by: ©CinnamonMoon of Spirit Lodge
Often you will hear people saying we are all teachers and we are all students. This is true in the sense that we're always learning and growing as individuals whether we are on novice, intermediate, or advanced levels of development. And we all have the ability to share the knowledge we've gained as well as our experiences. But for the individual seeking to teach formally, and the student seeking to learn formally, there are challenges, pitfalls, and risks as to who we involve ourselves with.
As a teacher of spirituality for over three decades now, I have come to know many others who work along these lines and often we find ourselves discussing the pros and cons of the work. Students are seeking guidance on all levels of spiritual growth and development ranging from the novice to the advanced stages. As teachers, we share what we can from our own knowledge base and years of experience just as others do. In this experience we have learned how to recognize a good student or teacher when they come before us by the way they present themselves. More often than not we are put on notice that a student is coming, with or without the name and identity, our sources of guidance often tell us to prepare for someone and we know when they arrive through an instant recognition. Through our integrity and dedication to Spirit and those we serve we also see the integrity in others who walk the path of the teacher. At the same time it's quite clear that there really are no guidelines out there other than common sense when it comes to the student selecting the person or persons they wish to study with.
Before going further I must say that I am a proponent of eclectic study, of having the right to pursue anything that holds our interest and learn that it's okay if we can't accept material being presented. I believe firmly that to sit at the foot of just one teacher is to create tunnel-vision and limit the perspectives we hold. I believe we have many teachers in life, and they come to us crossing our path when we are ready to hold the knowledge they possess, when we need it...not a moment too soon, not a moment too late, but when it is time. Spirit sees to that. The same applies to the teacher, the students come when you are ready to teach and they come in this same manner. Spirit sees to that and presents them to you. In either case, we are responsible for those we entrust ourselves to and those we take under our wing.
Through the years many new people have asked me if I can recommend a teacher to them. I've always suggested that they read as much as possible, explore our libraries, and post their questions until they find a sense of comfort and direction. Now with the establishment of Spirit Lodge I will suggest they observe the membership here until they see someone they gravitate to and feel a desire to communicate with them. I remind them to be patient.
As I get to know these individuals and get a feel for where they are heading they often ask again and at that point I will suggest individuals I know to be knowledgeable in those areas of expertise if I am unable to help them. So sometimes I work with them and sometimes I recommend they reach out to another. In the case of sending them to another individual I always do so with a recommendation from me. I try in all cases to notify the other individual and give a little insight from my perspective to help them through their initial introductions. I offer the student a little information on the person I'm sending them to as well. In this way they have a glimpse into the personality and the nature of the other person as well as their needs.
I've also seen a lot of spiritual abuse as students come from others they thought were going to mentor them, only to find they'd put their trust in someone who abused them in one form or another. In these cases the teachers were coming from an ego-based, power-hungry, control-based premise. They were insecure teachers, spiritually underdeveloped, and walking contaminated paths.
These students were often humiliated, made to feel inept, unworthy, inadequate, and spiritually taken advantage of in countless ways. I've seen people duped into intimacies that took advantage of their vulnerabilities and misled them into thinking they were sincerely loved. This can be devastating and crushing, it can lead to a need for therapy, to overcome depression, and in many cases undoing all that's been done to them.
This is a very real trap for both student and teacher and one that exists in the mundane with those in the field of either needing or giving therapy as well. When a vulnerable individual places their trust in the hands of someone they perceive as an authority they run the risk of abuse. The need of the individual and the ability of the teacher to provide the insights that fill that need will create a very strong bond. Any credible teacher is going to hold that bond to friendship as they know that the student, out of gratitude, often mistakes that gratitude for love. It needs to be accepted that they can hold a love for one another but it's plutonic love, loving the individual for who they are, not for intimacy beyond that point. There are teachers that take on groups of people and will abuse in this way through charismatic behaviors and all sorts of problems result, usually only to the detriment of the students. The teacher is the one who profits.
Whether they take your money or your body, your energy and time, your trust and faith, it is a violation when it is their gain that is the main factor. Ego-based teaching corrupts the spiritual path with misinformation, contaminating the knowledge, and hindering the path of the student. Be aware. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Students are no different. Some seek enlightenment and spiritual development for the purest of reasons, they are sincere, hardworking, dedicated people that are committed to their personal evolution, sometimes to a path of service that will develop over time. However, there are those that are abusive as well; they are lazy, and will ask for all your knowledge, time, and experience but...they will not apply themselves. They will want you to do the work for them, hand them the answers, not the tools to find them for themselves.
