Two prospective students want to learn how to swim. They find a swimming teacher.

One student argues with the teacher when told that they have to go face-down in the water, reach their arms over head, and kick with their legs. They don’t like the feeling of the water on their face. This doesn’t feel “right” or “true” for them.

The other student follows the instructions. They struggle.

Seeing this struggle, the first student declares that this shows the teacher is a bad teacher. They want a teacher that will teach to swim by lying on their back with their arms and legs dangling in the water. And if there is any struggle, of course, the instructions must be bad!

Eventually, however, the second student begins to swim well. Soon they ask for other ways to swim, follow those instructions, and become skillful at those ways of swimming as well.

The first student leaves, and they still don’t know how to swim. But they believe in time that they’ll manifest a true teacher.

Is there are a good student and a bad student?

As far as learning to swim, yes.

In terms of being a “bad” or “good” person. No, there is not. That is ego judgment.

As you read today, please consider this example. Being good or bad is not about being a good or bad person; it is about accepting the teaching as it is being taught.

The Arrogant Western Student

I have come up against so much arrogance in students. Westerners like to think they know what they need. They think they know what all of their problems are. They think they can pick and choose what they do or do not do.

Again and again, they are wrong. Even when they are right about some of their problems, they tend to choose poorly in terms of how to actually resolve them.

I’ve seen this arrogance since I began teaching in 2010; nothing has changed. If anything, people are every more individualistic.

In this defensive state, the typical Western student does what their ego thinks they should do–which is very rarely what is needed.

Whenever progress is made, it is slow and filled with many mistakes and backslides.

Most of that is unnecessary.

If you find out that this is you, humility is the way out.

5 Misunderstandings About Humility

Empowered From Following Instructions

Here are things that I instruct people to do:

Meditate for 30 minutes daily–silent and seated.

Journal about from where your emotions and beliefs come.

Slow down.

Breathe and come back to awareness

It’s nothing extreme. But few people actually do it.

The inability to let go of control keeps people trapped, and more than a few try to bargain with me–as if that will work.

People may be like, “Hey I meditated for 10 minutes. That’s good, right?”

Your body barely registered that you stopped moving.

That’s not my rules–that’s your body. That’s part of the world you live in. You don’t change those rules. You only suffer the consequences of denying them.

Thus, it is strangely simple to be a good student.

Follow the instructions.

And they’re typically very straightforward and nothing obscure, complicated, or harmful. The more you follow them, the more you discover about yourself.

You “swim further” on your spiritual path.

From here, you begin to understand freedom and the deeper power of engaging life as it is rather than as your ego wants it to be.

How the Ego Protects Its Many Stories (And Why this Is a Big Problem)

Student Sincerity

You have to sincerely want to see and embrace all of you.

Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and your teacher’s time.

Ironically, part of the work is to find out that you sincerely don’t want spiritual freedom.

How to Find Spiritual Freedom

You want other things.

You want soulmates, purpose, better jobs, kinder friends, your mother’s approval, your kids to excel at school, money, lower mortgage or rent payments, better tenants, and other things.

It’s through seeing our insincerity that sincerity becomes possible. This is, in part, because we realize that we can’t keep any of the things we seek.

It is all impermanent.

Because it is impermanent, we’ll suffer if we are attached to these things. It’s best to let go of these attachments.

The Simplicity of the Work

That’s all I have.

Be sincere and follow the instructions.

You can swim far in unlearning your ego when that’s how you come to your spiritual teacher.

And communicate what is going on inside of you.

There’s nothing to hide.

There’s only what Is and the truth of who you truly Are.

The Spiritual Teacher and Spiritual Student Relationship

Overwhelmed by Gratitude for Your Teacher


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


  1. Well I never realised that these basic instructions were never followed, how disappointing!
    From own experiences, I meet plenty of spiritual teacher’s who feel threatened very easily. I questions a lot. I question to clarify, just in case I got it wrong via unconscious assumptions, I question to understand, I state my objections, hoping that they can come back and explain more deeply, I secretly hope I am proven wrong, so I can learn something. I like being wrong. I like being challenged. I like to go deeper. This only happens with sincere interest and questions.
    Instead, I find teacher’s who feel threatened by my questioning, who think I’m difficult or challenging, who assume I”m looking for an argument, and thus stuck in ego, and who think I am hoping to prove them wrong.
    They all seem to want to acquire silent, docile conforming sheep.
    Perhaps I’d come off better if I were a female?

    • You sound very upset. Questions are powerful when you want to know the truth of yourself. The most powerful questions are things like “Who am I?” and “Where do my beliefs come from?”

  2. I believe it is possible to learn from your inner “source” directly, as well as each and every interaction with other living beings.

    However, in my own personal journey, and the stories I’ve gathered from fellow seekers of understanding, one might benefit significantly from the right guide or teacher.

    I believe Jim is correct in orienting us inward, to discover why some of our journeys involve larger/longer periods of regression than some others.

    For myself, I can say that Jim’s advice has been a great resource on my journey. Even though I don’t always agree, or understand the message he is trying to convey, I do believe he is a solid teacher on these matters.

    Thanks Jim. Your blog posts, and emails have been a steady reminder of why I chose this path. It’s honestly been very insightful watching your writing, and your understanding progress over the years.

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