I was once invited to teach with the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, my teacher’s eldest son, in a situation where it wasn’t exactly clear what my status was. Sometimes I was treated as a big deal who should come in through a special door and sit in a special seat. Then I’d think, “Okay, I’m a big deal.” I’d start running with that idea and come up with big-deal notions about how things should be.
Then I’d get the message, “Oh, no, no, no. You should just sit on the floor and mix with everybody and be one of the crowd.” Okay. So now the message was that I should just be ordinary, not set myself up or be the teacher. But as soon as I was getting comfortable with being humble, I would be asked to do something special that only big deals did.
This was a painful experience because I was always being insulted and humiliated by my own expectations. As soon as I was sure how it should be, so I could feel secure, I would get a message that it should be the other way. Finally I said to the Sakyong, “This is really hurting. I just don’t know who I’m supposed to be,” and he said, “Well, you have to learn to be big and small at the same time.”
From The Pocket Pema Chödrön, pages 66–67