Ever since I decided to dive deep into my study and practice of yoga, I have wondered the answer to this question.
I would hear people talk about their “spiritual teachers” or a guru that transformed them. This seemed like a totally foreign thing to me. I wondered how I was supposed to find a spiritual teacher, where I should look and what this person would be like.
Would I have to travel across the world? Or endure a long and difficult journey?
Would I know my spiritual teacher when I saw him or her?
What would they teach me that I would not be able to find anywhere else?
I envisioned it being similar to the “love at first sight” phenomenon. I imagined this teacher looking like a sage, a master, a priest, a monk. I imagined this teacher being someone so far out of my reach, sitting up on a platform, looking down upon me.
I have been greatly blessed with a multitude of incredible teachers, both in yoga, in art, and in life. When I started realizing how this image of a spiritual teacher that I had created in my mind was something “greater than” the roles of my other teachers, I knew I needed to shift my perspective.
I called upon memories of past interactions with people who, in my eyes, were spiritual authorities. When I did this, I realized that I felt “less than.” Unworthy, even. I felt totally under the power of someone else, some other human being. This leads to an inner dialogue that says, “If they said I should do this, then I should follow their advice because they must know something that I don’t know.”
When I stepped back, and looked at how this manifested in my life, in my distrust of myself, in my feelings of unworthiness and lack, in my fear of not being enough or doing enough, I realized I was playing by someone else’s rules. I was giving my power away. And I wanted to take it back. I wondered what my life would look like if I stopped placing even the most knowledgable and well known teachers up on this mental platform.
Teachers serve an irreplaceable purpose. They teach what they know. They share from their own experience. They give what they themselves have received (probably from another teacher!). Without my teacher’s guidance, I would not be the person who I am.
But the role of the student serves an equally important purpose. The student’s job is to question, to integrate, and to transform. The student is the reason why the teacher is sharing their knowledge. Without the student, there would be no teacher. One can be the most knowledgable, wise, and articulate teacher, but without students who are asking provocative questions and using the answers they receive to inform their own beliefs and understanding, the teacher’s wisdom is futile.
So, if you are looking to find a spiritual teacher, look no further.
You are already surrounded by spiritual teachers. Your task now is to become your best student. Think of every encounter in your life as a meeting with your guru, your teacher, or spiritual master. How can you play the role of the student in order to soak up all of the teachings you possibly can?
When you have a person in your life who acts in a way that you admire, there is a teaching. Your best student might ask, “How can I be as patient as him?” or, “How can I live with the same amount of compassion and enthusiasm as her?” When you have a person in your life who acts in a way that you wish to avoid, there is a teaching. “How can I learn from this person’s expression of anger so that I myself do not have to suffer in that same way?”
Yes, every single person can be a spiritual teacher to you. Every single person is already sharing their knowledge, their experience, and their wisdom, in ways that they might not even know.
So now, the question changes to: “How can I be my best spiritual student?”
And when you start asking the right questions, when you start becoming the best student you can be, you start to become your own spiritual teacher. When you turn your attention to what you already know and what you desire to become, you find that you had the answers to your own questions all along.
When you are redefining what you are holding to the highest regard, and choosing what you are putting up on the platform, you are creating your sacred. What happens when you put yourself up on the platform? Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it’s wonderful. Maybe it’s exactly what you need or exactly what you don’t need. But you’ll never know until you try.
Author: Maria Borghoff
Editor: Travis May
Image: Courtesy of Author