The Importance Of Having A Teacher

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Don’t turn your head. Keep looking

at the bandaged place. That’s where

the light enters you.”

You’ve probably come across this quote. It is more often referenced as “The wound is the place where the light enters you”. My version is taken from the translation of Colman Barks in his book, The Essential Rumi. There are also two lines after it that are almost never included after the first couple sentences:

“And don’t believe for a moment

that you’re healing yourself.”

Here, Rumi is referring to teachers. Rumi was a prolific poet, and his work, written in the 13th Century, strongly resonates today. In fact, (if my Facebook News Feed is anything to go by), he is one of the most frequently quoted poets who ever lived. In this case, and as with so many things, it is important to look a bit deeper.

Actually, back up a few lines in the poem and this emerges:

“Trust your wound to a teacher’s surgery.

Flies collect on a wound. They cover it.

Those flies are your self-protecting feelings,

Your love for what you think is yours.

Let a teacher wave away the flies, and put a plaster on the wound.”

In a world enraptured by sound bites and news stories so short they are happily touted as only requiring two minutes to read, it’s hard to understand the value of the silent and steady work that goes into the process of self-development, or the pitfalls of self-development—and oh, how many pitfalls there are.

For humans, when emotions like pain, hurt, jealousy, resentment and anger come into our lives, what we want most in this world to move away from them. Push away the bad feelings, welcome the good and then repeat the cycle. The flies Rumi is referring to here are the ways in which we hide ourselves from our pain: thoughts we tell ourselves, justifications for situations, any number of ways that we humans try to ‘fix’ and ‘fix’ quickly.

So why? Why do I have to give away my power to some ‘teacher’ who doesn’t know the details of my life or what the actual problems are, or any of the things that are important to my story? We all have tendencies, ways with which we protect ourselves as Rumi points out here, but a teacher—a good teacher—will be able to help guide you through the myriad of illusions the mind creates while you try to find your oneness with this earth. Boredom and ego often reveal themselves quickly: “I don’t want to sit here”; “I already feel better—on to the next thing!”; or worse yet, “I got it now, all good.” A good teacher will see you for whatever your tendencies are and direct you in a manner that you will discover these things for yourself. Remember the concept of ‘wax on, wax off’? This is the part that requires faith and steadiness.

I am not a Rumi scholar by any means, but I have seen and felt the benefit of teachers in my life. From those who taught me how to read and write, to those who have directed me on my spiritual path in the last few years, I would have never have gotten as far as I have if I hadn’t at some point garnered the faith required to let go of myself and all my self-protecting feelings, to be their students and to learn from their wisdom. That being said, it’s a work in progress. But for now, I’d like to encourage you to see the truth in Rumi’s words and find (or just simply identify) those teachers in your life.

With deep gratitude to my teachers, Namaste.