The Master

The master waits and the student seek him out.
A student who’s interested comes to the master. He has no skill but a tenacity to learn. Nothing nearing commitment, but there’s a seed inside him that will grow once he begins to find the wonders of the inner world of the craft.
But for now, he just has lots of questions for the master.
The master listens to his questions and then instructs the student to practice a skill. The student has trouble at first but the master is patient and repeats several times the skill while the student watches intently.
The student is frustrated but inside he knows that it’s something he can figure out if just given enough time. And the student has seen the master at his craft and knows that the master knows far more than him and so he can learn from the master and trust the master.
So the student keeps at it. Over time the student improves and goes back to the master to show the master. The master watches and then shakes his head and shows the skill again. The student feels a little disappointed, the student feels like a failure and that maybe he won’t ever get it. But then the master shows a new skill and the student’s attention is on this new skill. Again the master repeats the new skill and again the student watches intently and practices. The master has the student practice both skills and corrects and demonstrates for the student several times, patiently.
Over time the student keeps practicing, each new step keeps the student from thinking too much about whether he’s any good, whether other’s think he’s any good. All he can think about is improving and wondering about how to apply these skills and when to apply it and how to improve the skill and how to look like the master when practicing this skill, and whether the master will be satisfied with him enough to teach the next skill. The student is immersed without realizing that he’s immersed. This is what it feels like to be passionate, but the student is blind to his own passions, a blindness that is also a part of being impassioned.
But one day the student hits a wall. All those voices, that were drowned out so far with the deep interest in the craft, have been getting louder and louder lately and the student is vulnerable to what they say. The voices within the student ask
“What use are all these skills?”
“Am I really any good?”
“Who am I kidding, I’ve been trying so hard for so long and I still doesn’t look anywhere near close to the master.”
“Have I been trying hard? I guess not if this is the outcome. I’m just a loser”
“Master is probably really disappointed in me, and he’s so great for continuing to teach me anyways.”
Now every time the student practices a skill, he feels like he’s bumbling it, he probably looks horrible, people are probably cringing on the inside when they see him practice. They don’t say anything of course because he looks so horrible.
The student wonders just how bad he looks so he finds a mirror.
“Oh god look at that, master doesn’t look like that at all when he does it”
“It’s been weeks of this and this is the best that you can do? You have so far to go, you are more confused now than you were when you started”
“I’m never going to do this in public ever”
But then the student wonders just why? Why does he look so bad but when he sees the master it looks good. Maybe, oh yes, the master never does it this way, it’s more like this. And that right there? No that’s not how it’s done, it’s more like this. And what the hell is this? Where did this come from, the master never does this.
After some practicing in the mirror, the student feels a little closer to the truth. And the voices are silenced.
The student continues training and every once in a while goes back to the mirror and tweaks little things here and there and the student feels good improving his craft.
And so the master continues to teach and the student continues to learn. Some days the student hasn’t improved on the previous day’s skill, so the master is patient and doesn’t teach the next set of skills. But over time the pace of the skills increases but not because of the master, the master just waits for the student to be done and wanting to learn the next skill. The master goes at the student’s pace, knowing the small signals that indicates that the student wants more and when the student doesn’t want more. And when the student wants more than he is ready for, the master still teaches, but the student quickly realizes that he’s not ready and the master senses the student’s reluctance to continue and so the master patiently waits.


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