When we are younger, we don’t have to look very far to find one whom we call teacher. It is a gift many of us afford to take for granted, it is so pervasive to our young lives growing up. Go to school – there is a teacher; after school activities – there is another teacher. Everywhere you look, these hallowed sages of knowledge are around every corner, ready to arm you with the right equations and G-flat majors and proper ways to sink a lay up that will prepare you for life.
But at one point, you will turn around and realize that the roomful of people who have followed you around for every baby step, suddenly disappears. Gone are the coaches and mentors; you have stepped outside of the classroom and your professors are not coming with you. You are on your own.
Does this mean you simply must stop learning? If you don’t buy-in to what society tries to tell you, then no. If you decide to think for yourself, you will recognize that you never stop learning. There’s just too much to know. And even though at this new stage in life teachers seem to hide in between the woodwork, carefully camouflaged, rather than out in the open with big neon signs pointing out their services, they are still there. And they are just as plentiful; they are everywhere. Only now you will have to open your own eyes and seek for them with your heart open. Simply ask the questions, and the right person with the right answers will come to find you.
I want to introduce you to one of my teachers. I first met him through the pages of a book (written by another great teacher by the way – education never happens in isolated circles, people will always find their way to you through surprising links and chains). Reading his words, this man spoke to me off of the page and directly into the question I had burning in my chest. We didn’t have worksheets, or practice sessions. He gave me no tests, and I had no progress report to speak of. He simply gave me what I needed, having never been in the same room, or even in the same dimension, together before. This man, Gufu Watanabe, has already passed on from this world back in 2014, exactly four years before his wisdom ever came to land in my hands. But across a time and across a place a teacher will teach, because that is just what they do.
[Excerpt from The Abundance of Less by Andy Couturier]
“So, Gufu-san,” I ask, “what will you do with your life next?”
“I’m not sure what will happen. Almost everyone wants their lives to change, and they’re making a lot of effort toward that goal. But me, I don’t do much of that. Because even if you push things to change, they might not. And if you don’t do anything, they might change anyway. So I don’t try to force the impossible. If a change doesn’t come, there’s probably no need for it. And if there is a need, the impulse ‘Do it this way’ will come from my surroundings without any effort or thinking on my part.
“To think about it one way, I’m deciding, but in another sense…” there’s a very long pause, as if he’s not sure whether to speak it out loud, “it wasn’t me deciding. In reality, behind me there is some kind of ‘power’ acting, like a guardian spirit. I feel that. Somebody, something like a spirit says, ‘Work!’ Then-Go!-I work. It creates a feeling inside of me that says No matter what, I just have to do it.
“But just now, I don’t feel that very much. And in times like this, if I don’t have the feeling, I can’t produce very good work. I’d be just like some employee of a company – I hate the company and I hate what I’m doing, but I’m told to do it by the boss, and I do it for the money. So until the energy flows into me, I don’t do it. To say it better, I can’t do it.
“And there are a lot of things I want to do in life. I am not sure which is my main road. But even though I may not find it before I die, that doesn’t bother me. So these days, I am just setting everything in place, waiting to get pushed from behind, or pulled from above.
“That’s why the most important aspect of my life is freedom. And that’s why I chose this life in the mountains, to be around nature and to be free.
“Whatever your purpose in life is, you can’t push yourself into it. Otherwise it’s something you are doing just in order to have a job. Doing things ‘in order to’ or ‘for the purpose of’ is no good. I want to do what I really, really want to do. Then – yes! – I’ll do it, right now.”
– Gufu Watanabe, interviewed by Andy Couturier
Author’s Note: This is only one small (though powerfully impactful) lesson I have taken away from reading The Abundance of Less by Andy Couturier. The book itself is filled with thought provoking interviews of wise and wonderful men and women choosing an alternative life to the norm in busy and bustling Japan. I can’t recommend it enough. Take a look, think about your life, and make better decisions for yourself. You owe it to yourself to be happy. Until next time!
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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever” – Mahatma Gandhi 😉