No matter what path you walk in life, being a teacher of spirit requires a special talent and passion. It’s not enough to know the material, though that is a very big part of it, but one must also know how to deliver their message with encouragement, empowerment and to promote tolerance. How you choose your words is equally important to how you deliver them to your audience.
The biggest thing to keep in the front of your mind is that you don’t know it all. No matter what your experience level, knowledge, degrees beside your name; you are not the all knowing consciousness of the universe. And that’s ok. Every teacher has more to learn and room to grow. The old saying that a teacher has as much to learn from their students as the student does from the teacher is somewhat accurate. You may have more information about a topic or subject, but there are other “lessons” you can learn from those you teach. Whether your subject is spiritual belief, healing, divination or any other practice; you have not come across every situation a person might face. Some one will surprise you with their experience and you’ll be presented with a moment of learning how to help that individual in a new way or with a different approach than you have used in the past.
A spiritual teacher is always open to new avenues of thought and ready to take in new information of discovery. Figuring out how new information fits into your understanding may mean changing your beliefs. And that’s ok too, growth comes in many forms and the idea of growth is change. Change is inevitable and allows the soul to progress and evolve. If you feel threatened when a student questions your perspectives or something you said, then perhaps you’re not so sure about that topic within your own soul either. Hold within your consciousness the adage “The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know” and you will leave the door open to new ideas and possibilities. You create an environment for self expansion and to expand your awareness and perspective of the Divine world around you. You allow your own path to grow and evolve toward enlightenment and you create the opportunities to share that growth with your students.
As a spiritual expert those “teachable moments” will come in many forms both expected and unexpected. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure, let’s find out”. Years ago this wasn’t that easy to do, and research into the unknown took time and effort that you may not have been able to do. But today with the advent of the internet and access through smart phones, you can find out anything anytime of the day or night. Sometimes you simply need the definition of a word to make a link between the question you were asked and your understanding of a topic. That quick search can confirm you did know, but you call that subject by some other name.
Whether you’re talking with someone in a one on one situation, or writing an article to explain an approach, doing a quick search on a topic can give you a quick approach to answering the question when you’re unsure of how to begin. Yesterday someone asked a question about healing phantom pain experienced by an amputee. While I have conducted such healings, I struggled for a moment on how to begin answering the question in writing. Even if you know the material and you’re sure of your answer, you will have moments of “where’s the best place to start”. A quick search on the topic can help you begin your explanation. In my case, reading the first 2 sentences from the National Institutes of Health (nih.gov) provided me with the starting point I needed to begin. It only takes a moment to get your thoughts together, but that moment could be the difference in providing concise information or rambling on incoherently.
Tone and Empowerment
Being able to know the best place to start also provides moments of empowerment. It starts you off on the right foot so to speak. When you feel empowered by your knowledge, you pass that empowerment onto your students in a positive way.
One of the biggest issues facing mainstream religions today is the condemnation of action and the ‘preachy’ rhetoric. Especially in today’s world where people are struggling with personal trials and challenges, the last thing they want when they turn to their spiritual path for help and guidance is to be told they’re sinful or bad.
Spiritual teaching should provide information, explain and define concepts, assist in understanding those concepts and mostly should empower individuals to implement this knowledge on their own spiritual path. It’s meant for the soul, but it’s also meant for the soul to be able to live their life from the aspect or point of view of spirit. No matter what your religion, your place as a teacher is not to judge others. So there’s no need to condemn people for their choices in life. Whether you’re using a one on one conversation to teach, or teaching in a classroom, or even from the pulpit, delivering your message with a positive tone and uplifting words will go much farther than wagging your authoritative finger.
It’s also important to remember that your teaching, even if you’re an expert on the subject, comes from your research, study and interpretation. I could learn the same material and because of my own experiences and perspectives, I might have an entirely different interpretation of the same material. Consequently the words you choose in delivering your message should not use “must”, “have to”, “we’re told”, or any other limited authoritative rhetoric. Instead begin with the understanding that what you are sharing is from your own perspective, “I believe” or “I have learned”. This still gets your message across, but it does so without “preaching” to your audience. Personalizing your message allows the student to think for themselves about the lesson and resolve any issues they have within their own understanding and personal experiences.
