A “teaching” is just a teaching.
It is a suggestion, an arrow on a map, a push in a certain direction—but it isn’t truth.
The only things that are “true” stem from our own personal experiences.
When I am guiding students in mindfulness meditation classes, I always tell them to take the information I have offered and digest it through their own systems. I tell them to try out my suggestions and see for themselves if what I am suggesting cultivates in their mind and body what they are looking for.
Only each individual knows if a teaching or healing is taking them in the direction that is right for them.
However, the real challenge we are facing as guides on the spiritual path is that most people are challenged with the fact that they feel like they have failed in some way.
I feel strongly that we live in a society with a self-hate epidemic.
We are unsure of our own minds and bodies, and mostly feel like we are screwing up all the time.
And if we don’t feel like we are screwing up now, then the moment there is a possibility of change, we are scared that if we change our present course of action, we will definitely be screwing up.
Yes, I am exaggerating here a bit, however—this literal walking on tender hooks through our life choices does make us, as a population, a pretty sensitive bunch.
I think this is an essential component to bear in mind when working with students and clients in healing capacities.
Because if the way we are sharing teachings and information is making people feel more self-hatred and an increasing sense that they aren’t good enough in their meditation practice, spiritual journey, yoga or healing endeavors, then as leaders we might not be helping as much as we would like to be.
I try to constantly articulate to my students that they are normal, that everyone’s mind is busy, and that this is just the natural, organic state of the human experience—and that all we are doing in training in mindfulness meditation is learning a new skill.
Even if we aren’t in a leadership role, I think this remembering that everyone is protecting a fragile ego under their tough shell of trying to know the right answer is essential for us to get along in a healthy manner.
When interacting with each other, can we remember each other’s tenderness? Can we remember that each of us has been criticized at least a billion times, and it is hard to be sure to know how to best make choices? From this place of remembering how tender we each are, we can attempt to make suggestions, share teachings and offer guidance while still allowing a lot of room for experience, opinion and stumbling along in a non-graceful manner, seeking a greater sense of peace.
If we push people by saying their way is wrong and our way is right—all we are doing is aggravating an already inflamed sense of failure that is rich in most people’s systems.
However, by making gentle suggestions, offering experiences and reminding people that they haven’t made any mistakes in their choices, but are just on a continuing learning journey, and are doing a great job at being courageous in being open to new teachings.
We can encourage people to move beyond their sense of failure into a world of choice.
When we are scared we might do something wrong, we contract and hold our ideas and sense of wonder close to hearts, so they won’t get poked. But in an environment where we are allowed to be fragile and confused, and this is held as a normal part of the journey, there is space to explore different options. There is more room to breathe, just for the fact that we feel safe.
When we are taking the role of spiritual leader, we need to remember that everyone we come into contact with has been hurt.
We have to remember that our students and clients are making a courageous choice to come closer to their minds and bodies in a bold move to travel the healing journey.
We have to remember that we do not know what is right for anyone else, because we haven’t walked their journey—even if our journey has been similar.
We have to remember that they are in charge of their journey and that our role is to create a safe container for them to explore parts of their consciousness that have perhaps felt too dangerous to travel to before.
Everyone has felt like a failure at one time in their life.
On the spiritual path, we are looking to let go of the judgement of right and wrong and come more into the experiential aspect of connecting with each sacred moment.
As spiritual teachers, healers and yoga teachers, we need to remember that everyone is a little scared of getting it wrong, so we need to give them lots of space for everything they experience—both positive and negative—to be completely right for them.
Author: Ruth Lera
Image: Shumona Sharna // Flickr
Editors: Renée Picard; Yoli Ramazzina