A Tortoise on a Pole

As I was reading through the many letters I kept from the students I have taught over the years, I came across two that stood out and nicely summed up what teachers everywhere in the many guises they have, do. Even if we are not teachers by profession we all sometimes take on the role of the teacher, and at other times that of the student, without consciously realising it. The one student wrote that her favourite quote of all time is: “If you see a tortoise on a pole, know that he did not get there by himself.” How true! We all at times need a helping hand, and in turn have to be the helping hand.

Carol Cumes wrote in the 2nd issue of Odyssey Magazine for 2011 about the concept of “ayni” which describes the interdependent way of living by the Quechua people of the Andes. She explains it to be more than simple reciprocity. It is “today for you, tomorrow for me”: they share all work and help one another, as they know that at some time the favour will be returned. How different from most modern societies where it is most often than not everyone for him- or herself!

The other student started her letter by saying, “The most important people in life are those who show us what we are able to do, those that change your life, not by doing anything amazing, or huge, but by encouraging you. They change your future, and make you succeed, and most of the time, they don’t realise how much they have done”. It is often when we don’t try, but merely stay true to who we are, that we have an effect on the people around us. Honouring ourselves and our own unique truth by living an authentic life is often more inspiring to others than we can ever imagine. In order to live an authentic life it is important for us to discover those things we are truly passionate about and then grow and expand them.

Osho tells as story of a Sufi sage who on asking for advice, had the following to say: “Do good, and throw it in the well.” In other words, when you do good, you should forget about it immediately, and not become proud and boastful of your own deeds. If we are inspired to give, we should do so with a pure heart and no ulterior motives.

We all want to be seen and acknowledged, and if we start doing that with the people around us, without expecting anything in return, somewhere along the line, we will receive blessings in abundance… This is the law of karma, after all!


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