When you hear the spiritual journey’s call, it’s only natural to seek guidance. We’ve put together some helpful tips, a learner’s guide, to help you find the right spiritual teacher.
The right teacher can help you open the doors to higher states of consciousness. But this arena is also full of counterfeits. So, finding the right spiritual teacher is essential.
Tips for Finding a Good Spiritual Teacher
You can learn a lot at conferences and seminars. Books and electronic media are excellent learning tools, but nothing compares to personal instruction. It’s essential for techniques that involve mantras, sutras, mudras, and similar sound-based tools.
First, if you want to find a qualified teacher, adopt a beginner’s attitude, cultivating a healthy skepticism. Be prudent and diligent. A beginner asks a lot of questions, and a skeptic asks the hard questions.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” — Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni
Why Finding Your Spiritual Teacher is Hard
You don’t want to settle for mediocre or acceptable. It’s vital to receive real-time feedback; this is critical for “moving meditation” technologies like tai chi, qigong. It is also true for healing modalities like Reiki. Post-learning checks help ensure learning, and you’ll find these post-learning discussions are a part of most ancient traditions.
Almost every learning experience can benefit from one-on-one instruction. A well-qualified teacher can be an asset to your development, especially critical for learning advanced spiritual practices. We take this into account when developing our curriculum. It’s always important to follow up with personal feedback. All of our virtual learning sessions are one-on-one.
So here are some tips for finding a good spiritual teacher. Think of this as a “learners guide” or spiritual seeker’s checklist.
Attributes of a Good Spiritual Teacher
Like a boat, an excellent teacher or guru will take you to a different place. They will open doors, and sometimes they push you through them. They do what is necessary to give you the tools to forge your path.
“Guru is not the goal. Anyone who establishes himself as a guru to be worshipped is not a guru. Guru is like a boat for crossing the river. It is important to have a good boat, and it is very dangerous to have a boat that is leaking. The boat brings you across the river. When the river is crossed, the boat is no longer necessary. You don’t hang onto the boat after completing the journey, and you certainly don’t worship the boat.” — Swami Rama of the Himalayas
The above quote is an excellent summation for finding your spiritual teacher. Take notice of those who are seeking to become a celebrity. Make sure you find a teacher or guru interested in teaching tools. You don’t want a teacher that wants to make disciples.
One of my best teachers did his best to keep from being well known or treated like a celebrity. He wanted to pass along his knowledge. Then he would send you out.
However, his teaching was so influential people kept pushing him into the spotlight. He resisted fought to maintain a proper balance. He decided to focus on teaching rather than publicizing what he taught. I’m talking about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1). He taught teachers and sent them out into the world. He also openly promoted other teachers and other methods. His focus was on teaching.
Good Teachers Work One-On-One
You will find a significant number and variety of teachers in the arena of spiritual development. One quality of an excellent teacher is someone who can spend substantial time with you. It requires a significant investment in time on their part.
They may not necessarily be likable, charming, or socially acceptable. However, a knowledgeable teacher will challenge you and help you see through your boundaries. You can’t get this level of instruction in a large group.
Ideally, group instruction should only be 50% of your total learning. Personal instruction and feedback should make up the other 50%.
Use Any Means Reasonable, and Necessary
An effective teacher will use any means reasonable and necessary to take you to the next level. They will teach you what you need, not necessarily what you want. Sometimes this means learning mantras. Other times, they may use methods to shake you into eureka moments of growth.
Sometimes these methods are not pleasant, but spiritual growth is about destroying boundaries. An excellent example of a teacher who challenges you is Don Juan. He is the main character in the accounts of Carlos Castaneda. Don Juan reminds me of my teacher, Guru Tua.
This approach differs from a person who has or seeks celebrity status. People who base their credibility on popularity and showmanship are salesmen, not teachers. These latter qualities are those of a salesman, not a teacher. Above all, don’t follow a salesperson. Focus on finding a spiritual teacher who can challenge and impart techniques that enable you to change. Stay away from those who cater to the masses.
An ethical teacher will not abuse or place you in harm’s way. Be mindful that sometimes predators masquerade as spiritual teachers. Finding your spiritual teacher may mean learning to walk away from unhealthy behaviors. Many people tell us this is the “learners guide” tip that helped them avoid a bad situation. Reasonable and necessary does not include emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
Avoid Joining a Religion
One of the essential tips for finding a good spiritual teacher is knowing who and what to avoid. Above all, don’t get sidetracked. Don’t fall into the trap of confusing spiritual investigation with religion. Many people don’t understand that spiritual exploration is at the opposite end of the spectrum of belief. Don’t become a follower of a person or ideology.
Religion is a doctrine based on mythology with three typical concerns:
1) Who might have created the universe
2) What happens when you die
3) Rules for governing behavior
They cloak this doctrine in fear of eternal punishment for those that disagree and an eternal paradise for those who do “believe.” They use language to make themselves sound spiritual.
Whereas, Spiritual exploration has nothing to do with doctrine or dogma. It involves using spiritual tools/technologies to expand awareness and open the doors of consciousness.
Learners Guide to Spiritual Technologies
When looking for a teacher or guru, find one with experience teaching one or more of the following spiritual technologies. Finding your spiritual teacher is like buying a used car. Make sure it has a good reputation, and don’t get too attached to it. You’ll want to exchange for something better down the road.
The catalog of ancient methods for exploring consciousness is what we call spiritual technologies. They are a collection of processes to develop the potential of the mind, body, and spirit. They offer us ways to expand awareness and reach higher states of consciousness.
These tools differ significantly from religion. They do not require faith or belief in any religious doctrine. Anyone can use these processes to develop their full potential. All you need to do is follow the process, and it’s just like following the recipe for baking a cake. If you combine the right ingredients in the right way and you get something delicious.
We select the best of these ancient methods for our blended learning method. These processes are time-tested by generations of use, and they stand up to the rigorous tests of science. They are repeatable processes, and several produce measurable effects on our physiology. These changes include increased brainwave coherence, lower heart rate, and increased skin resistance. Changes like this prove these partitions of consciousness differ significantly from waking, dreaming, and sleeping.
We divide these tools into four major categories:
Everyone can use these methods to create their unique spiritual path, and you can start with any of these methods. The more of them you use, the faster your progress.
Finding your spiritual teacher can propel your spiritual practice. So, it’s important to find teachers that provide tools. It’s equally important to avoid the rabbit hole of Western organized religion. We hope these tips for finding a good spiritual teacher will help you in your quest. If you find this “learners guide” helpful, pass it along.
If this article resonates, you’ll find more to spark your interest on our blog. To learn more about our organization, see our FAQ page. Register on our site to receive discounts on training and unadvertised material. We comply with all GDPR guidelines and never share or sell your contact data.
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission.
(1) Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Wikipedia
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia