When the teacher is the teaching: Tom Best.

I figure I spent a thousand hours with Tom Best between 2007 and April 21, 2012, three days before his death.

I took NLP practitioner training as a student in Austin. Then evolutionary NLP in Dallas. Nightwalking in Wimberley. NLP master practitioner as a student, Austin. evolutionary NLP in Maui. NLP practitioner as a training assistant, Austin. Nightwalking at Buescher State Park, Smithville. NLP master practitioner as a training assistant, Austin. The Tom Best and Steve Daniel workshop using sound, Austin.

Several times I attended the first weekend and last day of practitioner trainings when I wasn’t a student or training assistant, to see him and Bobbi and my friends who also assisted, and to meet the new students and lend my support, and to re-experience “beginner’s mind” with NLP.

On April 21, I took a day of evolutionary NLP at Alma de Mujer, and he died three days later.

He was my teacher, and he was the teaching, my heart realizes now, after he left.


He was not really my friend, in the sense that we didn’t hang out in our off time and let our hair down together. Outside of teaching, he was a private man, a little shy and reserved, already giving a great deal of himself, a world-traveling teacher seriously devoted to spending his non-teaching time at home with his wife Bobbi and their dogs and cats.

But he was friendly from the start, and I felt love for him and from him.

Who knows how he saw me? I don’t think I can even begin to see myself as he saw me in 2007 or how he saw me on April 21. I can tell you that I changed, that his teachings transformed me, and others witnessed that. Among my long-time friends, I am known for having changed.

I have had many teachers in this lifetime. Many were teachers who did not even know they were my teacher because I read their books or watched them on video. Many many many more didn’t know they were teachers — they said or did something I learned from, sometimes what to move away from, and sometimes what to move toward.

I signed up for in-person lessons and cracked myself wide open to take in Tom Best along with his teachings more than I have to any other teacher, besides my parents, in this lifetime. I poured myself into the NLP pot, and he cooked me.

He was at the front of the room, talking, waving his long fingers around, drawing the VAKOG face, telling the Lake Conchas story and so many more, demonstrating a technique, explaining concepts, giving instructions, telling us to take an 11 minute and 17 second break, then ringing a bell to bring us back together…

When I started pract training, I quickly figured out that the academic learning style (dissociated, conceptual) that I had experienced so much of in school and college (and done well with) was not going to work. This NLP required experiential learning, and the only way to do it was to learn with my whole self — to take it in as much as I could, ask for help when I needed it, and then just do it. And then do it again, better. And again and again and again. And to later, to offer my help.

I can hear Tom’s voice right now, explaining the journey from unconscious incompetence, to conscious incompetence, to conscious competence, to unconscious competence.

I can hear him saying, “There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback.”

He gave us permission and encouragement to put ourselves out there, on the line, and do the techniques imperfectly. Just do it. I learned to accept doing something imperfectly, to forgive myself for being less than perfect, and to recognize that repetition creates mastery (along with tape editing).

I now see that that’s what made him such a great teacher, putting himself out there, on the line, over and over again, for years, around the world. He just got better at it, so that on Saturday, April 21, he almost seemed to consist more of pure energy (the energies of his intent, presence, attention, clarity, and love) than of matter or ego.

Some of my notes from that day:

Intention is of the tonal. It’s about your desired outcome.

Intent requires no thought. It is gratitude, alignment, participation, connection. (It is of the nagual.)

“Intend to align with realization,” I wrote.

That is so him! He was that teaching. See what I mean about him being the teaching?

Learning NLP the NLP way was exhausting. I went home from each day of practitioner training drained, needing to do something that didn’t require thinking, like watch a funny movie or just veg out.

When I assisted, some other students experienced that too.

I realize now that NLP training required my focused attention for hours at a time in a way that not much else had required. In school, I had learned quickly and then stared out the window, lost in my own private thoughts, while others struggled.

In the NLP pract classroom, I was not an A student. I struggled and was lost sometimes, which challenged me to become a training assistant so I could take it again.

Little did I know that I was building attentive stamina. 

Energy flows where attention goes. — Huna wisdom taught by Tom Best

I was also practicing intent, aligning with realization. Gratitude, alignment, participation, connection.

I’m very grateful that I served as a training assistant so I could take pract training again. It was much lighter and less exhausting, and I got even more out of it the second time around. I integrated the concepts and experiences more deeply. I was both student and training assistant for master practitioner too.

I had wanted to assist at each level one more time.

So for a thousand hours, my attention was on him, watching him speak and move, hearing his voice, taking him in with my whole self. His skinny, graceful, long-fingered, elegant, story-telling, teaching, sly, aligned, humble, gracious, personable, receptive, gently challenging, channeling, funny, quirky, fluid, congruent, trance-inducing, masterful, realizing self.

Wisdom is knowing where to put your attention. — Tom Best

I put my attention on you, Tom, over and over again, and it’s like in the grief process where you bring the person into your heart, instead of feeling their absence. You are in here, man. You are so present in my mind and in my heart as I absorb your life and teachings even more and make meaning of it all.

And then you did something a bit surprising and very human. You died. You lived your life well and fully, and then you slipped away, in your sleep, painlessly, quickly, easily.

So I just need to say this one more time, or a thousand more times:

You modeled love, love, love. Mahalo for showing the way.

Thanks to the Facebook group The Grace of Tom Best for all of the photos except the small blue one where he’s seated (that’s mine from April 21).

3 thoughts on “When the teacher is the teaching: Tom Best.

  1. MAR, You are so wonderful! Your words bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. What a beautiful tribute to a great man, soul, and teacher.

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