Finding your calling as a spiritual teacher is a big deal. You are placing yourself in a position where you will help people face some of their darkest issues and learn what it means to melt into their truest light. It is no small thing to take up this mantle, although for many of you it may feel like this calling picks you.
Today, I want to discuss what it means to find your calling as a spiritual teacher and why it is a choice that should not be made quickly or lightly. A lot can go on in the work of a spiritual teacher, and that can demand far more of you than you realize.
There are a lot of naive ideas out there about spiritual teaching, and there are plenty of people who are simply trying to make themselves feel good through helping others. The latter is the path to becoming a wounded healer and does not truly serve anyone, including yourself.
So let’s talk about how you make this choice to work as a spiritual teacher and how to know when it is time to pick up the keys to this amazing car.
It’ll be no surprise to regular readers of this spiritual awakening blog that step one to choosing to work as a spiritual teacher is learning to work on yourself. If you have even the slightest inclination to working as a spiritual teacher, then you should find your way to learning how to do inner work.
I am increasingly dismayed at how few people get the simplicity and importance of inner work. On certain levels of healing and growth, there is a lot of knowledge available online and elsewhere. For example, if you’re healing addiction, there’s a lot of support and information regarding how to do that, although some people would say that there are a lot of gaps even in those healing modalities. And addiction is something with which people are incredibly familiar.
What seems to happen is that people get stuck in mental loops. From those deeper beliefs and core fears, they create new beliefs and do new things. It’s what I call wallpapering the jail cell. Someone can go from trying to fix everyone as a doctor or nurse to trying to fix everyone as an energy healer. They’ll learn a whole bunch of new “spiritual” ideas and skillsets, but the core issue is the same. This person is a fixer, and fixers do not serve others. They’re trying to serve their own needs to feel good in someway by resolving other people’s problems. The fixer/problem-solver can only be ready to serve when s/he has resolved this and many other issues hiding in the background.
In general, doing new “spiritual” stuff doesn’t free you from core issues or even the mid-level issues. Creating new beliefs often only masks old ones, and doing “spiritual” things without the right mindset leaves people no more ready to teach than before.
So, all I can say is that until you really understand how to work on yourself and release issues, you have no business working as a spiritual teacher despite how you may feel called to do so.
Confusing Your Spiritual Work as Life Work
I wrote a whole blog post on this topic some time ago, and I encourage you to read it particularly if you want to work as a spiritual teacher.
Essentially, when people have done something for awhile and realized a lot of benefit, people think that they should offer the same type of work to others. It’s like if you really benefited from yoga, and now you want to be a yoga teacher for others. That’s not a bad thing, but it may not actually be what you’re called to do. It’s simply what you’re called to do for yourself right now.
That’s a key distinction.
Fortunately, the more you do the spiritual work that you are called to do for yourself, the clearer everything becomes.
Another reason why really understanding spiritual work is so important is that some interests dissolve. Some people will come to completion with what they need from yoga, and then they will no longer be interested in teaching others.
Additionally, true interests emerge and/or are clarified through inner work. Understanding yourself becomes easy. It’s not hard to see if you have a specific calling or not. If you do want to teach yoga to others, then you’ll be more energized about it after doing your inner work and breaking through major issues.
To be clear, not everyone has a strong calling. You don’t need to. Being you is and has always been enough.
But doing the inner work you need to do helps to unwind any confusing ideas and return to the beautiful simplicity of your own presence. Inner work is not as hard as it sounds, although initially people find a lot of their own resistance gets in the way. Understanding your resistance is key to having a level of empathy towards others that you may one day work with as well as the wisdom to guide them out of it.
Hiding Self-worth Issues Through Helping Others
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, some people turn to spiritual teaching, healing, and other kinds of helping as a way to make themselves feel good. To be sure, helping another can be an amazing energetic and emotional high. Doing deep work with others is indescribably beautiful at times. At other times, it’s a long, slow walk through Hell as you support a student on their journey through and out of it. During these walks, the unhealed teacher may find him/herself drained and/or frustrated. For the truly immature teacher, s/he may blame the student for not “getting it.” There are a lot of ways unresolved self-worth issues will get triggered and revealed when you work as a spiritual teacher.
