“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” — Albert Einstein

I want to talk about my relationship with my friend and teacher, Robert Rabbin. It is an especially unique relationship in that a couple of years before I met him, I had sworn off teachers altogether. So, choosing to study with Robert took me by surprise.

Before I share with you my experience of Robert, I’d like to share my history with teachers, so you’ll better understand my story. I believe that the teacher/student relationship has somehow been distorted, lost, disrespected, and abused. I would like to offer you my reflections on what I have learned about the value and importance of teachers.

I have come to realize, after 20 years in the field of personal growth and development, how our image of ourselves is so strongly influenced by the teachers we have had in our lives. Through our teachers’ words and actions, we carry into adulthood our vision of who we are and what we can do. Our teachers can have a positive or negative effect on our attitude about learning and teaching, an effect that we often unconsciously carry with us throughout life. I have taken my experiences as a student and fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming a teacher, first of children in a school setting, and now with adults on a journey of self-discovery.

I have had many teachers in my lifetime. While we may think of teachers and students in relation to school, I like to think of my parents as being my first teachers. We are all born with innate instincts that no one can teach us; we know to cry when we are hungry or in pain, to laugh when we feel joy, to turn over, crawl, walk, and run. What my parents did teach me was how to use my instincts to create my life, and they provided me a safe environment with which to do so.

When I began school, I found another type of teacher and became a different type of student. In the beginning, my schoolteachers made learning fun; they challenged and encouraged me, allowed me to explore what I was capable of, to push beyond my limitations. I loved my teachers and loved learning so much that my favorite game to play with my younger sisters was “school”. Of course, I was always the teacher!

In later years, I became aware that not all teachers were the same. I learned that many teachers were more concerned with grades and performance, with being the best and the fittest. In those later years of my education, the joy of learning was lost as I was simply fed information to memorize by teachers who did not see me as an individual but simply another student. I no longer saw my teachers as people, either; my respect for them had started to fade.

I left school at the end of my 11th year; the joy of learning had been lost. I entered the workforce and found, in my colleagues, yet a new kind of teacher. Here, I was able to choose my teachers and my fields of interest; I felt as if I was free to learn once again. From these teachers, I learned how to apply my knowledge and skills, how to interact with and manage the people around me. While I could not name it at the time, those who I chose as my teachers not only had knowledge and information, they applied it in everyday life. They walked the walk and talked the talk and lived what they knew.

When I began my journey of self-discovery in order to enhance my personal relationships, understand family dynamics, and gain a greater sense of self, as well as become the best child care teacher I could, I met a teacher with whom I spent 15 years, first as a student and then as a teacher working alongside of her. With this teacher, I studied spiritual and personal development through meditation, opening to psychic and intuitive awareness, exploring diverse philosophies and esoteric beliefs, and engaging with my inner child. I was a full-time student of this teacher for two years before working side by side with her as a teacher. My dedication was so deep that I even lived on the same property with her for years.

During that time, I taught meditation and self-growth, and even taught child-care teachers internationally how to work more openly and effectively with children. I discovered the greatest reward in teaching was to witness the uniqueness, the potential, that lay dormant in each student and help them to give it life, not as the teacher or the world envisioned it should be, but as the student chose.

In those years with my teacher, I also began to recognize that teachers are people first, with their own strengths and weaknesses. I recognized that just as a student can project their fears and limitations onto a teacher, so a teacher’s fears can stifle the student. I learned that a teacher unable to face her own shadows could not guide her students to face, and move beyond, their own. I came to understand that not only does a teacher not know everything there is to know, but that a student need not accept as truth everything a teacher teaches.

Five years ago, I realized it was time to leave my teacher and to step fully into my own. I resigned from my roles as teacher and student. I made a conscious decision that I would from that moment on never seek or study with another teacher, that I would be my own teacher, that I was my own best teacher and student. I also decided that, before I could teach again, I had to become the teacher I had wanted to find. All these years I had been teaching that we are all more than we perceive ourselves to be, and I had helped my students find that potential within themselves. I had not found it fully for myself, and I now wanted to find that deeper place within me. I wanted more than tired rhetoric from my teacher. I wanted to experience myself, and so spent the next two years in deep self-inquiry

During that time of self-inquiry, I gained clarity on two premises that had formed my relationship with my teacher for so many years. First, I realized that as a student, it was necessary for me, and perhaps for all students, to be open and willing to surrender to what my teacher was teaching. It was important for me to trust my teacher, to practice and believe in what was asked of me. This willingness, openness, and trust on the part of a student is, I believe, what allows a teacher to help bring out the brilliance within each student.