In this the teacher becomes a victim of abuse. If you are going to teach someone they must match you effort for effort, they must demonstrate progress before you take them to the next level of understanding...and they must do this respectfully. It's up to you to set those parameters. If they are not working with you they are working against you, draining your precious time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
Most teachers of spirituality are highly empathic individuals, they are giving and caring people and it takes a toll on their heart to say no, to turn someone in "need" away. But there is a difference in the student that *needs to grow* and the *needy student that refuses to grow*. Be aware. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
In both cases when either the teacher or the student are there for the wrong reasons there is damage that results from abuse of misinformation, wasted time and effort, and expenditure of energy that could be put to much better service and productivity.
The student needs to ask themselves if the focus of the teaching is on foundational information that promotes a strong basis for growth and development in a respectful manner. Or is it a hodge-podge of this and that leaving gaping holes in the lessons? Is the focus of the teaching on YOUR needs? Are they being addressed or ignored? Has this teacher taken the time to explore your background experience, your knowledge and sources, your insights or fears, listening carefully to your questions and answering them?
Is the focus of the teaching patient, compassionate, loving in nature or is it demanding, pushy, and dogmatic? Is the teacher one you feel comfortable with or someone who intimidates with an authority of ego? Are you receiving help or being converted as a follower of some wannabe guru?
Is the teacher one you know to have experience behind them or just overly eager to stand in the limelight of appearing important? Is the teacher one who exudes a spiritual energy or someone who seems to draw from your energy and drain you with demands or perhaps expect you to follow them blindly? Are they respectful of the lessons they give, holding them sacred and honoring Spirit above all else or is it all about them?
Is this individual pretending to care about you seemingly offering the moon and stars only to be drawing energy from you shortly after they reveal some mysterious knowledge? Are they asking you to send them energy for healing or some other need when they should already know how to tap universal energy? Anyone....anyone with any body of knowledge knows that they do not need to draw energy from others but have at their fingertips a bottomless well of Source Energy derived from Spirit, universal energy that is available to us all. So why would they ask you to deplete your reserves? A good teacher is not going to do these types of things.
A good teacher is going to want to know what you are seeking and why you want to occupy their valuable time. They are not going to waste time on anyone who is not serious, but they will not waste your time either. They will remain focused on the issues, keep your confidences, share and help you assimilate the answers, and give you a body of knowledge that you can validate for yourself. They will devote as much time as they can to your needs and be dedicated to your growth through lessons and exercises that lead you into experiences of your own.
A good teacher is going to want to present a solid foundation of basic information and will question you as to your depth of knowledge in those areas, fill in any gaps, and make certain you have a comprehensive understanding before offering intermediate or advanced knowledge. They will see your needs and help you develop them along the way customizing those teachings to meet them. They will be protective of your progress and watch over you with great care, taking things a step at a time.
As a student you need to demonstrate a willingness to put forth effort too, and in this they will match you step for step. They will more or less walk with you along YOUR path until you feel you can journey alone. That can be anywhere from the onset to the end depending upon how much study you want to put into things and the relationship that develops between you. As you progress they will help you through rites of passage and initiations, assimilating and polishing the fine points along the way and exude a desire to help you be the best you can be for YOUR sake.
It is important for anyone to realize that the tradition you seek to study should be one that holds interest for you. There is no "one way" or "right way" since all paths contain the spiritual truths in one form or another. However, each teacher is going to present their knowledge based on the path they walk...find one appropriate to your interests and avoid a lot of frustration for you both.
While the basics remain the same on all paths, from there the techniques tend to define the style of that path. YOUR interests are there for a reason, they are guiding you to what is right for YOU. The semantics can be confusing, each tradition will have its own way of expressing the knowledge and its own way of approaching it to wield it. Remember, you need to feel comfortable with that.
A good teacher is going to be patient and understanding of your frustrations, know how to help you confront blockages and fears, insecurities and doubts. They are giving, and yes, sometimes stern, but there is always good progress with them and they come from a premise of sincere love and devotion to truths. A good teacher will also recognize when a path is not appropriate for you and often will suggest that you take another course of study, recommending another teacher if at all possible.
What works for the student also works for the teacher. It is important to know what the intent underlying the approach of the student is all about. Certainly you are not going to share everything you know with someone who is focused on personal growth and development. Some knowledge is definitely reserved for those who are walking a path of service. Can you determine the difference? Are you overly eager to share it all and inundating the student with material they cannot use? Are you throwing too much at them too fast and leaving them feeling overwhelmed?
