This time on The Road Home, we learn about the ethics and roles of spiritual teachers. Ethan Nichtern shares his wisdom on how we can empower both teachers and students through mutual consent and clarity of roles.
Expanding our Relationship with Mindfulness
Many of us who have delved into meditation via books or podcasts will reach a point where we seek more formal guidance. Finding a spiritual guide, teacher, or community can be an important element in our journey to awakening. This may lead to becoming meditation teachers ourselves and overall expanding our relationship with mindfulness. Ethan describes how finding a teacher and becoming a teacher requires a level of discernment for choosing the right boundaries, consent, and keeping an understanding for everyone’s humanity.
“There is a need for awareness on the part of the student that the quest for some sort of pure and perfect inspiration, someone who never makes mistakes and never disappoints anyone, is a projection and an expectation that is doomed to fail.”
– Ethan Nichtern
To hear about some great teachers, listen to Healing at the Edge – Ep. 56 – Remarkable Teachers with Chris Britt
Gurus Are Human Too (8:00)
When we say that someone is a teacher, we often understand this as someone to look up to. However, being a teacher is a role, not an identity. Even renowned gurus are human before they are spiritual teachers. This means that they have many roles, may make mistakes, and may not fulfill everyone’s expectations all of the time. It is important to remember this when we seek a teacher and when we look to become a teacher, we can not forget the humanity of it all. This saves us from projection and disappointment when finding a teacher, and allows us to be authentic when becoming a teacher. Ethan gives us this piece of wisdom:
“Look for people where teaching is not their identity, it is their role–where they’re actually a person and unafraid to be a person, and they are clear about the different roles they might take on in their life.” — Ethan Nichtern
Manipulation in the Spiritual Community (21:31)
Have you ever heard of a spiritual teacher manipulating their students? Unfortunately, traumas like this are all too common and can include sexual abuse and coercion. When you come to someone seeking kindness, compassion and wisdom, and instead get manipulated, it will completely break your trust. This type of trust-breaking in a student and teacher relationship can take a long time to overcome. Being clear about duties, accountability, and defining roles in the relationship, will help avoid this.
“You are intended to hold disappointments, even major ones, within the space of practice without running from them; obviously the problem is that it creates a power dynamic and a hierarchy that is inherently open to manipulation.” – Ethan Nichtern
To learn more about the importance of trust in spiritual relationships tune into: A Room Called Imagination: Trust and the Guru
When finding a teacher, we can seek somebody who we resonate with and can embody. Yet, we do not want to be too safe and too comfortable. It is important to trust our teachers and have ethical boundaries and it is also important to challenge ourselves. Ethan suggests we find the right balance of knowing a teacher is human and will make mistakes, and being aware of when a teacher has broken a sacred vow or ethic. The more transparency there is between teachers and students, the better this relationship will be.