I’ve been noticing different spiritual “teachers” being afraid to use the term “teacher” lately. It really has to do with the fact that a lot of people have forgotten how “learning” actually works. We’ve been so inundated with rote memorization and mimicry that we confuse that as “learning.” I remember loving my discussion-based classes in college because in those classes, the teacher was challenging us to think for ourselves. In that way, I guess I had to wait until college to get to some real teachers (at least regularly–I did have a few good ones through elementary to high school for sure).

In this vein of thought, I wanted to talk to you about learning how to learn because on the spiritual path. The teacher isn’t giving you anything you don’t already have. And just walking around trying to act like the teacher isn’t learning. It’s really just silly.

Unlearning How You Have Learned

All the Star Wars fans know where I got the above subhead. The famous line that Yoda says to Luke is that “You must unlearn what you have learned.” But along with unlearning the falsities that you believe in (like you need to be successful in making lots of money or be pretty), you also have to unlearn all the faulty mechanisms for learning. The basic way that many of us are taught to learn is to simply swallow whole whatever the appointed teacher has to offer. Initially, challenging the teacher is considered insubordinate and improper. On the spiritual path, it’s not that you are going to fight all the things a spiritual teacher has to say, but you’re going to weigh what the teacher has to say against your own inner knowing. Only you can ever know what is right for you, but ah well, getting in touch with that internal knowing is half if not the whole battle, isn’t it?

Ditching Your Third Party Support Mechanism

In this subhead, I’m referring to looking to others for internal answers. Now, there’s a big difference between internal and external world answers. Here’s an external world answer that I’ll seek someone out to help me with: “How do I flush my radiator?” I have no idea. But there are other people who do, so I’ll go find them to get help with that. Here’s an internal question: “What’s in my heart to offer to the world?” No one can tell you this. Other people can be helpful mirrors to you to reflect back what you already know, but they can’t know your truth. I may tell people a lot of stuff about what I see, but without their discernment, that’s just me speaking from my perspective. One of my current favorite pictures of myself has me taking a picture of something surrounded by the vastness of nature. It’s a nice reminder to me of just how small my vision is, and so too is it for all teachers, guides, visionaries, psychics, and channels. This is why you can’t rely on these these third-parties. A lot of people go to their angels and spirit guides, but that’s no better. They are at a level of awareness that is far broader than the human level, but they are not a repository for your answers. They’re here to help love and support you so that you can clearly connect with the answers that you already have within you and so that you can also connect directly to God.

Going Into the Void, the Unknown

Of course, part of what has been at work undermining true learning is a fear of the unknown. When you have to bet on yourself, you have to take full responsibility for yourself. You can’t abdicate that responsibility anymore if you are really walking the spiritual path. Anything that any teacher says is simply about helping you to connect with your own inner teacher. It certainly is nice to have some external wisdom from a person in a body on this path. I know that I’ve appreciated it from time to time when I used to seek out teachers for support, but the relationship with the external world teacher is always meant to be a temporary one. If you really get to the center of what spiritual teachers are doing, it’s that we’re here to help you live your life in love and in its fullness. If you’re already doing that, then you really don’t need a teacher (although perhaps you may simply enjoy the friendship of a spiritual teacher if you’ve crossed that threshold).

Clearing Out the Ego and Beginning from the Bottom

But most of you haven’t crossed that threshold. It’s not that it’s hard to get to, but it’s that you simply haven’t brought any awareness to where you’ve come from, where you’re going, or how you’re trying to get there. True learning is about “how you’re trying to get there.” Obviously, the spiritual path isn’t about “trying to get anywhere,” but initially aspiration is important. Aspiring to be a more loving and peaceful person is a worthy thing, and it helps to generate the energy to overcome the inertia and momentum that has been driving you towards insanity and suffering. So initially, this aspiration is important as you turn to face yourself in the mirror.

More About the Role of the Spiritual Teacher

In many regards, the spiritual teacher will help you to learn again. You don’t go to a spiritual teacher to get your answers. You go to the spiritual teacher to get support on the energetic level to help jumpstart the car. You go to the spiritual teacher to get tools to cut away the dead matter and debris in your heart and around your soul. You go the spiritual teacher so that you see one small way to live in a little bit more freedom and love, but you do not go to the spiritual teacher to model yourself after him or her. That’s ridiculous. You just need to be you, and what the teacher is modeling is that he or she is just being the way they are. That’s it. Spiritual teachers aren’t without foibles and faults. They’re just people, and in so doing, I think that’s how we help show you that it’s okay to just be human, but with a heck of a lot more love and compassion. No one is perfect, and the spiritual path is not a path to any kind of idealized perfection.

Learning Basics for Your Spiritual Journey

Okay, so that’s enough framework for the common situation that’s out there. And really, the old paradigm of learning just creates a shit-ton of devotees–people dedicated to a spiritual structure or even a spiritual guru. This is not walking the spiritual path as much as it looks like it. It’s just playing another ego game. If you learn to really know how to absorb spiritual truths and connect with your inner knowing, you can be an enlightened accountant and be totally committed to the spiritual path.

Here are some quick hits about spiritual basics and learning:

  1. It’s about the message and not the messenger. The teacher is just a relay station or a helpful bridge back to yourself. No one stays on a bridge. They use it to cross over.
  2. Using multiple sources. Lots of people say lots of stuff. Sometimes it’s helpful when exploring different spiritual tools (meditation, chanting, etc.) to see what multiple sources have to say about the tool before using it. However, when it comes to your inner knowing, you don’t want to be checking with lots of external sources to validate your inner knowing.
  3. Checking information with your inner knowing–finding what feels true. I know that this is a big one for a lot of you because you don’t feel like you’re tuned into it. But go check around on this blog. I’ve got quite a few posts about how to develop your inner knowing like post on this link.
  4. Memorization is secondary or tertiary. Just because you can tell me all the Commandments or the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism doesn’t mean you’re living by them. Let computers memorize.
  5. Challenge untruths. If something is said to you that doesn’t feel truth, challenge it. Challenge the source. You don’t have to, of course. After awhile, a lot of us simply smile and let whatever is said pass unless it’s a near and present danger or we’re guided to say something. But in the beginning, engaging with these things from a place of inner knowing can be illuminating and may show you aspects of the source in front of you that you would not have seen.

Letting Go of Useless Information and Learning Techniques

As you can see, the true spiritual path is anything but a passive, docile one where a guru leads you by the nose and holds all your answers. This path is truly empowering and is about you owning every aspect of yourself. Along the way, you’re going to see some nasty stuff about yourself–perhaps how you abuse power or how you give it away. Whatever you see will teach you a lot, and learning from those lessons about yourself is one of the most crucial aspects of learning on the spiritual path. Learning how to root out the lies you’ve been telling yourself and letting them go is central to everything. Because the clearer you are, the clearer your inner knowing will be, and the more you’ll be able to simply trust that you know all that you need to know. Then you can get the help you do actually need from an external source when you truly need it.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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