When the Student is Ready, the Teacher... Was There All Along?

Readers, once again, thanks for indulging me as I take a break from writing to work on other projects.

Everybody's heard the following saying so often it's become a near-cliche:

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

But I've been wondering about this expression lately. I think it means more than it means.

Think about it: Is it really plausible that the very moment I'm ready to learn something, the universe knows to plop a teacher right there, right next to me?

Right then? Really?

I mean, as much as I'd love to think otherwise, the universe doesn't revolve around me. Heck, the universe doesn't even know who I am. Or for that matter where I am.

And the presumption that the universe not only knows all these things, but also knows my exact level of "readiness" for a given lesson… well, now we're beginning to border on pathological narcissism.

Yet this saying is still true, strikingly so, almost to the point of being eerie. I've seen many, many examples of teachers “appearing” at just the right time, not just in my life, but in the lives of almost everyone I know.

Which is why I think this expression means something completely different, something shocking: It suggests that we are surrounded by teachers, the right teachers, all the time. For everything! It's just that we're too busy stiff-arming all these teachers and all these opportunities to learn.

We ignore or reject advice, we use "yes-but" tactics, we react emotionally or with rage, and we shoot down their ideas and teachings with a wide range of ego-defending excuses and rationalizations.

The only reason a teacher occasionally "appears" is because at that time, for whatever reason, we didn't stick out our arms and block the insights--insights that, all along, were right there for the taking. In other words, we were "ready."

So, imagine: What if we stopped stiff-arming all the teachers? What if, instead of letting in a teacher only when we're ready, what if we just stayed ready?

I bet a lot more teachers would appear. After all, they were there all along.

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