The saying goes, when the student is ready the teacher will appear.
I say, when the teacher is ready the student will appear.
I think we get caught up in the idea that as we move through life, and especially as we discover who we are on our Pagan path, that teachers will be like the school teachers of our childhood. Show up to class, sit quietly and absorb what is being taught, maybe take a test to prove we’ve got it down, graduate and get a nice diploma to show for our work.
The reality though, is that once we are out of the formal classrooms of our youth, life tends to not be that way. Teachers can show up in the most unusual circumstances and many times we don’t even realise we were being taught until long after the teacher has disappeared.
Teachers are not necessarily authority figures. Nor are they necessarily human. Many, many times, a teacher comes to us disguised as a student. I don’t know of any teacher who can in all honesty say that they have never learned something from their students. No good teachers at any rate.
When I started exploring non-mainstream spiritual and religious beliefs I found a small local shop in the town where I lived that catered for an eclectic mix. Self-help books, spirituality books, New Age books, 12-step program books, trinkets, jewellery, herbs, clothing, candles, incense. It’s a place that to the best of my knowledge has closed since I was last in there 20 years ago, but for a time it was where I went to meet up with like-minded people and to learn.
It was here also that I met a person who became a dear friend and teacher. She is a heart sister and my coven mother. She is the person who first introduced me to Energy Healing. I walked into the shop one day, she looked at me, and said “You need to take this class.”
I later became initiated in the Wiccan coven which she ran with her then husband, and over the next 5 years served as handmaiden and was initiated up to 3rd degree as a High Priestess in that tradition.
Our lives have gone different ways over the years, but through the magic of the internet she and I are still able to talk and share our lives. And I still go to her on occasion when I have questions or when I want to clarify something in my own mind.
She was my first official teacher of Pagan belief systems , spellcasting, and healing. I have had many, many others both officially and unofficially over the past 24 years.
As I began to pull together my thoughts around the cycles of birth, death and rebirth, I realised that our purpose in being here on this Earth in these bodies is to learn. I believe that before we are born we determine what lessons we want to explore and learn while we are here, and we arrange to be born at a time and in a place where we can best learn those lessons.
Of course, I can’t prove any of that. The good thing is, I don’t have to. But as I better understand what it means when I say that I am here to learn the lessons I arranged to learn before I was born, I realise that this means every situation I am in, every person I interact with (however slight or trivial), is here to teach me. This isn’t a one-sided interaction, I am as much a teacher in every situation and encounter as I am a student.
Sometimes those lessons they have to teach are tiny – the chance comment or event. Sometimes those lessons are massive. Sometimes, I don’t realise that I have learned something about myself until long after the event or person has passed out of my life again. Sometimes, they come as a reminder that there is an issue that I haven’t quite yet dealt with.
I’ve had a few teachers who have shown me how I don’t want to be. I’ve had more who have shown me how I can be.
I’ve had teachers who taught me something I didn’t know. I’ve had teachers who held up a mirror so that I could see in me what they could see. I’ve had teachers who stood by as I stumbled and fell, and picked myself up again. I’ve had teachers who helped pull away old ideas and behaviours so that I could remember things that I had not even know I had forgotten.
I’ve had teachers who kicked me in the arse, and teachers who held me as I cried. Often, these were the same teachers. I’ve had teachers who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.
I’ve had teachers who are humans, and teachers who weren’t, teachers I could see and teachers who may have existed only in my mind.
I’ve had teachers who were writers of fiction, I’ve had teachers who were characters in books.
It isn’t always easy, but if I can approach my encounters with other people with an attitude of – what am I here to learn from you? – it helps me to remain more open, and more forgiving. It helps me to learn, and to release it with gratitude and love.