We hear a lot about “Teachable Moments.” And we love the idea of them ─ that something important, perhaps even life changing happens and we get to make a conscious choice to be part of it. But beneath the flashy surface of these special events, in the deeper, quieter waters that we pass over as we sail along toward the ”bigger and better,” lies something, more subtle, more humble, meaningful and rewarding. Something that cannot be taught, or learned, that can only be “known” when grace allows it.
These are the “Un-Teachable Moments,” the moments that most people barely notice, and tend to ignore ─ that demand vigilance, and we can only recognize by staying awake, aware and ready for the instant when a word is spoken, an action is taken, the curtain spontaneously parts, and a simple everyday event takes on the mantle of a vision, a dream, a revelation that for the most part remains invisible in our daily lives.
Yesterday, I met a young man named Joe. He works as a tech in a doctor’s office. This doctor’s internet reviews award him four stars. People wait months to see him. And he is acknowledged as being exceptional at what he does, able to resolve the mystery of my affliction within a single visit. He gladly tells me how good he would be at my job as well as his own: he says he took psychology in college and loves to analyze people and tell them what they should do and how to live their lives (though this, of course, is not my “job,” not at all, but he thinks it is and he likes to talk). When he sees me writing something on a 3X3 post-it, he hands me an even smaller post-it to contribute to the cause . He considers himself quite the jokester, but there is little to discover beyond his highly honed medical skills, and his love of himself
But Joe, the tech. . . Oh, what a different story. He does his work quietly, and though his manner is reserved, he engages easily and makes me feel comfortable and cared for. It’s difficult to explain how by doing nothing at all he creates this effect. The sterile, windowless room where he questions me about my history becomes a haven of peace. His touch is gentle, his voice compassionate, his words resonate with kindness. I cannot resist asking where he is from (Hong Kong) and thanking him for his gentility.
“I’ve met many other technicians but none like you,” I say. But my words fall short. For the fact is I’ve met few people in any area of my life like Joe. He tells me that he wants to ease the burden of my pain, to make this experience less unpleasant, more tolerable. His modesty is palpable. At this moment, he becomes Master of the living Tao. Being of service is his path to the light. And I sense that this service goes far beyond myself. I’m just a small part of what’s happening in this room. One of the movable parts.
This is the “Un-teachable moment,” and I feel privileged to bear witness ─ the moment when there is nothing to teach and nothing to learn. When I just need to be present and allow myself to succumb to the knowledge that none of this is about me. It’s about the manifestation of kindness, the simple salvation of the world. And I am blessed to be here, along for the ride.The rest is commentary.
The following imagery exercise may open you to your own Un-Teachable moment in your daily life.
Imagery from the Tao Te Ching, * Chapter # 2
Intention: To cultivate wei wu wei. The art of doing/ not doing
See yourself act without doing. Know how it is to teach without saying anything. See things arise and let them come. See things disappear and let them go. Know how it is to have without possessing, to act without expectation. When your work is done, forget it. This is why it lasts forever.
*The Tao Te Ching, from which this imagery is adapted, is the classic Chinese manual on the art of living.