I recently spoke of a “mentor” of mine and the responses surprised me. People seemed to be very resistant to the idea that I have a person in my life I turn to for advice when asking myself the tough questions.
If I am reading the responses right, people seemed to think that by honoring my teachers or mentors I was diminishing myself. The objections inspired me to take a deeper look at my own thoughts on these relationships.
I find it strange how uncomfortable we are in North America with words like “guru”, “mentor” and “teacher.” In most parts of the world the relationship between teacher and apprentice is an obvious part of life. You find these relationships in areas of skill. For instance, even in North America, if you want to become a welder you apprentice a tradesman. You work “under” someone who is more “masterful” at this practice and you build your skill alongside them. Is it really that odd to have someone you look up to when learning about compassion and relationships? Really?
I am shaped and molded by the wise mentors of my life. They have made a permanent impression on me. I am imprinted by my experience and everything I am now is affected by them.
I look at something as simple and superficial as the clothes in my closet and I see so many past influences: my first acting teachers in the wooden, silver and gold bangles I keep hanging on my dresser; I see Diane Keaton in the over-sized trousers I store next to my collection of men’s dress shirts and vests; I see three of my best friends in the silk, Indian scarves that drape over porcelain hooks coming out of my wall.
I am a cornucopia of those I have been inspired by, an amalgamation of their expressions and mine. Because I have known them I allow myself to be more flamboyant, more creative, and more, well. . . me. I choose bits of wisdom they offer in all ways and I benefit from that.
I am committed to openly admitting there is always more to learn and scouring the world for all types of “gurus.” This is, I believe, a practice of gratitude, respect, and enlightenment. I kind of think it is the point of existence. And in recognizing these teachers I am more defined in myself.
John Glover and Greg Beeman are two great mentors of mine in acting and directing.
Keith Raniere is a man who epitomizes mindfulness and compassion for me. Esther Chiappone is a fiercely truthful woman I know. They are both my mentors in being a true humanitarian.
My dear friend and editor Rob Gray is my mentor in communication and the beauty of a lyrical life.
My boyfriend is my mentor in unconditional love and finding balance through depthy play.
My best girl friends are my mentors in forgiveness, patience, and laughter. And good wine and chocolate.
My mom is my mentor in family. My nephew, my mentor in the simplicity of joy.
These people are all my mentors, people I consider teachers of great expertise, some teach through accomplishment, others through just being. In my opinion, to see greatness in others is to live a life of curiosity and humility.
I search for those who understand what I don’t and when I find someone who has qualities I long for, qualities I don’t yet understand, I pay attention.
I listen, I observe, and I grow.
But teachers are all around us: the Travelocity operator I decided to lose my patience with who challenged me to learn greater empathy and patience; the woman I drank a glass of wine with at The Henry Public House who told stories of her web romance and taught me that, internet or not, we are all just seeking some sense of love and belonging; the boisterous kid on a swing set who at the top of his lungs inspired the entire playground to join in singing an acapella remix of “I like to move it, move it” and reminded me of the inherent joy in free and unapologetic expression; all these wise mentors are disguised as everyday people, each offering valuable life lessons.
These moments that often go unrecognized are like the healthy meals that never get the appreciation they deserve. They propel us forward humbly and with quiet potency.
I want to thank each of you for continuing to teach me about the corners of humanity I could never see without you. I am eternally enriched because of your presence and participation. Know that I am grateful, enthusiastic, and open to hearing, reading, and watching your authentic and personal stories, thoughts and ideas. I am a better woman for it.