Teaching Tyrants — An Uncomfortable Gift
By Tanis Helliwell
It’s not uncommon for us to feel that, if we could only go on a spiritual retreat to get away from our problems, we’d find peace. We might envision meditating in an idyllic environment by an ocean or stream. Perhaps, in our fantasy, we are surrounded by other spiritually minded people exuding harmonious vibrations. We might even speak about the “real” world of our daily life and work, where we are subjected to time constraints, stress and difficult people, as being different from our “ideal” world that we would find on a spiritual retreat. I have found, as have so many others before me, that the “real” world and our real world issues follow us wherever we go and that spiritual retreats can be excellent learning opportunities to learn lessons, which we need in the “real” world as well.
I’d like to share with you a particularly poignant experience I had in learning this lesson. Some time ago, I was very eager to take a break from the “real” world of too much work and had signed up for a nine day silent retreat to reclaim my equilibrium and reconnect with my higher self. The first evening of the retreat the participants found meditation cushions and sat themselves on the floor. I did likewise.
Not five minutes of meditation had transpired before the woman in front of me blew her nose. This action was followed within the next few minutes with her huffing and puffing and making other bodily noises. Shortly thereafter she proceeded to take off some clothes. I can only surmise this, of course, as my eyes were shut. Would that my ears were. The entire forty-five minute meditation was spent in much the same fashion.
The next day I sat in the same place and noticed that the person on the woman’s left had now vacated his place. The following day the person in front of her did the same. I must admit that for the first two days I considered moving as well.
The Are Many Kinds of Teaching Tyrants
This woman is what the Cherokee call a “teaching tyrant”. To be specific, she is a nuisance tyrant. Teaching tyrants come with many different agendas. Some are angry. Some are “poor me’s” and try to evoke your sympathy. Others talk all the time and leave you exhausted. Other tyrants might be the king or queen tyrant who excels at the “I’m better than you” approach. What about the person with a vicious tongue who cuts people to shreds? He too is a tyrant. As is the one who talks behind your back, the gossip-monger. What all teaching tyrants have in common is that they push our buttons and, by doing so, they afford us an opportunity to rise above these annoyances. Often, if we have an issue with a certain kind of person in our life, we will find that the universe gives us lots of opportunities to learn not to become unbalanced by this kind of person. The goal is to maintain equanimity regardless of the people we meet and the inner and outer demands that are placed on us. Also, it’s important to remember that we may have some, if not all, of these aspects in ourselves and are therefore teacher tyrants for others.
It’s not just people that are teaching tyrants. There are physical tyrants when our body does not work the way we would like. There are environmental tyrants in the form of drinking substandard water out of our taps, or having to decide on the lesser of two evils— sunscreen or skin cancer. There are economic tyrants in not being able to afford the money to have the home or vacation that you would most wish. There are emotional and sexual tyrants in not being able to find an ideal mate. Yup. Tyrants are endless, so all the more reason to welcome opportunities to learn from these difficulties, which is what I attempted to do with the nuisance tyrant in my meditation retreat.
The Gift I Received
For nine days I sat behind this woman and found that my attitude towards her changed daily. From my initial annoyance, I moved to thinking to her as a person who was suffering and deserved compassion. Around mid-week these thoughts were replaced by not hearing her for most of the time so that I had succeeded in almost blocking her out. By the end of the week I was opening to listen to her again and this time I was filled with joy at being beside such an incredible person who although filled with her own issues had managed to sit in silence—well perhaps quasi silence for nine days.
At the end of the retreat when we were allowed to speak again a the man who had moved came up to me and said, “I want to thank you for your kindness.”
“For what?” I responded surprised at his comment.
“For sitting the entire retreat beside that unfortunate woman. I couldn’t take it and had to move.” he replied.
“I was glad I did,” I replied and felt the truth of my words.
Tanis Helliwell, a mystic in the modern world, has brought spiritual consciousness into the mainstream for over 30 years. Since childhood, she has seen and heard elementals, angels, and master teachers in higher dimensions. Tanis is the founder of the International Institute for Transformation (IIT), which offers programs to assist individuals to become conscious creators to work with the spiritual laws that govern our world.
Tanis is the author of The High Beings of Hawaii, Summer with the Leprechauns, Pilgrimage with the Leprechauns, Embraced by Love, Manifest Your Soul’s Purpose, Hybrids: So You Think You Are Human and Decoding Your Destiny.
For information on Tanis’ courses, click here.