by S Alexander Alich

Do you need a teacher?

Today there is a flood of information available – more than ever before. This is a very special time in history because of the speed and ease that we can access books, articles and other people’s experiences. What we sometimes lack though is a way to apply that information and a guide who can help us move through it toward our growth. This is where the real learning begins as well as the challenges.

Spiritual teachers can:

  • create a safe learning environment in order for you to make new experiences. You do not earn those experiences by only reading about them – a good teacher will not only introduce you to new possibilities but can help you put that information into practice. My teachers called this earning your medicine.
  • guide you through the ocean of information available and help you discern which direction to go.
  • help and guide you on your way – what works for one person may not work for the next and in the worst case even cause more problems.
  • provide a mirror. This is probably one of the most important aspects of teaching. Seeing our habits is the first step toward growing up and becoming free of them. Medicine circles are an even stronger example of working with mirrors. Medicine circles are not social groups. They are even more mirrors in which to see yourself – both what you like and don’t like so that you can work with it.
  • help you create a spiritual foundation through experience and practice – a foundation is not only what it is but what it can hold in the future.
  • help you bring what you have learned from your spirit guides to the earth. Our human teachers help us look at and work through human issues. Without this part all of our good ideas and dreams can stay in our heads and never manifest in our daily life.

Building a working relationship

The student-teacher relationship, like all relationships takes time to develop. What you put in you will get out of it. Here are a few things that can help that relationship grow.

Trust: this takes time to build on both sides. If you are going to a teacher just to get something you might walk away with a lot of notes – but not much more than what you could have read in a book. No teacher wants to see his or her life work consumed. We can be so hungry for information and attention that we can forget to give something back. This will ultimately cause and imbalance and harm if not end the relationship.

Patience: Here is where our mind can get us into trouble on our spiritual way. Our mind moves more quickly than our body and heart. Our mind can think we are ready for more when we have not even worked with what we have. There must be an open place in us and a true need for the teachings. Many people get inpatient and will quit because their answer did not come immediately – or worse – they will try to find someone who will give them the information even when they are not ready for it.

Open, honest and direct communication: Although we all would like to look good in the eyes of others – this will not function in this kind of relationship. Being as honest with your teacher as you are with yourself can help you more than most anything else.

Responsibility: don’t try to give your responsibility away because you won’t go far. Teachings are living and it takes a lot of responsibility to carry them. Once you know something then you are responsible for it.

Traps that can hurt our growth

Addiction to fights, drama and negative attention: with this we never get to the work. A good therapist can help us work through this before we begin on our spiritual way.

Fears and projections: when we meet someone who can really help us, our deepest fears and habits will come to the surface. This is necessary so that we can see and work with them. Because of the mirror a teacher can give us, we must be aware of our projections. Here is a little exercise for when your fears come to the surface and we start to think we “clearly see everyone else’s problems.” Make a list of all the things you think you see the other person or teacher doing, then when you are ready – read it back, but this time to yourself. You can ask yourself what can you learn and what is your part of this situation.

I’ll be a student forever: well, yes and no. While we are always learning, remaining a fulltime student your whole life can be a way of not taking responsibility and moving forward. It also leaves us in a state of dependency.

Not living what you learn: Integration shows us where we really are on our way. How we live, treat each person we meet and our environment will reflect to us how much we “think we know” and how much we are actually living.

I just want a teacher who will tell me things: It is good to know that spiritual teachers do not tell you how to be spiritual. This is a trap of the mind. Teachers challenge us and create opportunities for us to grow through experience.

Honor and celebrate the end

All cycles must end at some point. I have never seen an exception to this simple law of nature. Sometimes things must close so we can begin a new level of work – sometimes it is an ending all together. One of the saddest things I have seen in our consumer driven society is not taking time to honor and celebrate the end of our relationships. Most of the time we feel we must go apart in a dramatic and even explosive ending. This does not only dishonor your work and time together but also will not truly bring a closure to your relationship. A spiritual working relationship requires more work to find closure. I recommend a ritual closing done in person so that the work can be celebrated and both people can truly be released. In the end, let go and honor your work and celebrate the new place you are standing in your life.