The Cost of Being Tutored by Life

Good day!

I woke up today pondering the Grief Tending Ritual my friend, Kinde Nebeker, and I are hosting at Great Salt Lake, likely in the rain, tonight, with an amused sense of “Wow. I never expected to be doing this. And yet, how perfect.”

As I buzzed my coffee beans in the dark and quiet morning, with the just-returned robins trilling their morning cheerfulness, I thought of a line by Stephen Jenkinson from his book Die Wise. He says, “The cost for being tutored by life is what you insist life should be and who you insist you were born to be. That is what you pay.” What a cost – giving up our best-laid plans and ideas for ourselves – and yet, what a gift – to be not on the path we have designed for ourselves, but truly offering ourselves to be tutored by life.

I recently had a conversation with a friend in the car, in the dark, driving home together after a sushi dinner. We were talking about her history of being an A student, of dutifully following step-wise training programs, both in academia as well as spiritual practice, and receiving some top-notch training along the way. Earlier, I had asked her what has been a learning-edge for her, and she talked about the challenge of giving up this kind of striving-relationship to education and to being an A-student.
We share a teacher in Tsoknyi Rinpoche, a teacher in the Dzogchen tradition, (the non-dual tradition from Tibet) whom I’ve had the good fortune to study with since 1994. My friend’s been studying with him for the past few years, and in that Dzogchen tradition, there’s a very different orientation: Not step-wise, climbing the ladder of realization, but relaxing into the completeness of the moment. There’s no hierarchy. It’s about giving up striving and arriving in presence, and in the spaciousness of awareness, again and again and again. Now and now and now. Historically, the Dzogchen practitioners have sometimes been a thorn in the side of the monastic traditions because they’re more interested in freedom than propriety. More committed to the practices that liberate than the institutions that form around such practices and frequently reify them in the process. Practitioners in this tradition choose to be tutored by life with a capital L, by the spaciousness of being, the freshness and innocence of this very moment – not following a plan toward a preconceived end.

Funny where life will take you when you step of the ladder of achievement and relax into the guidance life offers.

A favorite teaching from this tradition is in these words, translated by another one of my teachers, Namkhai Norbu, from the book, The Crystal and the Way of Light.

This is being tutored by Life. And as it’s said in the line of T.S. Eliot’s poem, it’s right here, but so very easy to miss. And as Jenkinson says, it costs a lot.  Giving up what we think we know.

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)

The more deeply I go into learning from life, learning from this living moment, learning from the experience of being embodied and meeting my clients and students there, the more I find the body as a gateway to everything. Going into shoulder pain, we find it may be connected with grief, and undigested overwhelm, and something that happened in 2nd grade, and an itch to change our life. I’m humbled by how beautiful, how mysterious, how honest, how demanding and how rewarding a journey it is.

And so, here I am on this path of apprenticing myself to embodiment, which means being tutored by Life, which leads me not only to working with the client I just had the privilege of seeing – sharing about the uniqueness of the Feldenkrais perspective – (though she has knee problems, we don’t work with the knee, we work with the whole person, seeing it’s all connected – how she holds her shoulders when she walks, how she inhabits herself (or not) as she moves through her days, how she’s called to make some life-changes) – it’s also led me to standing on the shores of Great Salt Lake tonight in a rainstorm, holding space for tears that may need to be shed. Sometimes love  feels like a wound. It’s a holy wound. It doesn’t need fixing, or solving. It needs a welcome place to be what it is.
I’m so grateful for the generous tutor that is Life.

And I’m so grateful to be welcomed to your inbox and your life.
Thanks for staying connected.

Perhaps I’ll see you at the lake in the rain.

With love,
Erin

p.s.

  • The next Tending the River of Grief Ritual will happen over Memorial Day weekend. Mark your calendar if you’d like to join me. More details coming soon. 
  • A day of Embodied Sitting Meditation at Two Arrows Zen Center with Erin & Carl in early June. Details forthcoming. 
  • We’re so excited that we’ve got many episodes recorded and our new podcast will be coming very soon!! Squeeee! :) 
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Erin

By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.

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