“When you are ready to learn, your teacher will appear.” So goes a *maxim that helps us realize how, at just the right time, wisdom is readily available to us. During my lifetime, I’ve experienced the truth—and usefulness—of this saying. It’s helped me be aware of one of the ways God can bless me with the insights of others. I’ve wondered whether this aphorism also works the other way around: “When you are ready to teach, a student will appear.”
I think I’ve learned enough about life, personally and professionally, to qualify as a teacher. I’ve also experienced moments when no students appeared. Perhaps the same thing has happened to you?
When that happens, I feel caught in a bind. On the one hand, I might just start “teaching” in the hopes that some of what’s useful or important will find its way to a possibly eager student. That approach could seem pushy or arrogant, though. On the other hand, it might make better sense to wait for someone to ask for help, respecting their right to seek answers as they see fit. In that case, I could be waiting for a long, long time! Perhaps you have been caught in the same dilemma?
What’s operating here is the feeling of responsibility—both to those whose legacy I have received and to those who could benefit from it—that none of the knowledge and insight I’ve been given will end with me. Part of my lifework is to make sure that this teacher-to-student chain continues through the generations. When I am ready to be a teacher—of any kind—I must find students who are ready to learn.
I can imagine that the same yearnings live inside of you—that some of your children, friends, grand-children or colleagues would value you as a teacher, mentor, coach or prophet. If those hopes are part of your sense of purpose, I want to assure you that this backward-maxim can work—students will appear!
They’re not going to show up while you sit around, staring wistfully out the window or listening for a knock on the door. They’re not going to be tricked or forced into being your pupils. And when they realize that they want to find a teacher, they’re not going to announce themselves to you in dazzling fanfares or grand moments. Instead, their presence will sneak up on you—in conversations, seemingly nonchalant questions or implied invitations for your thoughts or help.
Out in the places where you interact well—admirably, respectfully, joyfully, wisely—you will find folks who are looking for what you have to offer. Your experiences, your knowledge, your emotions, your spiritual depth—all of these qualities might fit with the needs and aspirations of learners who will find you. In your mutually appreciative relationships, you will find openings for students to show themselves—as well as places where you might become the student they are looking for!
When these opportunities present themselves, be ready to be the best teacher you can be, equal parts listener and teller. Eager and respectful, you can establish a teacher/student relationship that will be satisfying and useful.
Both you and your student(s) can become a forwards-and-backwards maxim!
*A number of variations of this proverb have been attributed to the Buddha, Native American wisdom and Theosophical Society writings.