The Teacher Within

leadership self reliance Feb 04, 2020
The Teacher Within. October 2016, Requeredonde, France.
It’s the middle of the night, an anxious feeling wakes me up. I am not happy to be here. Some of the people who live here have this strange look in their eyes, the “I drank the Kool-Aid” look, like they are not fully in charge of their own lives. I have a weird feeling about this place and don’t feel safe.
There is a commotion outside. I peak out the window looking over the balcony, and I see a man running shirtless on the snowy lawn, swerving around statues of deities and saints, screaming at the top of his lungs: "You guys don’t know what they did to us, what they do here. If only you knew."
Shivers run down my spine as I imagine why this man is so distressed. I panic. Where the heck am I and how did I end up here?
I’m upset. I feel shaky, ungrounded, and I can’t calm myself down. No amount of deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can keep me from spiralling downward into this emotional black hole. I am usually quite skilled at keeping perspective when I get this overwhelmed. I am used to taking a step back and I looking for the intelligence in every situation. There is always intelligence, how many times I have said this to others! But I can’t see it here. And the more I contemplate the situation, the more stuck I feel, and the deeper I seem to be sinking into confusion. I feel trapped not knowing if this is my fear speaking or if there is an actual threat here.
To make things worse, I am 3000 miles away from home, from my tribe to whom I would normally reach out to for help.
Instead, I am alone in a cold and austere monastery bedroom near a Buddhist temple on a mountain top, hours deep into the French countryside.
Minutes later I see a French police car pull up and take the man away. I text my host, asking for any information about the intruder, but no one seems to have seen anything, not even my travelling partner. It’s like it didn’t happen.
Now I am paranoid and fear grips me. What have I created here? What does this all mean? With the bedroom light on and my calming playlist blaring, I try to fall back asleep. I know I have to do something about this in the morning. What has been left unsaid is eating me up inside.
Three days earlier, I landed in Paris to meet up with Anita Moorjani, a client, a friend and a beautiful and talented spiritual teacher with a bigger than life presence and an incredible gift of healing. Hours before I’d left the Halifax airport where my 7-year-old daughter had tearfully begged me not to go on this two-week business trip.
As an agent, an event producer, and a manager through my former company, Autopoetic Ideas, I travelled to different speaking engagements around the world with multiple speakers over the years, often flying out for days, sometimes weeks, offering management and assistance to thought-leaders in the fields of wellness and spirituality. Travelling was not out of the ordinary.
But this time, something felt different. My enthusiasm wasn’t the same. In the past six months, the work wasn’t flowing in the same way it used to. Instead of being exciting, these kinds of trips began to feel more like chores, and I wasn’t sure why. My daughter could feel my hesitation, and she was mirroring it to me with her tears. The whole situation made me doubt myself and I boarded the plane unsure and concerned.
I was meeting Anita in Paris where we would catch the next flight to the south of France for an international conference she was scheduled to speak at, hosted at a Buddhist monastery.
I adored working with her. Supporting her work was such an honor and a joy for me. It felt divinely appointed, like a sacred mission written in our soul contracts. So when we met at the airport in Paris, we were delighted to see each other. We embraced, glad to be on another adventure, and getting to spend time together again.
When we settled into our seats at the airport lounge, she informed me that there had been some last-minute changes in our plans. She had tried to call me a couple of days ago to let me know about it but hadn’t been able to reach me.
She said the conference was cancelled. A French newspaper released an article the week before denouncing the abuse of power that allegedly went on at the monastery and the backlash from the press was so bad that it made it unsafe for the Rinpoche himself to come to his own centre to host the conference.
The director of the place generously extended the invitation for us to come and stay, and enjoy the property for a personal retreat, as their guests. Because we had to go back to Paris for another conference the week after, Anita felt it would be nice for us to go together, thought I would agree, and didn’t try to reach me again after that one time.
I was stunned. The first thought that went across my mind was: why would you make that decision for me? I just left my daughter distraught. I can justify leaving for work, but for a personal retreat, I might have made a different choice. In fact, at that moment, I felt like going back home.
But I didn’t say anything. I told myself I should be grateful to have the opportunity to travel and discover new places, being a guest at a world-renown spiritual centre, and accompanied by a person I love and admire. After all, this was an all-expense paid trip and I was working for her. I can do this, I told myself. I should do this. I didn't say anything and we went on to board our next flight.
