In the last few days I’ve had several interesting encounters that I would put under the heading of asking for guidance. In one instance someone asked me to be their mentor/sponsor in the spiritual realms of working a 12-step recovery program. Here I encounter the two fold issue of my learning to temper my input and make it suitable to the situation and the person, while at the same time being a little challenging, in the sense of there may be resistance to what I offer or suggest, because the person has some ideas that they cherish and want to hold on to. This usually takes the form of glib, well-worn stock phrases like “I’ve always felt, (thought, said, etc.), that…Or, “I’ve never heard of anything like that (in Buddhism in this case)…” Both of those attitudes are not the best for the ostensible “student”. Oh, how many times have I said or thought those things in my own process of learning. But, what I know today is that if I’ve said or thought things like that 1,247 times, then I have had to drop those opinions and be willing to learn; 1,248 times.
In the other case, an old time trainee and friend in our sangha called to ask for some advice regarding some family dynamics involving issues with which I have a raft of experience and training. Most of what I said was boiler-plate type of insight, but a few things were of direct experiential content. My friend listened to all of it and, I’m sure, was able to use some as new info, take some as reinforcement of his own knowledge and experience and incorporate it into his decision/action process.
In both of the above instances it was my opportunity to grow and learn. Even as I’m formulating what I’m saying I realize I’m formulating it for the purposes of my own clarification and learning, and whether someone else profits from it is strictly up to them. That, in turn, gives me more information in how very cautious I must be when proffering solicited advice/opinion.
I of course have a lot to learn in the unsolicited advice/opinion part of my interactions with people, but that’s the topic for a gigantic book I should be working on. Thank god for “Maybe tomorrow?”…