulate and caring people in the world, yourself included, who insist on being heard above the tumult and falsehoods.

      3. I want to respond but the issues are now so complex that I can’t without tying myself into mental and emotional knots. I think I will go work on a quilt I’m making. 🙂

      4. The quilt is wonderful and almost ready to be quilted when we return to Michigan. When my mind is about to explode because of the complexity of things I have no control over, I find comfort in getting my quilt piecing close to perfect – all neat and orderly.

  3. I have spent time thinking about my early teachers who I didn’t know at the time were teachers. I knew they were elders, of course. I am so full of gratitude now, I could burst.

  4. I love how this moves the language from “expert” and systematic science into community! I learn from you that healers are there to help, to invite community with all creatures, to open and include and make whole in a new, creative process. When my teenaged kids were going through crisis, all the “health care providers” in the network could do was take us through hours of paperwork, multiple prescriptions of trial-and-error psychiatric tools, and classroom workshops of technique. Not effective – and how many times did we submit to another round of the same approach? We so need to offer alternative wisdom to this culture!

    1. Priscilla, So often I find myself walking a thin line between traditional knowledge and professional expectations. Now that I am older, I am more likely to offer some thoughts or insights that I might have held back when younger. There were young people I also did not have the skill or tools to aid. Working with teens is tricky and demanding, and finding the right match can be a truly difficult undertaking. I find myself wishing you had had more aid and support.

      I am now always looking for ways to teach what I have learned. This, too, is not necessarily easy. Many people want simple answers and the false certainty that is offered by many. I am seeking to articulate a model that others can also use, and that is accessible. We shall see what happens with this project.

  5. This is very beautiful Michael. My Grandmother was my first teacher. She was bedridden for most all her life due to a disease of the muscles. She didn’t go on walks with me or play games or push me on a swing but she was so profoundly just there. Her face always lit up when she saw me. She said very little but I knew always that I was deeply loved. 50 years after her passing I recall her face every day and I listen to her silent council for she quietly taught me how to live life to the fullest with courage.

    1. Gretchen, your description of your grandmother reminds me of my father’s mother. I imagine your grandmother speaks to you and us through your art. There is this quiet, powerful, awareness that always comes through.

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