That night, as we made the 2-hour drive up the mountain on a twisty and narrow country road, in the middle of the night, a feeling of unease washed over me. I am sure you can relate to this feeling. Although intellectually it all made sense, I felt like I was in the wrong place, like I was putting myself in danger somehow. I know this feeling well. It is the one I have when I betray myself for the sake of reason, common sense, or “the right thing to do”. Deep down I wanted to turn around and go home.
But I kept negotiating with my self, trying to convince myself I was meant to be there. I told myself there must be a reason why I have found myself here, feeling the way I am feeling. This will be a learning experience.
For three days I felt this unsettling feeling in me grow into resentment, and I blamed myself for not trusting the feeling I had in the airport in Paris. On that third day at the monastery, I woke up after the unsettling incident of the mad man on the lawn, and I knew I had to do something about this, I had to say something.
That day, Frederic our host, a beautiful man who is a senior teacher at the centre, took us out for lunch in Montpellier and although I felt incredibly unsure, as we walked down the cobblestone street toward the bistro, I told Anita how upset I was. I told her I was feeling out of place, unsafe, and confused. She continued to listen attentively, lovingly as she does, while I shared with her I wished that she had tried harder to tell me about the cancellation before the trip. I told her that leaving my daughter so upset, knowing that I didn’t have to do that, felt like I was betraying her.
She right away apologized for causing me any kind of pain. She said she had no idea I was bothered by the trip and never intended on hurting my feelings. I believed her, I know this was not deliberate.
After a long pause, she looked at me and said: "I know why this is happening to you."
Frederic's eyes widened. “Oh, this is going to be good,” he said with a grin on his face. A part of me was annoyed because in that moment the last thing I wanted was to be coached. My ego was so bruised.
She said: “You are feeling like this because you are a teacher Anne. Not an agent, a producer nor a manager. You are not meant to be supporting other people’s work anymore. You are meant to share yours. In fact, if your calling were to support my work, you would not have felt the way you felt when the plans changed.”
It hit me like a lightning bolt.
In my core, I knew she was right. But I was embarrassed that she saw right through me. It felt like I had been found out as a fraud. I prided myself on providing seamless experiences for my clients. Believing strongly in the good they were doing in the world, I wanted them to feel supported when they were in my environment. I had let her down. I was unclear of my value to her now that I wasn’t able to do what was expected of me. (Mother issues much! lol)
Our host looked at me and with a large smile said: "Do you see the gift she is giving you?"
I knew it was huge, but man, did I ever feel small. All my protective barriers were down. I was vulnerable, emotionally decloaked in front of two teachers, and there was nowhere to run or hide. I was flustered having been exposed at a time I was feeling emotionally run down. But this was another notch on my spiral upward of my own evolution. I was revisiting an old conditioned pattern of putting authority figures on a pedestal and I was about to move through another expansion.
As the day went on, the magnitude of this shift began to sink in and I was able to connect with the feeling that was underneath the shame, which is the excitement that comes when you finally reclaim a rejected part of your soul. I was so grateful for the clear mirror she provided, even if ever so bold. I knew things were going to change, and it made me a little apprehensive.
When I returned to the monastery, I called up a close friend back home and she helped me process the emotions tangled up in the events of the past three days. After what felt like a cathartic and healing conversation, I was much better. The sun came out the next morning on the little town that had been overcast and wet for days and my experience there completely turned around. It had all been a mirror reflecting the conflict that lived inside me, even the shirtless man who seemed to have "lost it" amidst the effigies of deities.
I realized how I still unconsciously placed certain people on pedestals, feeling less than, like I did with my mother, always reaching upward for their love and approval and putting my identity and value in what I could be for them. I saw that I also was still letting others be in charge of my life, not fully driving my own bus, insecure and unsure of my capabilities. The metaphors were all around me.
I would come to know, two years later, that my intuition was indeed picking up on something going on behind the scenes at the monastery. There was, in fact, an abuse of power, a deep violation of the feminine, and the Rinpoche eventually stepped down in the face of allegations of sexual misconduct. The betraying of my own soul is a theme in my life. I have violated her so many times for so long that this is the path: the truth comes to the surface and I get to integrate, each time, the pieces of me I left behind so long ago.

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