There are so many spiritual methods, practices, and teachers available to us these days. Advertisements promise that you can, “Find Inner Peace!” “Make More Money thorough Meditation!” and “Have Mind-Blowing Sex!” Do you ever wonder how you can possibly sort through it all, and find quality? Does quality in the spiritual marketplace even exist anymore?
If you ask me, profound, powerful, and authentic spiritual teachings can certainly still be found, but you need a good amount of discernment, as well as an understanding of your early imprints, to find them.
As an attachment therapist, I help clients realize that they often choose partners who mimic unhealthy patterns they survived during their childhoods. But these patterns don’t only show up in your intimate relationships. They can also influence the spiritual teachers, healers, practices, and communities you choose.
For example, if your father was distant or narcissistic in any way, you may be drawn to gurus or leaders who are surrounded by an entourage of fame and bright lights, but who make empty promises or lack the ability to actually connect with their students. Or if you had a parent who was critical or shaming, you may be drawn to teachers who view their students as problems to be solved, and become enmeshed in a futile process of “cleansing your sins” or purifying your flaws. Or you could be so forlorn that you will fall for whatever latest claim seems to offer relief.
So, how does a sincere seeker discern what is helpful — and what is a bunch of B.S.?
Here are 6 Questions to Ask When Considering a Spiritual Growth Path:
1. Is there a “cultish” vibe? Is the teacher on a pedestal? Is he or she considered “more enlightened” than the rest of us, or as someone with gifts and limitations? Even if you are feeling more blissful and euphoric than ever before, if you find yourself surrounded by starry-eyed followers striving to behave like their enchanted leader, run. This pedestaled guru is likely dispensing a potent energetic cocktail that gets seekers high — and hooked — on the dispenser.
Also, check-in with the signals your body is sending you, you are quite intelligent when you listen deeply. If you can notice subtle feelings that feel vaguely familiar like, ‘this is what the cool people are doing’, it may be a sign to take heed.
2. Are other paths honored as true and valuable? Does the method or teacher tell you that his way is the only, best or most expeditious way? If you simply commit to it without stopping (or trying anything else), will all your problems be solved? Sorry folks, this smells fishy to me as well. Although it can be useful to deeply engage one practice, any path that is not inclusive of all paths is not quality.
3. Do you perceive the teacher/ coach/ practitioner as “walking the talk”? Certifications and education are fine, but how does a leader to whom you are drawn actually live in the world? How is she embodying healing and authenticity? Remember, a healer or teacher can only bring you as far as she has gone herself, so keep that in mind when you choose who to trust as a guiding light on your path.
4. Does the method focus on treating symptoms only? Quality paths create deep, lasting, profound, permanent, foundational change. Many pop-psychology or “Mc-spiritual” methods bypass the deeply uncomfortable, even painful, processes necessary for true healing and change. Techniques that focus on eradicating symptoms without addressing deeper imbalances or wounding, often either don’t work at all, or provide only temporary relief. If a method skips right to positive affirmations, or promises you can have whatever you want without encountering any challenges, keep your credit card in your wallet and look for teachers who don’t shy away from darkness, messiness and authenticity.
5. Does the method or teacher understand your complexity? A true teacher or healer should never make you feel ashamed or separate in your difficulty. There is no symptom, behavior, or pain that has not been experienced by millions of other humans. There is, as they say, “nothing new under the sun”. On that note, while there are “textbook disorders” that are diagnosed, you are a soul and body with multiple assets as well as liabilities, and your process toward lasting change will be unique and complex. Whomever you trust to help you through your journey should be able to hold this paradox.
6. Does the practice/ teacher/ healer view all people as intrinsically healthy?
Find out right away if your teacher or guide thinks you are broken and needing to be fixed. If he does, move on! A quality beacon knows that whatever coping mechanisms you are struggling to release were developed early in life so you could survive an unsupportive, or even frightening situation, and you did the best you could at that time. Even if “doing your best” sucks on a particular day, you are inherently whole, healthy and intrinsically good.
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