“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Disclaimer: While at the time this was written statements in this article were true for me, I’ve since discovered a ‘guru’ can also be a reason to hide from my own inner-teacher and truth. The slippery slope of enchantment in another (no different in many ways to falling in love) leads inexorably to unrealistic expectations and pedestaling.
The teacher mentioned at the end of this article, is no longer my teacher. That does not mean his teaching is of no value. It simply means the relationship was no longer serving my own unfoldment. (July 22, 2014…Feast of the St. Mary Magdalen Day.)
In a popular Facebook group for enlightenment chit-chat, someone wrote about how post-awakening, a spiritual community or teacher seemed unnecessary if not impossible. This man, prior to his popping awake four years ago had even been an ordained member of a Buddhist community. Then, it all fell away.
This question of the need for a teacher post awakening is a juicy one. A deep and true awakening obliterates the seeker, the very identity that attached itself to a club (Buddhism/Tantra/Shamanism for instance) or to the role of a student/aspirant. And the often-unspoken truth is, the seeker loves to search more than it desires to find. Pre-awakening, attachment to the role of spiritual practitioner can be a sly haven from waking up.
In my tectonic shift from spiritual dilettante to “Holey Moley I’m Awake” three years ago, I wrote that “I used to be a seeker and so I invested energy and time in renovating that house. I continually decluttered it with new meditation or visualization practices. I repainted it inside and out with new knowledge, to make it more beautiful and give it curb side appeal. I threw out the junk as best I could, so that my house would be spacious, simple and Zen like. I wanted that house of my mind to be a place of stillness, equanimity and joy.
I worked really hard to make it all of those things though yoga, tantra, self-improvement books and psychological house cleaning. And yet always, hidden dirt under the carpet or a skeleton in the closet would emerge to reveal that stillness was not here. Only the unstable illusion of stillness was here.” (When the House Burns Down ).
But that said, two years post house-burning–after basking in abiding equanimity and inner stillness–I found myself unexpectedly encountering the muck of conditioned responses and ancestral line mud in my spick-and-span house of emptiness. I would say the stable ground of my awakened awareness started to develop patches of quicksand….and this is when a teacher became helpful.
For me, a teacher is simply someone further along in their own awakening journey. And to discount the need for this kind of been-there-done-that guidance can be a sign of spiritual immaturity at best and spiritual egoity at worst.
Rather than luring me back to Seekers-ville (as if it is even possible once we glimpse the truth of what we are not), discovering a teacher post awakening seems to have stabilized and accelerated this enlightening process (thanks to Tim Foley for that term). And it is a process with stages and depth. Too many mistake it as one-shot deal, a kind of “I’ve arrived” when all that’s happened is a threshold has been crossed from the unreal to the real. Yet there exists an entire landscape beyond that initial shift–and it does have its share of pitfalls.
So, in the playful spirit of clickbait lists, here is my top five reasons to have a teacher even after you have realized you are not the ‘me’ you thought yourself to be.
Why a Teacher is Good for You–Even if your Me is Missing in Action
1. A Real Teacher Points the Finger Back at You.
Here is where you need guru-discrimination. There are teachers out there, looking for adoration, power and glory. But there are just as many teachers out there where the value is in a teaching that points you in one direction: inward. This is of immense assistance when the the residual of ego (the survivor bits of your awakening firestorm) show up clambering for self improvement or well-being through the externals of him, her, this or that. Your teacher, if this teacher is real, reminds you simply: “This outward Spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden.” ~ Rumi
2. A Teacher Helps You Keep Your Mirror Clean.
You already know what I mean. Just when you think you are seeing the spotless reflection of God-Self/No-Self in the mirror of your daily life, you find a smudge. The one that looks like a “me” having a me-moment — you know, like arguing with reality. A teacher at this juncture is a great astringent for that greasy spot on the mirror of self-reflection, readily pointing out in Rumi-esque ways, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
3. A True Teacher Rescues You from the Trap of Mental Gymnastics.
This is perhaps the biggest pitfall post-awakening. The mind jumps in to analyse. And it’s frankly, exhausting and diverting. Because the mind is not where it’s at–the mind in fact, is a decoy from the heart, where all spiritual truth resides. You won’t realize this while you are busy bickering in virtual chat rooms with other no-selves about how many angels dance on the head of a non-duality pin. But trust me, there is so much more to be relished in the bliss and peace available in the fullness of the heart than in the dry debates of the mind. A good teacher will point out: You are in your head again. Please step aside. Or as Rumi would instruct, “And from beyond the intellect, beautiful Love comes dragging her skirts, a cup of wine in her hand.”
4. A Teacher is an Accelerant for the Fire of Truth.
Here we enter the tricky notion of progress. Post awakening the celebration is a kind of arrival-relief, an end-of-the-journey satisfaction for the road-weary. It’s so damn clear when the seeking ends, that what was sought was here all along (or as Rumi said, that which you are seeking is seeking you), a merry mirth emerges as well. The cosmic joke on us can be so en-lightening at first, that the idea there is a “go further” seems absurd. Where is there to go, and who is there to go? Yet, if you sit long enough in in the post-awakening terrain, there is a niggling question that emerges: I have awoken but am I living this awake-ness?
