Happy Mid-Autumn! May you enjoy a joyful time with your loved ones.
The first time I heard that saying was from Jon Kabat-Zinn, father of modern mindfulness, a few weeks ago when I attended his retreat.
Since leaving the retreat, I have been reflecting on what I learned, with the hope to consolidate my learnings. Reading that phrase felt like a wake-up call.
Zooming back to the first day of the retreat, just before the formal opening, I was lining up for food when I saw Jon in person, for the first time, after watching him on video, listening to his guided meditation and taking courses he developed and influenced for six years. At that moment, my heart dropped a beat and my heart rate increased.
After dinner, as we gathered in the meditation hall for the opening session, when Jon spoke the first sentences, tears ran down my cheeks. We were invited to share about our intentions for being there. I shared what seemed most immediate, with the fellow 200 retreatants and Jon: to understand the meaning behind such strong emotional and physical reaction seeing the teacher.
He said, in a lighthearted tone: “yes, you will see me here at the dining hall everyday. Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.”
In the following four days, we practiced, with his disciplined approach, complemented by kindness and wisdom. The growing love and respect the group has towards him was evident, and my excitement has not significantly declined.
Perhaps noticing that, he said one day, rephrasing the Buddha: “focus on looking at the moon, the teaching itself; don’t get distracted by the finger pointing at the moon, i.e. the teachers.”
I felt ashamed that I seemed to be looking up to and distracted by him. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling but it was very real.
Leaving the retreat, I had a sense of heaviness, different from the lightness and insight I felt after previous retreats. Slowly it started to emerge that admiring teachers and boys, and putting them on a pedestal, has been a strong habitual pattern I have had for a decade. Perhaps a part of me thought they could make me better.
I finally saw how unhealthy it has been: to put anyone so high up, essentially placing myself low and tiny, strapping myself of an agency to decide, to affect, to be.
When I was able to face that realisation with kindness and firmness, it brought clarity, acceptance, and opened up room for shifting the pattern that no longer serves me. Emerged with it more trust in myself: to stand on my own feet, not under the shadow of another human being, but actively creating, driving my life.
My intention was answered. Complex emotions and heaviness took time to process, but it came to be the lesson I most needed to learn. It always is, if I pay attention.
Now when I look at the moon, I am reminded to trust – myself, and be my best teacher 🙂