The best advice I’ve heard so far is basically:
- finding, making and holding dear spiritual friends (or those aligned and supportive on your path/journey)
- selecting teachers one resonates with and benefits from
There’s a saying that when you’re ready the teacher will appear. And when you’re really ready the teacher will disappear. For me, especially when starting out — and after getting past the baggage of unhelpful perceptions about many run of the mill school teachers — it sometimes seems like I still come across teachers by happenstance, but more likely it’s due to conditions and cause and effect. More so currently, teachers often seem to appear via synchronicity and similar mutual alignments.
Most of my formal meditation and spiritual teachers since I started out in 2012 are via online only (as of now). And just like most stuff online there’s a deluge of information silos to sift through to get to the good stuff, if one approaches finding teachers like most things online.
I then spent several years after starting out binge consuming podcasts and YouTube, often with each info dense episode leading to all kinds of other stuff and thus an exponential continuation of material to search out, consume, make connections, research, discern, etc. It’s important to exercise the saving grace of regular reminders about information overload.
During this phase I also found it very helpful to pause in the middle of something, walk away, and briefly assess — via thought, gut and intuition — if listening to the entire podcast or video would be worth the time (especially for the longer ones). Starting off, one’s inner guidance may likely be rusty and not nearly as trustworthy as it later becomes once developed.
For many, the popular, more mainstream teachers can serve as reference points for other teachers, and for wading through, sorting and roughly labeling vast amounts of material and teachings. This approach often supports discussions with friends and (potential) teachers.
While spiritual guru culture likely peaked in the 60s and 70s it can still be interesting to observe remaining gurus, their devotees, followers, cultures and lifestyles. For me, in general, teachers worth their salt will likely encourage moving on once they no longer help serve, expand, grow and assist one at the rate and amount to make it worth one’s time. Celebration is actually in order for such outgrowing and lack of clinging.
Other odds and ends of teacher vetting include:
- Do their teachings and path(work) include the heart? If not, it would be very challenging for me to recommend them
- How open and encouraging are they to questions and feedback?
- Who are their own teachers, past and current?
- Especially for those discovered without reference, is there somehow an immediate recognition of the teacher as important and worthwhile? Do their general teachings seem to speak directly to one’s path/journey?
- The article: How to Find (& Vet) a Buddhist Teacher
Eventually, formal teachers may be needed less and less, and nearly everything and everyone we encounter can, in a certain light, be a teacher or tester.
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