Earlier this month at my most recent shaman class through The Four Winds, we put our teachers in the fire. No, not literally! Everyone is safe. We did a fire ceremony where we put a stick in the fire as a representation of all of our teachers. I made a note of everyone who I could think of that was a teacher of mine. This included all of my academic teachers, my spiritual teachers and people who taught me lessons through my interactions with them. I wrapped that note around a stick and put it in the fire as a representation of holding onto the beautiful teaching but letting go of any attachment to the teacher.
This did two things for me. First it reminded me to internalize the teachings and make them my own. To shift through all the things I was taught and make a conscious decision about which teachings I am going to embody and which things it is time to let go of because they don’t serve me today. Maybe the only thing some of your teachers taught you is how you didn’t want to be in life. That in itself is a great teaching. Second when we put our teachers on a pedestal, they often disappoint us because they, too, are human. Releasing our teachers in the fire allows them to be human.
How many times have you seen it played out on the news: a figure who many people look up to and idolize, ends up having feet of clay? And people are so distressed that person they idolized has screwed up in such a very human way. Others take glee in seeing an idol knocked down. And this surprises us, why? We are holding others to a standard of perfection that we know we ourselves can’t reach. It is easier to be angry at the person whose personal display of humanness reminds us that we all are fallible.
In the last few days I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about perfectionism. My first video post was about stepping out of the need to be perfect and have “it” all together and participating in life. Putting your teachers in the fire is another version of it for me. It is about holding that we may receive perfect teachings from imperfect teachers. And it is about connecting with your own truth that comes from always being willing to sort the helpful from the not so useful, the golden from what appears to be gold but actually has no value.
Let’s honor all those who have taught us, but not hold them to the standard of perfectionism that we wouldn’t want to be held to ourselves.
What do you think? Can you hold onto the teachings but release the teacher? Is this an important concept for you? Why or why not?