Search for a Spiritual Teacher
The spiritual pathway is one of continuous learning, knowledge, and practice. How we learn and access knowledge will vary for all of us. Our only constraint is our willingness to learn and our search for someone to teach us. Teachers come in many forms depending on the spiritual model or modality you adopt, your teachers and the form they take is highly variable. Depending on your spiritual practice and modality, the role and nature of your teacher will also vary. Each modality has a philosophy or convention associated with the practice which will direct your perspective of who or what constitutes a teacher.
If we compare the two dominant spiritual models, the first is Spirituality as defined by self-awareness and universal consciousness, often associated with Eastern Religious Philosophies such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Sufism. The main spiritual practices within these philosophies are orientated around Meditation and Yoga. Within these practices is an established system of learning, accreditation, and teaching. The other main arm of spiritualism is the more Animistic, Indigenous or Paganistic practices which encompass everything from Wicca to Mayan. Practitioners believe, everything has an energetic or spiritual entity and connection. These systems have an establishment of mastery based on the perceived level of spiritual skill, talents, and age.
Regardless of how the practice or modality you practice or believe in, the decision, your decision to learn, will depend on your choice of a learning experience or a teacher. Most of us, have a blend of different beliefs. So how do we choose a teacher? Firstly, the teacher and their methods need to fit with our values and our expectations of what a teacher does, what they need to be considered a teacher, and what we expect from the sessions. We may trust a friend’s recommendations, our research, usually online, or on social media, might suggest to us a person whom we may or may not like, and last but not least our budget. So, let’s start at the beginning and ask ourselves how we like to learn.
Do I like structure? Experimentation and/or Reading?
Do I prefer groups?
Am I after long-term, continual learning or do I just need an injection of knowledge and I take it from here?
Am I seeking more than just learning? Is there healing? Companionship? Support Group? Or am I after a tribe?
Can I work online or do I like face-to-face in person?
These questions give you a checklist of how the experience should be and what forms of teaching experience are preferable. From here we then add, the constraints of timing, duration, and budget.
At a more subtle level, we have to consider the very real impact of personal learning styles and preferences. We have to ask about the person’s teaching style. Does this question address our preferences for how we like to learn? For a teacher to be effective, we need to have trust in who they are and how they behave. What is their background, not just in the modality, but in their ability to understand and address our learning needs? Do they know how to teach? Do they vary up the learning experience or is it all just one teaching style? Am I after a content expert or a knowledge transfer expert, someone who knows about adult learning? The values and experience of the teacher present different learning experiences. Hand in hand with teaching skill is the ability to express complex theories of spirituality in a way that makes sense to where we are at as learners. Do we trust them? Do they understand enough about their own practice to give me the understanding and explanations I need?
Do we need to be aware of cultural diversity in our understanding of the teacher-student relationship? Different cultures have different values and behaviours in the learning environment. Often we may like to choose teachers from different cultures as they have in-depth topic knowledge, but without the exposure to your learning culture, they may prove to be a poor fit. When we do think about our choice of teacher we do need to ask ourselves how flexible are we prepared to be to learn under a different teaching style?
When looking for a teacher decide, in an honest way, what you need for the learning to be a successful experience for you, develop a checklist and if you are unsure, book one session, try it out, then commit. I would also ask you to be open to the opportunity that a different teacher or teachers can offer as sometimes, we choose who we feel most comfortable with, but comfortability is not always the best environment for learning. Learning best takes place under a little discomfort to trigger our curiosity, but not enough stress to make us resist the teachings.