Recently several new clients have come to me disheartened by time, energy and money they have put into classes, workshops, and healings because the results were ephemeral. They shared how they had meaningful experiences during some given sessions or classes but have not had much continuity with their sense of well-being. In several cases the clients came to me because a given “healer” (self-proclaimed spiritual teacher) recommends that they keep coming in for additional classes from them after taking several already.
Let me recommend that anyone attending any kind of healing class or group read my chapter: The Tao of Not Following: Teachers and Groups in my Wheel of Initiation book. In it I also recommend you read Parker Palmer’s book: A Hidden Wholeness before signing up for any group process, especially with a teacher who implies after years of sessions and groups you need more from them. (Those attending any of my circles are asked to read both books).
A small circle of limited duration that is intentional about its process will have a deeper, more life-giving impact than a large, ongoing community that is shaped by the norms of conventional culture.–Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
Any healing or transformative process that does not have at its core mind-transformation practices is a waste of time, money and effort.
For a teacher to facilitate such a personal transformative process they must have both decades of training and be diligently practicing what they teach.
There are practices that can only be transferred by someone who has mastered a given technique. I have taken many teachings from Tibetan masters for example, most which I can only commit to for my own personal practice. Too many self-proclaimed teachers take a class and instead of the lessons becoming their practice they jump into teaching others. Some do this for the ego gratification; some do it for the money (or both).
Simply because someone has a powerful spiritual experience does not in any way qualify them to lead others through a similar process.
There are pitfalls within the student/teacher relationship with the best of teachers. These pitfalls are cavernous and harmful when a teacher is only self-proclaimed and not truly walking their talk. These self-proclaimed healers may hold an intention of helping others but become too attached to the persona they have created for themselves of healer and teacher (or to the money they are making).
Taken from the Toa of Not Following: A transpersonal process is more concerned with recognizing the needs and intentions of the seeker rather than enforcing some formula. Techniques such as meditation or mind-training practices may be provided, but the teacher always takes into account the abilities, willingness, and uniqueness of the students. The more transpersonal the practice, the more empowering it is likely to be for the seeker. A transpersonal practice is easily integrated into one’s life and does not require a long-term financial commitment or a big down payment. A transpersonal practice does not recruit followers. Instead, it emphasizes personal responsibility and freedom. You are not encouraged to recruit others to this “way.” Personal progress is attributed to the student’s commitment and efforts, not to the healer, teacher, formula, ritual, or doctrine.
“Reexamine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem.”–Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass
“But this I can claim: every time we get in touch with the true source we carry within, there is net moral gain for all concerned. Even if we fail to follow its guidance fully, we are nudged a bit further in that direction. And the next time we are conflicted between inner truth and outer reality, it becomes harder to forget or deny that we have an inner teacher who wants to lay a claim on our lives.” Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
A few Resources
For useful information on cults and unsafe groups and leaders check out Rick Ross’s website: www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html.
For more on healthy group dynamics and leadership skills go to Parker Palmer’s official website: www.couragerenewal.org/parker. It includes information about his Circle of Trust Retreats, as well as interviews, books, and a dynamic Blog.
For an example of leadership in the media, go to Bill Moyer’s online journal, which includes archives on Joseph Campbell:www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog.
The website of the Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wisconsin, iswww.deerparkcenter.org. This website includes photos of the Stupa, a schedule of teachings, and Geshe Sopa’s biography.
For news, a calendar, and updates directly from His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama go to his official website: www.dalailama.com.
“We are all shaped by conventional culture. So we all come into a clearness committee (Truth Circle) carrying a gravitational force that tries to pull our relationships back to fixing, saving, advising, and setting each other straight.” ––Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness