Finding a Spiritual Teacher

exploring meditationI 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 even 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 pass 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 seeking to hear these most amazing of 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 spoke a word to me.

How do you know a person is a Taoist Master?

The core of what a Taoist Master teaches

  1. Acceptance of who we are
  2. Awareness of the connections in life
  3. Enjoyment of life
  4. Various practices (which vary slightly depending on the school of Taoism the Master is from) which 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 to each person

  1. Understand it’s OK to explore practices/systems of belief to find one which fits your expression
  2. In time, as one move in the expression of life, what they see and feel changes so the practices will correspondingly change
  3. 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 in everything you can find both truth and falsehood.

This is a very very important fact since it means: you can discover the truth within everything. It’s a matter of perspective.

Many Taoist teachings are weaved into the fabric of society itself; 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, at the price of 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 even get 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 exploring the world from their center.

It comes down to how one measure’s 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 practices 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 Guru’s often base their lifestyle on helping others so they ironically can become dependent on their students or clients. This is a major problem since at first many teachers who might be good up front, 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: Guru’s 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 other’s to validate the teachings. Instead, we only teach because we embrace kindness in helping others. The practice doesn’t define the 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.

So 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.

How to Find Solution(s) to Problems in Life
Dealing with Impossible, Negative or Crazy People

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william eckerd

thank you, the message in your writing was the master that appeared just when I needed it, just as your essay said.I would still like to find some other taoist practitioners in my area just to be able to share my open evolving life with others who are experiencing life the same way. Be Open To Life, Bill

P.J.

Thank you for this insightful response. I think the question of finding a teacher is perhaps more about finding spiritual community, or at least, I think that is what has been behind my search for a ‘teacher’. Coming to terms with the loneliness of a spiritual search can be difficult. But, as Buddhists say “your difficulties are your doors to dharma.” PJ

Daniel Sansom

@Casey. Is possible to obtain inner peace tranquility and undetstanding within the same moment of understanting oneself and feeilng chi literaly run through your body without having any training in taoism? I do belive i have had an epiphany and an understanding of the meaning of life. Simplicity. But on the contrary i seek advise from a teacher to clarify ones new found belief. What do you think?

ET

Thanks, Casey, for your answer to the original question. It makes sense to me and helps me stop seeking. I became interested in the way many decades ago and yet I still “seek” it. Awareness eludes me most of the time. But in this case I would say you can claim you taught me something.

@Linda: at different stages the needs for a teacher varies. At some steps a guide can make all the difference, at other steps guides can mislead also since at times we need to dance on our own.

The balance between the two is a trick indeed.

Linda

I’m 61 years old, live in the woods, and have been devouring every book I can find on the Tao. I, too, feel like I need a teacher, or at least someone to talk with, debate with and banter ideas about. Even the trees and my cats are my teachers. But I still feel the need for someone with more education and experience in the practice than I. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Dan Craig

Sometimes the parts just need to be made whole.

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