In the words of neo-advaita teacher Adyashanti, during a 2008 gathering: “Even though you’ve seen in that moment that there is no you, nonetheless the dissolving of you has now begun in earnest and you can expect it to continue in ways and to a depth that you never imagined. And that’s basically what it’s about. And once that process has started, it doesn’t really need your help. It just can use you not hindering it. The “me” can’t help it along, but the “me” sure can kind of slow the whole thing down. “
And that is where a teacher steps in. A good teacher sees where you are stopping or blocking this progressive unfoldment, and with skillful insight (and sometimes a spiritual transmission) gives you the momentum needed to overcome post-awakening-inertia.
5. A Teacher Can be A Conduit for Grace.
A definition is probably needed here and one of my favourites is this line by progressive Christian theologian Preston Sprinkle, “Grace…means that God is pursuing you.”
It is by this mechanism of grace (God’s pursuit of us) that we initially awaken to the truth of who we are–which is an ultimate irony, because in the quest for enlightenment (which I call the end of suffering) it seems as if we are are the pursuer. In fact, two years prior to my own grace-filled overnight awakening, I wrote a poem hinting at the same insight about who is chasing who and what happens when we surrender our search.
“When I stopped looking,
God found me. When I was minding
My own sweet business, God
Kept butting in.
What a pain in the ass. After eons
Can ‘t stop
The point then of a deeply self-realized spiritual teacher in the context of post-awakening is that grace can continue to manifest as God nagging us and cheering us through our teacher to go further. It’s all too easy to rest on our awakening laurels, sit in self-satisfied bliss or peace, and imagine ourselves “cooked.”
A good teacher is a like a great chef, tending to each student’s progress with a knowing eye. It’s not enough to leave the awakened student at a low simmer when a full boil is best. Or to take that cake out of the oven before it rises–for the impulse of the divine is pursuing itself to wake up ALL THE WAY, to the place where separation of any kind ceases to exist.
This far shore of enlightenment is not a place we often reach alone–but more often with the guidance of a teacher or teachers who point the way. And grace is the mechanism by which a teacher can truly teach. It’s not about the words a teacher speaks—it’s the truth carried on the backs of those words.
(Disclaimer: This post is in no way meant to suggest you need to find a teacher to be on your path. It’s simply to say, if one shows up, it might be a good thing.)
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18 thoughts on “5 Reasons a Teacher can be Good for Your Post-Awakening No-Self”
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A disciple ultimately meets Guru when he realizes that there never was a disciple nor a Guru.
Renee Baribeau (@PracticalShaman)
As a chef, I love your kitchen mis en place. Love your writing and your continued exploration into your ever dissolving self.
Lori Ann Lothian
Thanks Renee for peeking into my dissolving self world. I wonder if we can cook up a No-Self souffle together one day. 🙂
This is a wonderful post. I’ve been on this healing path for a long time and what I know is the more I know the more I know how little I know. Hence, the need and the opening for teachers who have already walked this way.
>>And once that process has started, it doesn’t really need your help.<<
Thank you. That is what I found to be at the heart of it, the redundancy of self, instead a continuous listening to the stillness and the unspoken teachings this offers. Any remnant of self remaining silenced and humbled.
I had a silent companion most of my life, never in any form or shape, which lead me to stillness and then when stillness unfolded in its glory it irreversibly removed a part of me which I had mistakingly taken to be myself. With that part gone, I can no longer find the receptacle that needs to be taught, though in its place there is an infinite space ready to learn. But if a teacher came my way I would embrace him or her like a long lost brother or sister.
Lori Ann Lothian
I just love these words: “With that part gone, I can no longer find the receptacle that needs to be taught, though in its place there is an infinite space ready to learn. But if a teacher came my way I would embrace him or her like a long lost brother or sister.”
That is the experience here too — the death of the seeker is the end of the need to find an external reference point for one’s well being. Yet, as you so eloquently say, there is still a space ready to learn.
For some reason, too, my teacher feels like a family member to me. I’ve used mother figure, because I relate I suppose to the feminine aspect of his character traits, but also because the connection is nurturing and nourishing. Yet, there is not pedestal upon which I can place this teacher, or any teacher…because the teacher is not higher than me, simply further than me…..(the further-ness is really a kind ripeness, or fullness of realization. I can see and feel my teacher has seen further than I have–and this delights me).
Thanks for reading Jurgen!
The Retired Seeker
This post is wonderful, I can so relate. I started blogging after seeing through the illusion of a separate self thinking I had retired from the search which only lasted a short while. Before long I was reading, listening to videos and constantly reading the enlightenment groups on FB (mainly LU). I wasn’t seeking Truth now but ways to better live the life of no-self. I found that I only listen to very few teachers now, seems I have a better radar for the ones pointing to where I can relate. I agree, the realization of no-self is the beginning. I have never had a one-on-one teacher and can see the benefits, just no one around where I live. Thanks so much for sharing this!!
Lori Ann Lothian
Thank You for reading, and i just popped in to your blog to read a few as well. hugs.
