I got this question today.
How does one go about finding a Spiritual Master/Teacher? I live in central New Jersey and don’t know where to look?
I have answered it before; I think the answer is even hidden in this site in several places, but here is today’s variation of the answer:
Life is a teacher itself; occasionally, some people can find a guide like myself to help decipher some of their questions. But it’s said in Taoism when you need a spiritual teacher, the teacher will be made clear. That is true; I have had many spiritual teachers in my life in this manner. Often not what a westerner would think as a teacher, and in thinking “not a teacher” miss their chance to learn from the master in front of them already. Often when the teacher is made clear, a person’s expectations and inner confusion mean they are not ready. So in this, they stumble past their chance to learn at that moment, not being ready. Before finding a teacher, a student must practice opening their awareness. To search not based on expectations but finding a teacher based purely upon acceptance of one’s nature.
There are many who claim to be teachers. Whether they are or not, depends on if they have something that matches to your needs in that moment.
In Taoism, most teachers are hidden; at any one moment, a few Taoists will stand up to announce themselves as a teacher as required to match the moment (Don’t ask how or why: it’s based on spirit and the needs of the moment to create harmony around our path). But understand most Taoist teachers will be hidden, subtly affecting the weave around them as little as possible but to maximum cadence.
Its for you to recognize that person when they pass provided (1) you are ready in awareness to begin learning (2) the chemistry of the moment shows you a bit about how to live life more gracefully for future moments. This isn’t about names, degrees, or “ism’s”. It’s about finding and exploring your path gracefully. Listen for that cadence; you will feel and hear the harmony at the moment when a teacher is around. Then when you do pay attention and learn from the hidden teachers as they pass by. Most seekers are too busy to hear these most amazing moments, but these teachers and moments are around if you open up your awareness to learn.
Don’t think Taoism is only a human philosophy.
Almost every teacher I had never spoken a word to me.
How do you know a person is a Taoist Master?
The core of what a Taoist Master teaches
- Acceptance of who we are
- Awareness of the connections in life
- Enjoyment of life
- Various practices (which vary slightly depending on the school of Taoism the Master is from) aid 1,2 and 3
When you talk to a Taoist master, if they don’t laugh, if they don’t play and test reality, if they hold themselves higher, or as if they hold onto special truth: then you know you are not talking a Taoist master.
We are just here to live, and we share in that because it’s part of our joy to do so. Everything I said here or teach is just one way of looking at the universe. Humanity has created thousands of ways to explore; they all are equally as truthful and of value.
Truths to Understand.
Not every practice will match each person.
- Understand it’s OK to explore practices/systems of belief to find one which fits your expression
- In time, as one moves in the expression of life, what they see and feel changes, so the practices will correspondingly change.
- Masters come and go; they are simply the person there at the right moment to help you connect to the larger essence at that moment.
Learning from a Non-Master
If you train under someone who doesn’t necessarily know what they’re doing but purports to be a master, how do you learn to do it correctly?
Several ways: Here is one of several techniques to sort thru the issue you mention:
The Yin and Yang of Truth/Falsehoods.
There is no absolute truth, no absolute falsehood, which means you can find truth and falsehood in everything.
This is a significant fact since it means that you can discover the truth within everything. It’s a matter of perspective.
Many Taoist teachings are woven into society’s fabric; you will find many references and aspects of Taoism even within western culture.
A Taoist embraces the negative as much as the positive since (think yin and yang) it all plays a part in opening up our understanding and spreading the truth.
The world is always our teacher, that all the lessons and truths are at our disposal: always. It’s just a matter of being open to seeing things from many perspectives, from many voices. Coming to a retreat might help speed up the learning curve, but the information is already around you now to help open up doors.
Now also be careful (think yin and yang) if you embrace your ideas of truth too hard, you will push your truth into falsehoods. Embrace truth lightly to have the clearest view of the world.
When learning from a person, strangely even when being taught incorrectly: a true Taoist will learn from that and reverse it back into truth.
Also, you listen to your body, essence, and mind. People listen to others too much, even true masters, at the price of hurting themselves and lessening their nature. Listen to yourself as much as the master. At some point, you learn enough and leave. You learn from everyone. It’s just some people you learn what you need to know in 5 seconds and then move on.
Traps of Working with a Guru or Spiritual Teacher
I am talking with another student about avoiding the “trap” of relying on a guru. Many people get dependent on their therapists/teachers. Another problem is that students get stuck too deeply within the teachings or become addicted to the spiritual teacher’s inner peace. In my practice, I strive to remove co-dependence from the teaching process. My goal is always to get a person to explore the world from their center.
It comes down to how one measures nature. Seekers go to a guru, or patients go to therapists often looking to validate themselves or solve a problem from an outside source. In other words: people often value outside advice more than their internal capabilities. So part of any counseling/teaching session needs to include measures for making sure that the student is using their core as much as possible to develop their capacity to be free.
For instance, some simple examples :
Case 1: A person having been burned in life too much. They have learned to distrust their judgment.
- So in Taoism, we teach how to remove judgment altogether. (This is very easy to say, but it requires much time and practice for people to achieve.)
Case 2: A person having been brought up to only rely on others.
- So in Taoism, we patiently teach a person how to rely on their nature.
Case 3: Therapists and gurus often base their lifestyle on helping others, so they ironically can become dependent on their students or clients. This is a major problem since many teachers who might be good upfront end up holding on too tightly to those they help.
- In Taoism, we are made aware of this problem in our teachings. Our work style is designed to balance out how we work in a manner to minimize co-dependence. Many Taoist teachers are “hidden” teachers, teaching not professionally but in a case-by-case manner to help minimize this as a problem. I was a “hidden” teacher for decades before I felt I had matured my practice to avoid such problems.
Case 4: Gurus who validate their teaching through their students or therapists who try to heal themselves through their clients.
- In Taoism, we don’t value the teachings above what we are. We don’t teach or help others to validate the teachings. Instead, we only teach because we embrace kindness in helping others. The practice doesn’t define kindness but rather is part of how we live to kindness. This means the teachings evolve for each student and change over time, rather than being static.
To understand this: ultimately, in enlightenment, you are learning how to accept yourself. The path into a centered, balanced lifestyle isn’t always intuitive. If your centering is based on another, then know it’s merely another stepping stone towards finding yourself.
At some point, you will have to skip beyond your stepping stones (be it counselor or guru, and yes, many gurus are just that: stepping stones in life to finding oneself) to discover a full life in greater potential.
To become the potential that represents… You.