The shadow to this concept of surrendering fully to one’s teacher turned out ultimately to be the reason I left mine. When a student is so open and trusting and believing, it can be too easy not only to place the teacher on a pedestal, to see the teacher as an all-knowing being, and to seek the teacher’s approval, but for a teacher to enjoy this adoration. I saw very clearly that I had lived by the idea that I needed to be a good and willing student at all times in order to gain the love of my teacher, and this had kept me from speaking my truth, had allowed me to betray myself. With this realization, I made a commitment that when I offered my truth, my students would know it was my truth and not theirs; I would always teach my students to seek their own truth.

Two years after leaving my teacher, I was provided an opportunity to attend a lecture on spiritual leadership and management. I did not want to go, I had no interest in what the speaker had to say or teach. It was only when I was told that I had somehow received the invitation in error and I should probably not attend that I decided I would go! And so I met Robert Rabbin, my teacher, mentor, guide, and a friend whom I highly value.

My first impression of Robert was of silence; he sat, still and quiet and calm, waiting for his audience to settle. In Robert’s silence, his audience became silent, and for the next six hours we all sat mesmerized. He spoke clearly, purposefully, creatively, beautifully. He spoke without once getting caught up in any one specific belief system. He did not respond to questions about abstract concepts or ideology or philosophies. Instead, he led each questioner within, asking them to relate their question to what was happening in their life at that moment.

Some time later, I invited Robert to the Gold Coast to offer his workshops. He shared his own life experiences, of his journey from the ashrams of India to the boardrooms of corporate America. He showed us how he had put what he had learned into direct action in the world; his teachings came not from books but from what he had lived. I saw once again his amazing ability to bring his listeners to clarity around their own issues.

When Robert told me that he had created a program called RealTime Speaking, a workshop about authentic self-expression in public speaking, I did not hesitate to sign up. During that workshop, I knew that I had found the teacher I needed. I had found the teacher who would not feed me information, or mold me in his own image, or place limitations of right or wrong around me, but a teacher who would guide me to my own unique self. In the RealTime Speaking workshop, I realized what I had seen in Robert that first time, the thing I could not name but was nonetheless mesmerized by. I saw his ability to speak with authentic self-expression.

Robert does not hide behind his role of teacher/facilitator. He does not offer information. He does not get caught up in stories. He is not interested in receiving your love or being put on a pedestal. In his workshops, without making anything or anyone right or wrong, good or bad, he provides a safe place for each person to touch their own authenticity, to arrive at their own answers. Old stories, out-dated self-images, unnecessary roles, all are released. There is no place to hide in Robert’s workshop. For many, it is the first time they have been truly seen and acknowledged. Not their stories, their roles, their beliefs, their projections. Them. Their authentic selves. It was that way for me. For the first time, speaking in front of a small group of 6 people, I heard not just my voice but I felt me, the me I had been hiding, the me I had been looking for.

I have witnessed Robert now in many workshops with diverse participants, from CEOs of large corporations to small business owners, from spiritual teachers and healers to keynote speakers, from music teachers to mums and dads. Never once have I seen or heard Robert tell anyone how to be or what to do. Instead, he invites them to explore, to experiment, and to find for themselves. He does what Robert does best; he brings out of each person their own uniqueness through their authentic self-expression. Robert teaches each person how to be present, to pay attention, to listen deeply, speak truthfully, and act creatively. These are Robert’s five principles of authentic living. He teaches people how to live from these principles in his Authenticity Accelerator programs.

Robert has helped me to realize the most significant and simple thing in the world...ME. He helped me to see that I was not my information, not my stories, not my roles or world ideas or concepts. These were all toys I could play with after I found and showed up as ME. He taught me what it is to live what I teach, to put into practice what my truth is. He does not teach what that truth is, for he also teaches that it is unique to each person. He understands that his value as a teacher is in leading his students to their own truth, for that which is effective for them, their life, their message. It is in the title of his book, RealTime Speaking: YOU Are The Message!

In my work with Robert, I have come to understand what a true teacher is, because Robert is the embodiment of that. Robert will not tell you what to do, what to learn, what to think. He will not feed you information as if it is the truth. He does not set himself above you. He does not hide himself behind his stories. Robert speaks and lives what he teaches. He never asks anyone to do what he has not already done. He hides behind nothing; with Robert, what you see is who he is. He does not teach information; he teaches you to live authentically. He can do that, because Robert lives authentically. He teaches you how to let go of your stories. He teaches you how to be present, how to be real, how to speak truthfully, how to be creative, how to be YOU; he can do that, because that is how he lives. Robert does not pretend to be anything other than who he is.

I have come to understand that a true teacher will teach you how to be, do, have, and live what it is you desire. Robert is a true teacher. For that reason, he is not only my teacher but my friend, teaching me every day how to live authentically simply by being who he is.

© Sherrie Hatfield 2010

Author's Bio: 

Sherrie Hatfield is a senior Mace Energy Method practitioner / trainer and a licensed Realtime Speaking facilitator.

For more information and to contact Sherrie, please visit her website at www.sherriehatfield.com

For information about Robert Rabbin please visit his websites at
www.robertrabbin.com and www.realtimespeaking.com.