“Becoming a Student” by Ellen Carlin

Posted 7/25/13

I’ve been sitting zazen for five years now. I took the sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts and became a Lay Buddhist just over one year ago.  Despite going through motions of moving down the pathway toward finding my Buddha nature, I’ve barely scratched the surface.  My practice has become more regular lately, though I rarely sit outside of sangha.  I enjoy sitting at home, in front of my own altar, but I struggle with the discipline to sit daily, even for a short time. I’ve downloaded the Insight Timer app to my iPhone, but have yet to use it.

Graphic for Ellen's PostI’m considering taking a teacher to guide me on my Buddha way path. Although I consider Domyo to be my teacher already, we’ve yet to enter into a formal teacher-student relationship.  I seem to gravitate toward structure and I struggle with building it for myself. For example, I belong to a group that offers a supportive program on public speaking. Additionally, I am drawn to partnerships—whether with a spouse, a teammate, business partner, a coach, or a therapist. I like being married and sharing my home and day-to-day activities, even though my husband and I are quite different from one another by nature and do tasks around the house independently. When he’s unavailable, I prefer going to a play, museum or movie with a friend rather than by myself. 

I like working with an “other”, collaborating, problem-solving, inventing, and even creating. It may be because I lack the self-confidence to “do” on my own, I’m basically lazy, or simply because I just like the companionship and stimulation that a compatible cohort brings to the table.  I’m inclined to think it’s the latter reason, I just like being with another trustworthy person to sort things out. I worked successfully for many years with a therapist; done that.  Though I finished my degrees years ago, I still take courses often because I have a healthy curiosity and a thirst to learn. All of this points to why I want a sensei to guide me on my spiritual journey. 

Author and Dharma teacher Pema Chödrön speaks of the roles and responsibilities within the teacher/student relationship, “See, the idea here is that entering into an unconditional relationship with one person is a training for staying open to the paradoxical nature of reality. When you enter into an unconditional relationship, you experience both like and dislike, approval and disapproval; you experience profound horror and heartbreaking love. And then you get to discover if your heart and mind are big enough to contain the complete picture—and not just the part that you approve of.”

I’m feeling ready to take on such a relationship. The next step is to find a teacher who will take me on.