As a teacher you must ask yourself if the student is coming to you and asking for information that is based in a controlling ego or desire to have power over others? If so are you feeding into that because you have such a burning desire to teach anyone you can...or are you guiding them in ways that will help them overcome that ego? If you find they are unwilling to work on that are you willing to tell them you cannot help them further?
As a teacher are you willing to tolerate the lessons some need that you CANNOT teach? Are you willing to see that not everyone is at a point of acceptance about their shortcomings and that particular work may be meant for another down the road? Are you willing to step aside and NOT teach someone because they are not able to apply themselves no matter how much they plead with you? Or is the student asking fundamental questions leading to a genuine desire to learn? If they are willing are you? If you accept a student you must be willing to match them stride for stride, devoting as much time and energy to their needs as possible. This is a path of service to others, it means you must give of yourself and sacrifice at times to do so. It is a path of service to Spirit, bringing others into the enlightenment of understanding and ultimately to a relationship with Spirit that will take them far beyond your meager insights.
As a teacher you must ask yourself how the student approached...did they come by referral or recommendation? Did they approach on their own because they heard about you in some other fashion? Were you told by Spirit that a student would be coming and thus made aware that you should expect someone? Are there signs around this person that either confirm or negate the relationship between you should develop?
As a teacher it is your responsibility to see if this individual is accepting of the foundations you present. Are they open and eager to share their thoughts, feelings, efforts, and commitment to the course of study? Are you willing to accept the responsibility for their spiritual well-being and commit to them regardless of their human failings? Are you able to be patient as they develop or are you going to be exasperated? If you cannot abide with their personality or means of comprehension are you willing to guide them to another who can?
As a teacher, when the time comes to send them on their way, are you able to do this? Can you maintain a professional relationship in spite of intimate attractions, setting those aside and maintaining boundaries that promote friendship only? If you can't you have no business teaching others. You have your own ego to deal with. As a teacher you must ask yourself why you are teaching. Is it to feed your own ego and feel important? Is it to be recognized for all that you know and bolster your own image? Are you simply showing off, looking for profit, or is there a genuine desire to be compassionate and helpful to others on a path of service to them and to Spirit?
Ultimately taking on the responsibility of being a teacher means that you are serving Spirit above all else. Bringing people into the light of understanding and offering them a hand to find their balance as they progress on their path...NOT yours. Are you looking for followers and control over others that gives you a sense of power? If so you have an ego problem. If, on the other hand, you are comfortable giving as much as is needed in each case, capable of giving a warm hug to those that will leave at any point along the way and blessing the path they choose to walk, helping where you can and honoring where you can't, then you are on the right path for yourself in the right state of mind so serve.
To both those who seek as students and those who offer to help, it is important to recognize that the greatest teachers are not of this world. Once we have connected with our Guides and Spirit Helpers we are introduced to the Master Teachers. They know our needs, how we think and process information and they work with us on very personal levels. At this point the role of the teacher becomes more that of a mentor, helping the student to assimilate symbols, visions, dreams, spiritual growth, and relationships with those Guides and Spirit Helpers. Once those roles are established and functional the student moves on, the teacher either remains a friend or moves on.
The ultimate path of spiritual growth and development is that of being self-sufficient, able to decipher the truths for ourselves, developing confidence and self-assurances that allow us to walk our path and no teacher worth their weight will stand in our way. We are all students, and the teacher will learn as much from the student as they give, there is always an exchange. A good teacher is going to show appreciation and share what they are learning too, honoring the student for teaching them things.
There are repercussions for those that abuse the role of teacher or student. Rest assured that retributions will be called for and occur. If someone is abusing the role of the teacher their reputation will be tarnished quickly, their path contaminated and no matter how much effort they put into developing adoring followers, it will come back three-fold to impact them in a destructive way.
The same applies to the student that is going to take advantage of the teacher. If you are not willing to put forth the effort to grow you will not develop. You cannot progress if you don't do the work, you cannot push the tide of time and expedite things without putting in the extra effort to accomplish that. If you abuse one who would give to you and commit themselves, it too will return to you three-fold and you will become abused at some point.
You can devote yourself to a course of study and commit to exercises that will develop your abilities, skill, and knowledge. Through the gathering of knowledge we gain power but it is not a power to be abused. Through experience we gain wisdom in knowing when and when not to exercise that knowledge, who to share it with and who not to, who to serve and who not to serve. Ultimately it's all about Spirit, and if our heart is not there all we are doing is wasting our time and the time of others. It will be up to both the teacher and the student to recognize these things and take responsibility for them. May the path you choose be blessed and may Spirit keep you well.