The old adage, “When the student is ready, the master appears,” has been said many times with a level of truth pertaining to just about any seeker of knowledge or wisdom. However, in most cases, the saying is applied to those who wish to devote themselves more deeply on the spiritual path. In today’s information-driven and consumer-based landscape, where instant gratification desperately looms, the possibility of becoming an enlightened being overnight can entice even the most patient of them all. The risk to be mindful of is to not give away your power to any outside source or modality. Spoiler alert: You don’t need anything but yourself. Everything else is just a bonus and if you’re feeling called to work with a spiritual teacher, be sure to have an intention and use discernment.

Spiritual teachers have left a remarkable impact throughout the centuries, bringing the esoteric to light while leaving a legacy that would benefit dark times for the highest transformation. There is a lot of power in this, and the weight of responsibility cannot be ignored. Committing to a spiritual teacher requires more than finding an honest and ethical practitioner. It requires self-honesty, pure intention, surrender, integration, and embodiment. Perhaps this is what distinguishes authenticity from illegitimacy when receiving spiritual guidance.

What is a spiritual teacher?

At times triggering, a true spiritual teacher accompanies the student on their path, offering insights and knowledge while helping expose shadows. They may also pose questions for reflection and share different modalities or practices. This is a broad definition. The degree to which this occurs depends on the specific teacher a student agrees to work with.

Ask yourself these questions before committing to a spiritual teacher

Commitments are sacred bonds that can create powerful, energetic ties for lifetimes to come. When taking the step to work with a spiritual teacher, check in with yourself before blindly jumping in. This is especially true when there are individuals exploiting spirituality for egoic or financial gain.

Do I trust this person?

Trust is earned. When asking yourself if you trust a potential spiritual teacher, there can be a few aspects to consider. However, the truth will reside in your heart. It is vital to trust this person in order to go deep and allow vulnerability. Without trust in this relationship, the ability to immerse in these teachings will go only so far.

Where am I in my spiritual journey?

Understanding where you are and how far you have come in your spiritual journey helps decipher whether the teacher you are interested in is the right fit. While I believe there is no right or wrong time, I also understand there is no rush to achieve enlightenment or spiritual wisdom. When asking yourself this question, consider where you are and how working with a specific teacher will help challenge you. If there are parts of yourself that are not ready for this, resistance might come up when triggers are pointed out. Again, this may also be part of your process, and these questions serve only as examples of how you might reflect before committing to a teacher?

Does the teacher carry their mission with the highest of integrity?

I can’t help but laugh when I come across someone, in real life or online, who considers themselves the only one with the correct answers. However, I also realize we are in challenging times, and a sincere beginner may be vulnerable to working with someone who makes such claims. In short, if someone tells you they are the chosen one, run. However, I also suggest you take a pause and feel into how this sits with you. Is it possible for there to be a sole individual chosen to relay information when there are so many perspectives to grow from? The purpose of this path is to remember the unity within the all. When we limit ourselves to constricted forms of thinking, perhaps we are separating ourselves from what it means to connect.

As one continues on their spiritual path, different questions may be more appropriate when committing to a spiritual teacher.

Types of spiritual teachers and modalities

In the past, access to spiritual teachers was rather limited, and only a few were available. For example, disciples would often be required to leave their villages and travel to desolate locations in order to learn. As more people devoted themselves to the spiritual path throughout the years, wisdom and information were shared throughout the lands, making spiritual guides more accessible. This also created a selection of teachers who work with different modalities and methods to offer a wide range of teachings.

Along my journey, I’ve worked with teachers who have assisted me in recognizing the guru within. Be wary of any practitioner who promises to have all the answers regarding spirituality. This is not at the core of what the path is about. The types of teachers listed below shed insight on how the message may be conveyed.

Physical and energetic body

Among our many bodies, the physical and energetic components inform our reality through locomotion and expression. It is often said that the body is another form of the subconscious because any tension or discomfort directly correlates with aspects of our psyche. Spiritual teachers who work with the physical and energetic bodies through yoga, breathwork, or reiki, to name a few, can be a great help when accessing fragmented aspects of ourselves. This type of spiritual teacher invites the student to know themselves more deeply through the vessel in which life is animated.

As a kundalini student, I have received many pings of wisdom from my teacher while also connecting it to movement and sensation. Our physical body can return to a baseline where old programming, limiting beliefs, and traumas are restored in these practices. Various teachers pass the history of their practices on the energetic level while creating a safe space for an individual to feel energetic motion move through and out of the body. If our bodies really are a temple, then how we cleanse and adorn it can create a profound experience when working with a teacher in alignment.

Intellect and philosophy

Those who teach principles of different paths such as Buddhism, for example, share the intellectual and philosophical approach of a spiritual teacher. At this level, students are often reading various books and engaging in conversation to develop ranging concepts for application.

Some might say certain books are listed as required reading, including classics like The Tibetan Book of the Dead_ or more modern works such as A New Earth  by Eckart Tolle. Regardless, studying from this angle can be a fruitful way to engage with terminology and practices. A true spiritual teacher sharing intellectual and philosophical principles will ensure the student takes in the information while remaining open to different perspectives.

Plants and nature

The spirit held within plants is a teacher itself that can ignite radical shifts on an individual’s trajectory. Shamans and medicine carriers rooted in pure service to the medicine will share wisdom reminding participants that they are only a vessel of this information. A few examples of spiritual teachers within the plant kingdom include cacao, huachuma, and Ayahuasca. The lessons can present themselves before, during, and after a ceremonial circle where intention, surrender, and integration are critical.

Spiritual teachers who work with these medicines carry a great responsibility to serve with respect and integrity. They can also play a valuable role in teaching and passing on this spiritual practice to others.

Of course, there can be overlaps where you might learn all three from one teacher. A spiritual teacher-to-student relationship can also take many forms. The truth is there are no rules, only ethics, and reverence to those who have helped pave this path. Depending on your experience, you might work with one guide for three months while at another point you’ll work with a teacher for several years.

Practice discernment upon every opportunity

Again, our modern landscape is at the crux of a brilliant Aquarian Age and information where information travels through different channels. The types of spiritual teachers vary, and when anyone can self appoint themselves as an expert, discernment is a trait that must be refined at every opportunity. There is much harm that can come from a teacher who operates from an egoic plane.

Above all else, remember to have fun. This is your experience and devotion. The path to enlightenment doesn’t have to be so serious and I’ll chime in to say that your higher consciousness and self want to live in harmony with all aspects of this divine reality. If it starts to get too serious, take a look at what you might be able to let go of and invite lightheartedness in the spirit of unconditional love, an authentic spiritual community, and appreciation for your inner guru.

External Resources

Spiritual Teachers Quotes
How to Tell When a Spiritual Teacher Is Lying
The Role of a Spiritual Teacher
A list of spiritual teachers