I have a lot of books. Really…a LOT of books. Last night I decided to review my bookshelves with a singular question in mind: “If I were to move, would I want to carry this book with me?”
I went through the three bookcases in my bedroom and with that criteria, I managed to take about 20 books off the shelves. Which was only a very small dent.
There were two books in particular that stumped me – Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth. I’ve tried to read each of them and for some reason they just don’t connect with me. I’ve never gotten more than a few pages in.
As I sorted my books, I was chatting with a friend on the phone. I mentioned to him that I was having a conundrum – keep the books because I know they’re something I should want to read, or get rid of them because they’ve been sitting their unread for so long?
As I said that out loud, I realized – I feel guilty every time I look at these books. So many other people have gotten so much out of them, clearly I’m the faulty one for not getting into them.
That did it – if the books bring up a consistent feeling of guilt in me, they’ve gotta go. Why not fill those spaces on my bookshelves with books that make me happy??
All this happened in my head in a split second. Then my friend said something else interesting: “Yes, they’re good books, but he’s saying the same thing that a hundred other teachers are saying, just in his own words.”
Which reminded me of another truth that I’ve been learning many times the last few years – there may be hundreds or thousands of teachers who are teaching the same material. And that’s okay because the student will find the particular teacher who is speaking in the words and the tone that speaks to him or her.
A friend told me a parable about Jesus once that really affected me. I don’t know my Bible verses so I can’t tell you the exact story but it’s something like this… Jesus was herding sheep and he said that he never worried about his sheep wandering off to another shepherd because his sheep knew his song. Likewise, he didn’t worry about another shepherd’s sheep mistakenly joining his flock, because those sheep knew their shepherd’s song.
We each know and recognize our teachers when we see them or hear them. We can trust ourselves to recognize our teachers and we can trust ourselves to pass by the teachers who don’t work for us.
Likewise, as teachers we can trust that the right students will find us. We don’t need to worry that there are too many teachers… and some of them are working in ways that make us uncomfortable… and some of them are only out for money… and they don’t teach the way we would…and students are learning things in a way that doesn’t seem right… and… and… and… and… and…
Ultimately each student will find the teacher who is singing their song.
It’s not my business who is teaching what and how. The only thing that is my business is to teach the people who find me and to keep doing my own internal work so that I’m the best teacher I know how to be.
All that from a few books on a bookshelf. Thanks Mr. Tolle. I may not have read your books, but they gave me some important insights anyway.