These days it is not hard to find a drained, frustrated, wounded healer. Because a lot of Western Culture teaches people that they “are not enough,” this major self-worth issue is an infection that is in most everyone, including in people who could be wonderful spiritual teachers. As I said, helping others can be an amazing feeling, but not always. The teacher must be ready for that reality and not using their work as a means to hide from their own painful reality.
A healthy spiritual teacher has space for all kinds of connections and experiences with his/her students. They have that space precisely because they’ve worked through major issues like self-worth issues. In so doing, it doesn’t matter if the student heals and grows or not. It doesn’t matter if the student likes them or not. The deeper work of the divine is what matters (and of course when it doesn’t matter what happens, more often than not a student does like their teacher, and they do heal and grow–sometimes in extraordinary ways).
When you work really deeply with others, you should expect to have parts of yourself illuminated that you didn’t even know you had. Spiritual teaching will push you into new levels of inner work. That’s why you should not rush to help others until you’ve done really deep work with yourself and worked out a lot of the stuff you already know is there. Otherwise, you are very likely to get triggered and upset in your work. Then you will not be teaching or healing the people you work with. You’ll be taking them on a journey to help heal and teach you.
Spiritual Awakening and the Spiritual Teaching Path
Sometimes people think that after awakening that they should be a spiritual teacher, but that’s not true. You only need to listen to the calling in your soul. That’s all. If in dropping into inner peace you discover you do want to teach, you will know. Some people are going to wake up, and they will not be called to teach others. That’s just fine. There are no rules to a spiritual awakening. It only offers you the chance to be you.
For some of you, not teaching may come as a relief. As I said, there’s this idea that a spiritual awakening means you should be a teacher. But doing something you don’t want to do is antithetical to this whole process. It’s totally backwards thinking.
However, some of you will wake up and realize that you need to teach. It can be a powerful, powerful realization for some people. Don’t rush! Deal with the awakened shift first, and go through all the changes and evolutions that it brings to you. There is no hurry to start teaching others. For many of you, you’ll have too much energy moving through you to do much of anything but be with yourself let alone hold space for another.
Understanding How to Hold Space
Spiritual teaching may be a realization that arises early on after awakening. For others, it may appear later. It really depends on the individual. As it arises, you’ll notice that a true calling sticks around. If you avoid it, your mind and your life somehow keep returning to it. People may start listening to you differently and asking you questions. The awakened teacher–at times–may notice that the students find him or her without doing anything. This starts to point you towards a time of choosing–choosing to take up this vocation.
Choosing to Work as a Spiritual Teacher
Regardless of whether you are awakened or not, there will come a time when it is time to choose to work as a spiritual teacher if this is your calling. I cannot say when this time will come. All I can do is emphasize the importance of doing your inner work. There is no measurable level of clarity that you can attain that will determine when you are ready or what way you’ll specifically do as a spiritual teacher. But there is a way where this decision rises up within you. Whenever possible, finding stillness to allow this arising is the kind of choosing I encourage all of you towards for any major decision.
When we are quiet inside and still, it often becomes obvious when we need to make a decision about something or not. It becomes obvious what is ego and what is a deeper truth speaking to us. Listen to that deeper truth in regards to spiritual teaching. You are taking up an amazing vocation, and it is not something to be done lightly. You can return to this space over months and years if you like to see if the inner response is still there before making your decision. For truth, the answer typically remains the same.
When it is time to choose to work as a spiritual teacher, then do so. It may feel more urgent if you have avoided this path. It may not. It’s different for each person. Once you choose, then allow the path to unfold before you, trust the steps it shows you, and follow them.