As a teacher you cannot learn lessons for others. You cannot force others to learn when their personal experiences have given them a different perspective or even if they have built walls and refuse to see what lessons they’re facing. It’s not your job to break down those walls. Rather it’s your job to show them there are other tools they can use to climb the wall or break it down and continue their journey toward enlightenment.
As a spiritual teacher you can discover ways to acknowledge a student’s perspective without using the words “no”, “that’s wrong” or “that’s not right”. It doesn’t matter how you say it, but when you tell someone their understanding about a topic is wrong, you are closing a door in their mind to hearing your message. People in general don’t like being told they’re not right about something. There’s a difference between my saying “I’m wrong” and “ok, you’re right”. One has a negative connotation and can put someone on the defensive. The the other has a positive affirmation and allows you to provide more explanation. The same is true when you’re talking to someone about something they said with their own passion and perspective.
If you can develop language to respond to others that acknowledges their right to believe as they do, you are keeping the door in their mind open to hear your view. “That’s interesting”, or even “I’ve not thought of things that way before”, “I understand what you’re saying”, all acknowledge the information without saying “I don’t believe that” or “I think you’re totally nuts”. “That’s interesting. I believe this..” is less confrontational and can provide a teaching moment where both student and teacher can share and learn from each other.
Know Your Audience
How you deliver your message also depends on who you’re delivering it too. As a spiritual expert you maybe called upon to share insight of your path to other faiths. In these cases you can’t assume your audience knows all the concepts you’re going to talk about and what they mean on your path. A Christian may have no idea what transmigration means, unless they converted from Hinduism. By the same token it’s important not to talk down to an audience as well. People in general aren’t stupid and they can grasp new ideas and perspectives if we can share them in a comprehensible manner.
You don’t have to use big words, or extreme concepts to sound smart. You can get to the same place if you talk plain and share ideas with a little explanation as you go. Recently I read an article by a psychologist who seemed more intent on sounding “deep” and “intelligent” rather than getting his message across. I read the article 3 times and each time I was left with “I have no idea what you’re trying to say”. And I’m not a novice to the topic. Now if I couldn’t understand it, how was a new student going to grasp the concept?
The same is true whether you’re teaching to those outside your faith or those who share your beliefs. A new student in an introductory class is not going to have the same level of understanding as one who is in an advanced study program. Knowing your audience includes all levels of understanding and experience. It only takes a little extra time to plan for the right level of information and the best method of delivery. Sometimes talking as if you’re having a regular conversation is all that’s needed to getting your point across.
Where your teachable moment is can also dictate your delivery. You may approach a congregation from a pulpit differently than a casual study group. Instruction to a formal class setting is different from a teachable moment that crosses your path in an everyday situation. One on one counseling will present different circumstances than you will face when someone sees your religious necklace in a grocery store and asks you what is that. As an expert or representative of your faith, teachable moments will fall in your lap out of the blue, anytime and everywhere. Even if it’s your own family or children how you approach their questions or opportunities to teach will be different from how you answer a question made by a stranger. Take that time and prepare yourself for the audience you stand before. Even if it’s just one person who crosses your path on a street corner. Pause, breath and then respond.
Having a well rounded perspective will help those teachable moments when you want to share information. Linking subjects together fill in the gaps or can make comparisons that provide insight for the student. For instance, if you’re teaching a class about reincarnation are you including in that subject the concepts of how the soul is attached to the physical body? Anatomy of the soul might be considered a different topic, but they are linked and providing information that explains that link can also widen a students understanding of reincarnation and the chakra system within the body. For those who read that and said how? The chakras are the physical manifestation of the soul in the physical body. Another way of saying that, the soul is linked to the physical body through the chakra stem.