Shyam, Dark Horse
hmmmmm …( an eagle just flew by my window!) my own living breathing heart, the non-verbal be-ings I live amongst, the god animating every particle of consciousness…. no, I don’t want to call anyone or anything a teacher; I don’t want any one or any thing to call themself ‘teacher’ ….. I want to feel the god-life in every spark of creation, including every hu-man, I want to Be in “astounding, lucid confusion”, out of my mind in awe and wonder…breathing god every breath, I want to be reminded when I be-hold every particle of creation of god-I-AM, and I, I AM alive to reflect god, to remind all of creation: I SEE YOU-are-god (great blue heron just lifted off the snowy field!).. I so want hu-mans to stop the incessant mental talking…. the “crazed defense of a crumbling fort”… if you ever sit for hours beside a tree, beside a dying calf, beside horses grazing, beside a gorgeous grass snake sunning herself, you just ‘know’ god….there’s no urge to talk about god, there is no “done-ness”, in god….let’s just Shut up and feel. let Silence take us to the core of Life.
Lori Ann Lothian
The mystical union with all that is, is unspeakable. Yet Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir and more tried to bring this wordless knowing bliss to the written and spoken word. So yes, of course I hear you Shyam! Yes, I have this wonderment that strikes me to the core, that I am that, and that all of it is me! And nature is one of those places where it becomes so readily obvious, so mindlessly true. But sigh. I write…and so do you! (wonderfully, you do). And some teaching. And beautifully, they do. there is room in God’s garden, for every glorious flower.
Shyam, Dark Horse
I adore your spacious grace-ious-ness! I love the softness I feel…. there’s room in god’s garden for every flower and bug, thriving, flowering, or not….. I wonder what might happen if I release the need, the want, to flower, to be more of this or that,,,,if I even release the want, to feel wonder.!!…..and just rest quietly in the sun of god’s warmth,,,, no student, no teacher, no seeking, just contentment in breath, in warmth, in be-ing, just feeling god for absolutely no reason than to just feel god…… i’ll sit in this with some trees and horses ,,, maybe not even wondering,,,,,just letting,,, maybe I’ll even let you know! and thank you for sharing your willingness to be “public”, dear Inspring mirror.
You and I are THAT, Shyam, and as the Absolute…….I offer my salutations to my Self as you.
Lori Ann Lothian
Hi Davidya! Thank you as always for jumping in to comment. On my year-end report WP put you as my number one commenter in 2014! Yay. All your points above, resonate with me.
Thanks, Lori, for all of that. I.m currently writing from the other part of this Journey, I mean the place were realization has not occured yet, and reading you is helpful for me to stay confident with the process. I understand that the process continue again after noself realization.
The Way I progress is sustained by the blissful help of nature ´s intelligences. These wise intelligences and Their global vision of the human process always insist on the importance of integration. Every step has to be fully integrated in the mind-body dynamics. Even Though it sometimes seems a bit longer, I see that this way of progressing brings an inner stability which is helpful when unstability of burning-ego comes. Nature tought us that every living form is evolving. Your words this morning sound true to me in my own context. Thanks for sharing, Lori !
Lori Ann Lothian
Thank you for reminding me: Yes, all the points in this piece would apply to pre-and-post awakening benefits of a teacher.
Great post, Lori. I’ve seen this a number of times. It’s natural to have a sense of being done when the seeker ends. We find a new point of balance in peace. But this is like thinking because puberty has set in that it means we’re an adult. 😉
I know people who dropped practices, teachers, and even decided it was time to teach this new-found wisdom. Certainly there may be a shifting in priorities. And we may even need an upgrade. But to think that sense of done-ness is absolute is to ignore everything until now.
There is a simple yardstick. That cosmic awakeness is within. But is it on the level of the body yet? Do you recognize the physical body as cosmic? Is our unity right on the level of physical touch? Do we contain everything, even beyond our universe? If not, you’re not yet done. Even the cosmic body is just the beginning of a full embodiment. There is so much more possible, it’s shame to get stuck in a new concept of “done”.
Sometimes, a teacher doesn’t have to do or say anything. They just have to hold the space for the opening to expand into or the barriers to fall away. That initial shift is so important. But it is just stepping through the door.
I agree, Davidya……and as a serious spiritual seeker myself, this is indeed disturbing.People have some sort of awakening or shift and all of a sudden, they delude themselves (albeit foolishly) think that they are fully Enlightened or Awakened (to the likes of people like Ramana Maharshi or the Zen Masters), and give satsangs, offer services (in which you have to pay $$$), speak at conferences, etc… What you mentioned here is EXACTLY what I am saying about these western (or westernized) spiritual teachers in the US, Europe and elsewhere……you may have had a shift or an wakening or opening, but has the ego been COMPLETELY destroyed…….not just at the gross level, but on ANY AND ALL of the subtle levels as well, and with it, bondage and spiritual ignorance? If you say no or refuse to inquire and take an honest look at yourself, then please DO NOT consider yourself Enlightened or fully awakened, and hence, finished with the spiritual path or process.