The Spiritual Teaching Takes You
In that timing of choosing, you may also feel like the choice gets made for you too. It’s a powerful thing to feel that union where you are the chooser and chosen–where the divine chooses for you, but you also choose with the divine. This is a beautiful space. While I won’t say that all of you will have that kind of decision experience in choosing to work as a spiritual teacher, I can only point you towards the importance of looking for that space of union inside. Because you all have it. You all are it.
From there, the spiritual teaching can really take you and takeover your life. Spiritual teaching can be a powerful energy in and of itself, and surrendering to this work is really important. It’s not like doing most other jobs where you do it and then you stop. Spiritual teaching fills your days and nights in unique ways. It’s not like you’re always working; it’s more like the spiritual teaching is always flowing. It flows through rest cycles and can decide for you when it is time for a vacation, you see? It doesn’t live by human ideas and structures, and the organic nature of it requires active listening on your part to understand when and how much to do. It becomes very clear what types of people, places, and experiences support this work, and that will be what you are drawn towards.
The more you honor this divine flow, the more things in life also work for you. It truly is an extraordinary calling and is more than a mere job. But you have to really want that. Otherwise, don’t do it. If you are not ready to surrender your whole life to it to reap both the rewards and face the challenges that are part of working as a spiritual teacher, please find another vocation.
Different Types of Spiritual Teachers
After choosing, you will have to decide how you will work. Some of you will already notice how much you are teaching others in your life already, and that can offer you some guidance in how to offer the work. Other people will start from scratch. The more novice you are to spiritual teaching and working with people, the more important it is to find some form of mentoring. Mentorship isn’t inherently necessary for everyone, but for many it is a good idea. Most people who haven’t had an awakening drill the truth into them and excavate issues out of them should find a spiritual mentor to help them move into this work.
The Process of Becoming a Spiritual Teacher
Additionally, I’ve mentioned in past posts that there are different types of spiritual teachers. We are not all the same. We are not all working at the same level on the mountain. That’s great. There are all kinds of people at all kinds of levels on the proverbial mountain of life, and they need spiritual teachers who can meet them where there are.
What Is a Spiritual Teacher? (This post will offer more thoughts on the different types of teachers.)
In this vein of thinking, there are spiritual teachers who offer basic introductions to discipline, humility, and service. There are spiritual teachers who help people forge into deep and powerful issues. There are spiritual teachers who help people truly open their hearts, and of course there are many, many more. And with so much pain in the world, there is no lack of need for spiritual teachers.
What is important is that you understand the type of spiritual teacher you are. The better you understand yourself, the better you’ll understand what you can and what you cannot do. A spiritual teacher who understands the foot of the mountain may be of no help or counterproductive to a student scaling the mountain at 5,000 feet (1524 meters). It’s best to let that student go or refer him or her onwards. In so doing, you serve that student the best you possibly can.
Evolving as a Spiritual Teacher
My last point for this post is that spiritual teachers are not static people. Choosing to work as a spiritual teacher is not about reaching a level per se. It’s not about being a certain age. You can be ready to teach at age 23 or at age 73. Stepping into this work is really hearing the calling within you. When the time is right, you will know that you should step into that role. In stepping into that role, you bring all your gifts and flaws into that work. Which is why you need to continue your self-care and self-work as a spiritual teacher.
Plus, as you grow through your work, your teaching will likely change, clarify, or evolve. So unlike other jobs that are basically the same thing year after year, be aware that how you start teaching may not be how you teach ten years from now. That’s okay. What matters most is that you continue to be clear in yourself and true to yourself. Then you will be serving others to the best of your abilities.
Finally, there are many challenges a spiritual teacher will face that are unlike most other vocations. Learning from those challenges will help you to evolve in ways you cannot imagine, and in evolving, you can better serve your students. There isn’t an endpoint to achieve with this evolution of your teaching; evolution is simply part of being a human being. But in allowing yourself to be at peace wherever you are in your abilities, you continue to open yourself to evolution with humility, clarity, and love. As such, you offer your students a powerful example of being a spiritual being just through your presence, and presence is one of the greatest spiritual teachings any of us could ever offer.