Additionally the more advanced students will begin asking tougher questions that will force you to delve deeper into material that provides a wider connection between subjects. Knowing how your spiritual beliefs are connected will go along way to providing that information and expanding the views of your students.
However, as a spiritual expert, you should also have some knowledge of other spiritual paths and how they relate to the foundation of your beliefs. Another good adage to remember is “we all believe in the same thing, we just use different labels to name them”. Many of your students may have exposure to mainstream religion, using examples from those systems of belief in your metaphysical teaching can provide the ah-ha moments they’re looking for.
You don’t have to be an expert on all religions, but having a well informed position of other religions will help you answer questions from people who have more experience from those belief systems. Additionally some of the people you encounter will be practitioners of those beliefs who are intent on attacking your beliefs. If you are uncomfortable with those attacks then perhaps you are not as sure about your own beliefs as you thought. Challenges to your understandings shouldn’t put you on the defensive or feel like an attack on your ego. Others are equally as passionate about their spiritual approach as you are. Remember you’re supposed to be an expert here, as such, you should be able to defend those challenges with knowledge and facts, not with yelling and emotions.
Again the old adage “know more about your enemy than they know about themselves” will give you the edge in these unexpected battles. Knowing how your beliefs connect to the beliefs of others gives you a greater understanding of spirituality than the person who doesn’t understand the history of their own belief system. By doing this you can easily turn an uncomfortable attack into a positive teachable moment and perhaps even discover a way to build tolerance and peace between perspectives. Of course there will be times when you cross paths with people who are intent on not listening to anything you have to say. Part of the discernment of being an expert is knowing when you can teach, and when it’s better for you to just walk away. Others cannot attack you, if you refuse to step onto the battlefield with them. Walking away is a very powerful tool
More Than One Way
Learning about others not only gives you a leg up on opponents, it also provides you with insight to alternative views. There is no “one way” to spiritual enlightenment. What works for you may not work for someone else, even if you practice the same belief system. Religion and spirituality are very personal things. Everyone has their own experiences and those unique situations will provide each individual with their own views and understandings of life, spirit and their connection to both. Just because someone doesn’t believe as you do doesn’t mean they are wrong.
If you believe that everyone is on their path and moving at their own pace in the right time and place for them, than all perspectives are valid. Assuming those perspectives aren’t destructive or harmful to others (plant, human or animal). One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received in life came from one of my early teachers. He said “A teacher doesn’t teach, until the student is ready to ask the question”. When someone comes to you for learning to take a class or begin healing, they are open to knowledge and understanding. But there still maybe issues they have to face that they’re not ready to delve into. Which takes us back to, you can’t force others to learn until they’re ready to listen.
That advice also means allowing your students to walk their path at their own pace. There’s a difference between feeding someone and teaching them how to fed them self. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a student is not answer their question, but rather direct them to finding the answer on their own. That same teacher said to me, constantly actually “I guess you have some reading to do” and then he handed me a book. A little guidance can go a long way to empowering someone to trust their own inner judgment and discovering what’s right for them or what works best for their path. What they discover may not be exactly what you do, or how you approach something but that’s ok. There’s more than one way to wash the dishes, what’s important is that they get clean and put away in one piece.
Frustration is the biggest enemy of a spiritual teacher. Frustration with challenges to your knowledge, with students not getting the message, with individuals fighting against the lessons they face, with not being able to help those who refuse to be helped. When you can remember that all paths are valid for each individual, you can alleviate some of that frustration and allow each person to walk their own spiritual path on their terms. You don’t have to carry their luggage or try to force them into “believing the right things”. Instead you can be there with compassion and support when they are ready to learn and ask the question that allows you to show them the way to their own insight and enlightenment. You are allowing them to walk their own path and showing them how to discover their own empowerment. There’s nothing better than that for a teacher of spirit.
-> The final installment: What Is A Spiritual Expert – Part VI – Intuitive Psychic
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Spring’s Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.