We are great fools... Say we:
'I have done nothing to-day.' What? Have you not lived? That is not only the fundamental, but the most illustrious of all your occupations...
Have you known how to regulate your conduct, you have done a great deal more than [one] who has composed books. Have you known how to take repose, you have done more than [one] who has taken cities and empires.
People usually think of teachings as ideas that are expressed in words. And quite often we do offer teachings in a dharma talk or discussion based on a text. Sometimes we present formal teachings but with few words, such as a slide show, a concert, or deep ecology in nature. But some of the most powerful teachings often just happen spontaneously without words in nature or just by being together. The most important teachings come from life through one’s own deep heart.
Teachings, and learning, mean exchange. Our subtle power to transform as human beings happens when we meet in honesty, beyond roles and expectations. Teachings for profound healing and transformation are not bits of information traveling in one direction, from someone superior to someone inferior. Perhaps we waste time with our concern about who is higher or lower or whether a facilitator is “perfect”—each of us is as we are, incomparably alive, invaluably ourselves. And sometimes we can meet.
Teachings, and learning, involve chemistry. Not every teaching style fits everyone. Open Dharma encourages participants to explore a variety of teachings with wisdom and intuition, rather than to follow the bestseller fads of what “everyone” else likes. We may even connect again and again with teachings, even though our thinking self finds fault with the facilitator, the words, or the other participants. Genuine learning is not primarily a mental process, though the mind helps us meet.
Teachings, and learning, mean improvisation. Rather than asking participants to copy someone else’s awakening, facilitators can invite playful experimentation. We need encouragement to listen to the quiet and non-aggressive voice of our own inner teachings—the memory of how we naturally connected as a child, or the inspiration to dance or climb a tree. Open Dharma teachings adjust to the actual person or people present—whether in meditation instructions or in an interview.
Teachings, and learning, need receptivity. When we meet each other or life with openness, we learn. When we feel childlike wonder in this world, our fresh eyes open to richness we had not noticed before. When someone really listens to us, we learn, we teach ourselves, and we hear ourselves saying what we needed to hear. Or, equally, what we need to hear may come through someone else’s voice, but from the same source of wisdom as our own.
As the US poet Wendell Berry says, teachings are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.