Painted Wall at Black Canyon

There are a lot of discussions around, and derision for, the idea of teachers in the non-dual community. As a facilitator, I have an interest in the distinctions between the two titles, and in clarifying what we do. First of all, I’m not even sure what it means to teach. Seriously. I looked it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary and found that the Old English derivation of the word “teach” is “to show, point out.” And furthermore discovered that it shares its origins with the word “diction,” which comes from digit, or “finger.” Huh. The finger pointing towards the moon—there it is. And I thought it meant, as is noted on dictionary.com, “to impart knowledge or skill; give instruction.” It was the imparting knowledge and giving instruction parts that I was confused about. I could use instruction on how to tie a Gordian knot, but can anyone impart knowledge about that which is essentially unspeakable? Like they say in the writing world, “Show, don’t tell.”

I can say with complete confidence that, as a facilitator, I have no knowledge that you, or anyone who comes for a session, does not have. I mean “knowledge” and “don’t have” literally. The inverse is true, as well. There is no teacher, mine or yours, of whom this could be said. It is fundamentally dualistic to think otherwise. And by that I mean, it is inherently divisive to think in terms of a teacher with knowledge up here, and a student believing in his own ignorance out there.

That is not to say that there is not the appearance of teachers, and students going to hear what they have to say. And by using the term  “appearance of” I do not mean some flakey version of no one here, nothing happening, transcendent foolish-wisdom-words. If a bird sings, there is a song to be heard. If a teacher teaches….No problem there. It is to say that the belief that someone has answers that you do not is the sticking point. It is the belief itself that is coming from a dualistic viewpoint and necessarily divisive. It is the belief, the concept, the culturally and socially condoned practice that, in effect, creates the appearance of teacher/student. If you did not have this particular belief, it wouldn’t be a part of your experience, and you wouldn’t care much either way. Is it a problem if you’re not thinking about it?

To facilitate is “to render easy.” The facilitators at Living Inquiries, to the best of my understanding, can and do render, or “give back,” the questions, and see to it that it is your answer to your question that is the imparted wisdom. Your experience is paramount, not the wisdom or clarity of any particular facilitator, and Scott Kiloby does the same. We’re all birds, just singing songs. Listen or doze off, as you please.

So what to expect in signing up for a session? (First, note the caveat here to drop all expectations.) But in a manner of speaking, what happens, from my point of view, during these sessions is that they are somewhat like a walk in nature. We walk through the woods or the hills, and like friends do, we point out to each other this or that tree, that bird, those tracks. It’s not a matter of labeling or categorizing the various appearances; not an expert on flora and fauna. A facilitator just happens to have made this particular walk many times before, down this particular trail, so may or may not see things that might otherwise be missed. However, someone new (or old) to this work often has the fresh eyes to see the trail in new ways, so the pointing is just as often mutually enlightening.

A friend once took me to see Black Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world. I never knew it was there, had never even heard of it before. He simply drove down a dusty old road, parked in a nearly vacant parking lot, and we walked through breezy evergreens toward a fenced precipice. I looked over, and stepped back from the edge immediately. This was, experientially, a whole new definition of “looking down.” I went back to look again, and the response this time was simply, “Oh.” We stayed awhile to gaze wordlessly at the wonder of it all. My concept of “deep” has been fundamentally altered. It doesn’t even mean what I thought it meant, at all. And the depth of the glimpse displaces any notion of this body as a limited container, or located vessel of consciousness. There, here, it is—in the looking. All distinctions fall away.

Yesterday, I had a session with someone who wanted to look for the teacher. We went to where there was no teacher, internally or externally. And finally, no teaching…nothing…but, like the glimpse into the depths of the canyon, space, vastness, emptiness. Meh, those words don’t cut it either. Lose the words, any description, all points of reference. It was like that.

I have no special knowledge to impart, no claim to be anyone or anything different from you. I would like to take you to see that canyon, watch you step up to that precipice. The “oh,” is all yours—to make of it what you will. End of tour spiel.

Or, there’s more over here, just beyond that ridge, that you just might like to take a look at before you go home again. Let’s go see.

4 thoughts on “Facilitating, Teaching: A Walk in the Woods

  1. I am friends w/Suzanne Sinclair and very much appreciate her “introducing” you to me. I read your writings and savor much. Thank you! May I question your recent reference to Black Canyon as the deepest canyon in the world? I presume you’re talking about the Black Canyon near the Hoover Dam and not the area of Black Canyon north of PHX. I’ve lived in AZ and visit often. Any info you have about that road would be most appreciated.

  2. Colette – I am surprised to hear you will be leaving the Living Inquiries community, yet am certain there is good reason for this change. I feel such gratitude for your pointing for me on this path and for the listening and clarity you have modeled. I rejoice with you for the depth of stillness that guides you. Ever here – Sumitra

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