Toxic Teaching


Toxic Teaching

Ramon Castellanos




“We teach best what we most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

At some early junction in my life, and really not that long ago, I considered my primary trade craft, that of being a teacher. The job was teaching others a variety of skills, that categorically could fall under the guise of “personal development” or “personal cultivation”. 

Practices, spirituality, magic, meditation, perspectives, de-armoring, sexuality, nutrition and a few other skill sets. 

Upon further inspection using hindsight as a 20/20 lens, it was simply too much variety and way too much to be a “vessel” for. It is not that I was “faking it”…as I honestly and intently studied and underwent conscious growth in all those elements of life. A primary interest of mine, is simply how to be fully alive as a human being in the 21st century. A broad field of inquiry for sure. 

The issue for me in this case was that I thought I needed to be a teacher of all of it, and in that, I found myself living in a toxic marriage with the art and skill of teaching itself. In many ways, I suffered for my “art”. How much could be learned, and applied? This was done over and over again, despite my soul yearning for less or yearning for solidarity. Yet, it was done under the false belief that to be the best teacher I could be, I had to absorb the most possible skills I could, in order to address the total human condition. 

A really foolish and impossible task. Of course that never happened, and my pathway as a teacher experienced a sudden death for that reason and for many more that are beyond the scope of this share. It simply was not coherent for me, despite being under the impression from a very young age that it was. Maybe someday, the desire will be reborn, but that phoenix is on shaky ground. 

The point of all this is that all professionals must make sacrifices for their craft, and it can at times be turning something you personally need and love into a job. A demand. Something you must do to get paid. In the world of teaching others “personal development or cultivation” the price “can” be forgoing a practice designed to suit your needs, and forging one designed to suit the needs of others. It was for me. 

This of course could have just been a reflection of my own shortcomings as a teacher. I have realized that a more precise and/or focused skill set would have been more congruent, but because of how it was approached by me, my health, spiritual vitality, and practice suffered. A lot. 

My practice has shifted progressively since dropping the mantle of teacher. I no longer measure the value of what is being done by how useful it is to others, and simply measure it by how useful it is to me. Do I want to do it? Do I need to do it? What is the reward? For who?

I do not ask myself how to structure a practice in a way that can create a platform for other people, which was a consistent shadow in my teaching days. I do not need to be an example, or god forbid, a warning. So much so that it is a new sensation to simply “not care”. It was much harder to simply do something because it was desired or needed, when you had limited energy and bandwidth for practice as a whole, and yet your practice was a part of your job. 

I do a lot less, and yet with more depth and power. My practice has undergone a more fluid transformation, and has become increasingly more organic. Would this have been possible as a teacher? Sure, of course, but for me it never worked that way. 

I had an involved practice then, and while my practice is simpler, it is still “involved” by many standards, but it comes naturally in this case because no longer is training in the various skills I enjoy a part of my job. I do them because they do me more often than not.

I cannot say that this is only because of “not being a teacher”, as deeper more personal healing has occurred. Yet this space to heal has been made available by not measuring the value of the healing work in question along some logistical set of pros and cons, or teaching viability. I love my practice more and more as a result. It is mine, for me, and no one can touch it. 

So upon reflecting on the entry quote by Richard Bach… 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” 

As a teacher we are automatically student, and vice versa, as both archetypes exist together as a continuum. I often wonder if teachers were not teaching, to what degree would they still work a particular set of skills? Do we teach because we want to learn or do we learn because we want to to teach?  I suspect the answer is different for different people, and at different times. My experience is the relationship between the two can be a tricky one, and also, under certain circumstances a toxic one. The dose makes the poison. 

 My problem or simply how I am wired, is that if I am not consistently engaging with something, its importance becomes greatly diminished in my consciousness and thus its usefulness to others is not readily apparent. 

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