Teaching & Learning

Growing up I always thought I wanted to be a teacher. I’m not exactly sure why… it’s not like I sat in class watching my teacher, and thought, “I want to do that someday.” I only remember how much I loved learning: exploring new ideas and seeing connections between things. It didn’t even occur to me to ponder what or who I would teach, so much so that by the time I got to college and it was time to pick a major I realized I didn’t want to study “education”; I didn’t want to study pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. At the time, I thought that meant I didn’t really want to be a teacher anymore; so I moved on to other interests and didn’t really look back. 

Now, here I am 25 years later rediscovering the part of me that has always wanted to share understanding with others. After lots of detours–years spent trying on other roles and labels, figuring out who I am and what paths I want to pursue next–I find myself back at ‘teacher’… though my current version looks very different from what childhood me thought that meant. 

It still feels a little uncomfortable to think of myself as a teacher, partly because it implies a sense of passing on knowledge or skills, which isn’t how I think of myself. Instead, far from any classroom (real or virtual), I think of my version of ‘teaching’ as simply holding space for others to explore their own understanding of the world, to find their own truths. To fully embody the label of ‘teacher’, I’ve had to redefine my personal definition of such a role. In my Wonder Botanica training, we actually refer to ourselves as ‘guides’ rather than teachers, which feels much more appropriate.

“To teach is to learn twice.” 

~Joseph Joubert

The funny thing about teaching (or guiding) in this way is that it really ends up teaching me. Helping clients to create space in their lives to be present, feel and process emotions, and surrender to that which they cannot control requires me to do these same things for myself. And I know I’m not alone in this; one of my mentors freely admits that every time she offers a new class, somehow her life circumstances start requiring her to practice the very principles she’s teaching. Almost like the universe is double-checking our convictions: Are you *sure* you really want to teach this stuff? Let’s just see if you ‘walk the walk’. 

Right now, surrendering to helplessness is one of my key lessons. It’s one of the existential feelings I’ve struggled with the most, especially as a mother, so I’m not surprised that it’s coming up again in my work. Grief, heartbreak, loneliness… over the years I’ve gotten so much better at recognizing and processing these emotions. But feeling helpless? Ugh, that’s a tough one. 

And as much as I want to protect my children from pain and hardship or bring my clients peace and happiness, I cannot live their lives for them. Ultimately, I must accept that I am largely helpless over their lives… that they must be the ones to show up for themselves. In those hard moments when it feels impossible to let go, I turn to my own spiritual guidance and hear the call to trust. I trust that others are capable of taking responsibility for themselves, of feeling hard feelings, of finding their own strength and innate wisdom within. I believe in the process of mindfulness and self-compassion and trust in its ability to bring peace and joy to each of us. Others have helped me learn these lessons; to teach them to others is to learn them again for myself.