If you want to become a good spiritual teacher, you have to be a good spiritual student first. You are your very first disciple, and the most important one. You can’t help others effectively, if you’re not even able to help yourself. Just like without self-love, you can’t truly love others, without self-realization, you can’t guide others either.
Even when you already have students, your main focus has to remain on your own self-growth. This seems rather selfish, but it’s not. If you become better yourself, you can also help better everyone else. You can always only teach from the level of your own consciousness, so when you raise it, it will benefit your students greatly.
Teach only what you truly and deeply understood, experienced and researched. If you’re very good at yoga, then it’s fine to share your knowledge about it. But if you haven’t experienced enlightenment, then you shouldn’t teach about non-duality, because you will only mislead your students and delude even yourself.
On the other hand, having just experience is not enough. Theory and practice should complement each other, both on your own spiritual journey and in your teaching practice. Research your area thoroughly, listen to what other teachers are saying, and always stay open minded. Become a combination of a mystic and a scholar. That’s how your knowledge becomes well-rounded, lacking any gaps and blindspots.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to become a savior of humanity. This is often just a sign that you still have unresolved issues that you want to avoid by focusing on other’s problems. Instead, let self-expression motivate you, and stay indifferent whether your students are saved or not, because it depends more on them than on you. The river doesn’t care whether anybody’s thirst is quenched by it or not. Simply stay available, don’t force your teachings on anyone, just let them take as much as they can or want.
Furthermore, it’s important not to rush your decision to become a spiritual teacher, because it’s not something to be taken lightly. It often happens that immediately after you have a first glimpse of awakening, you feel a great urge to share it with others. It’s perfectly natural, but perhaps it’s better to keep it to yourself for a while, until your vision becomes more clear. Let the experience integrate, let the energy settle down a bit, and if you still feel the urge to teach, go for it. But even then, don’t forget about the research I mentioned before.
Don’t force yourself into a dilemma whether to teach or not to teach. The question will solve itself automatically, just give it some time. If you start teaching too quickly, before you’re truly ready for it, you’ll face so many problems that you will want to stop. You’ll feel exhausted, your students will drain your energy, you will get entangled with their emotional traumas, you’ll get irritated or bored very easily.
Whereas if you’re ready for teaching but postpone it for too long, you’ll equally face some problems. You may feel stuck in your spiritual growth, or that you’re cheating yourself, or that you can’t seem to find your place. Becoming a spiritual teacher is a calling that comes from deep inside, and it depends only on you when you’re ready to hear it. It’s not only that you choose the path, the path chooses you, too.
After I returned from India, I was no more a spiritual seeker, but not a spiritual teacher yet. I actually felt stuck, not knowing what to do, and where to go from there. I had no more questions to answer, there were no more books to read, and no more things to practice. But as I spent the last couple of years learning about spirituality many hours a day, suddenly a void appeared in my life. I tried to fill it with other activities, but it just didn’t feel right.
That’s when I went again into the mountains to contemplate about my future. I felt that if I can’t share my knowledge somehow, my energies would burst out, I couldn’t contain them any more. The problem was that I didn’t know how. But on the top of the mountain that night, as I was watching the rising sun, I realized that if there’s no other way, I’ll just write it down. That’s when I started writing, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Your way of teaching can be different, it doesn’t matter. In fact, you should experiment with a unique teaching style, you should put all your creativity into your work. But it’s even more important not to put your ego into it, because it just spoils everything. Be prepared that your students will project all kinds of things onto you, good and bad. You should remain unaffected by this, without either lowering or elevating your self-image.
Your most important job as a spiritual teacher is to allow the spiritual teaching flow through you without any barriers. Be open, receptive and authentic, just an empty vessel for God. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of this beautiful river, don’t let it poison the pure water of knowledge, and don’t keep everything to yourself when you already have so much that it’s overflowing. The beauty of it is that the more you share, the more will flow to you.
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