September 2, 2011

Are Teachers Walking Their Talk? Nope.

In my last post (part 1 of this series), we explored how relationship appears to be the under-addressed area of spiritual work.

We hit a few bullet points on why this is the case.

Today is about bullet point number two.

Teachers of high-level teachings have not walked their talk. They talk a big game but don’t walk it in relationship.

Rather than bypass, let’s keep acknowledging our limitations in relationship and where they come from.

My theory:

Our parents, teachers, and guides (the Big People) have misled us about relationship thus we infantalize ourselves.


If we start at the very beginning and we ask, “Where did I learn how to do relationship?” The most common answer will be our family.

Our family of origin, however healthy or broken, has taught us the most about relationship. Then our next biggest influencers will likely be the media, churches, sports teams and other organizations, and of course schools.

Growing up, the big people decided to hide aspects of themselves from us.


Probably because they wanted to be a “good” influence on us or teach us the “right” way. They also wanted us to like them. This is no surprise for 2 reasons.

1. To some degree it’s appropriate to hide some of us from little children.

2. In our culture we are taught to “put our best foot forward” thus hiding our flaws and insecurities to climb the latter, and to be accepted, liked, and included.

This attitude is fine for trying to get a job or elected to your local civic organization, but when it comes to real relationships, this approach keeps us perpetually young. Even in middle school, when this is the norm, it’s not necessary.

But with their best intentions, the Big People started to hide more of themselves from us. They hid their issues and challenges from us over and over. The more they hid, the harder it became for them to reveal.

On one level, it makes sense for adults to hide their boozing, marijuana use, porn addiction, affairs, etc from their kids. But at a certain point, even parents get to be themselves and let their guard down. After all, if I really want to teach my kids about being authentic, open, and honest, then I better walk that talk and be completely myself.

When we hide our issues we perpetuate the notion that we need to be someone other than we are. Through our behavior alone, we teach kids to put on a mask to fit in and be liked. Adults in a position of power and influence over kids do the same. They often hide who they really are.

Of course teenagers sniff out this incongruency which is why they are so pissed off at authority. We adults often don’t walk our talk.

Bottom line? Everyone gets caught together in the trap of an unrealistic and untruthful relationship.

I’m sure you have heard of, or even personally known, a teacher, therapist, healer, or guide who has screwed someone over in relationship. A few examples include the more superficial spiritual materialism of James Arthur Ray, the latest news of Genpo Roshi, or perhaps the local therapist in your town who slept with his or her client. On a more mundane level (but equally hurtful) a parent hiding their addiction or affair.

When it finally comes out that the all-mighty Big Person has offended, people are shocked, as if these luminaries are above neurosis and everyday human desires.

But it’s really no surprise. (yawn)

It’s going on everywhere. Count on it. Having affairs and and hiding it. Blatantly lying. Teaching you about being happy but going home to fear, isolation, and depression. Teaching you about God and Jesus and behind closed doors, sexually abusing boys. Coaching you toward “success” but going home to a porn addiction.

We keep putting teachers on pedestals, but the reality is that so many of our teachers, mentors, and guides are not superhuman nor have they been truthful. Their words have not matched their actions. They don’t walk their talk. And the pressure for the Big People to be a superhuman being is enormous (It would be quite different if they just had their affairs and talked openly about it, right?).

Let’s also assume that most of you have had a teacher, mentor or guide give you great insights about whatever you’ve been studying, which is usually yourself. But if you are honest, that same person had loads of issues and didn’t reveal them to us. They did their work in a vaccum behind close doors so as not to make us distrust or uncomfortable. How thoughtful of them right?

But of course, this perpetuates the fantasy. The fantasy that there is a place, high on the mountain top or throne, free from neurosis and suffering in relationship. The fantasy that because we do this work (in whatever form) we don’t, or won’t, have issues.

We all hide the same way.

So, what if we just simply told the truth about ourselves and our relationship challenges? What if we asked more of our peers, teachers, and mentors? What if we became the teacher and talked about what a real relationship looks like?

Lastly, rather than keep projecting perfection onto our teachers, let’s let go of the longing for them to be perfect and call their humanity forward.


Fortunately for this online magazine, the past editor Waylon Lewis does walk his talk. The dude talks very openly about his relationship challenges and workaholism. How refreshing.


If you are a meditation teacher, therapist, yoga teacher, etc, ask yourself if you are really walking your talk and revealing who you really are? If not, consider that more truth telling will lead to more empowered students who project less onto you.


In our last post of the series, we’ll explore how perhaps we have the wrong view, practice, and result. Then we’ll move into solution mode.

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