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Teacher and Student Relationship

May 04, 2020

The nature of the teacher-student relationship can be challenging to understand at first. In my experience, it is probably the most misunderstood aspects of spiritual and energetic practices in our present-day — and not just in the Martial Arts, Daoist or Buddhist traditions, but all methods or schools that invoke change and transformation.

Trust often does not come easy to many of us due to our history. We have, in one way or another, experienced betrayal by people we love. When it comes to spiritual Teachers, it is no different — often we have experienced betrayals there as well.

We often ask ourselves: What does it say about me trusting a Spiritual Teacher? Is the right Teacher for me if he/she makes me feel uncomfortable? Why can’t I talk to him/her without feeling a mess? If I become a student, does it mean I need to let go of my own values and hand them over to the Teacher? Do I need to let go of who I am in order to have a Teacher?

These are some of the main questions which can arise from the interactions with Teachers.

Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson and myself in 2012.


Not all teachers are the same. A Teacher is described by Wikipedia as, “a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence, or virtue.” We have Teachers all around us and in every aspect of our lives; some of them have a huge impact on our lives, some of them shape our future, or take us on a completely different path than we imagined. Sometimes the relationship with a Teacher can even be intimate, but not in the sexual kind of way, more in closeness and connection experienced. We have learned everything we know up to this point from the Teachers in the world that surround us and, truthfully, I don't know that we would be where we are in life without our Teachers. In terms of Spiritual, esoteric, or alchemical schools, there are 2 major distinctions in terms of Teachers: Spiritual Friend: Someone that may be a bit more advanced in their studies and development and will help us by whispering good counsel in our ears and reminding us of what we are here for. Also, it is important to understand that the Spiritual Friend does not have the same level of commitment as a Root Teacher. A Root Teacher: In many traditions in advanced stages of training, you are asked to take a Root Teacher/ Guru/ Maestro. This probably will become the most challenging and nourishing relationship you will ever have. In this case, you are inviting the Teacher to get into your business. This includes all of the messes generated from our ego/vanity confusion. Their goal is to disrupt our false identity in order to generate awakening. In the case of Root Teacher, it is not enough you accept him/her, they need to accept you. This is because the idea is for you to pass the information as accurately as possible and for you to be ready for all the rest of the responsibilities that it will take to be a student. This will demand a lot from the student and a lot more from the Teacher. Your fuel will be the constant devotion from your Teacher. Also, no Root Teacher is the same. Some of them are more loose and distant, while others like to get more deep and personal regularly. Us as the Student A Teacher without students is just someone talking with himself and we have seen a lot of those in bus stops. When a student chooses to take a teacher, it is important that he is making a conscious decision about the journey he/she is about to embark on and make sure we are not entering into this unwritten contract because we are looking for a title, that’s what my friends are doing or pure FOMO. We are choosing to use our Teacher and the tools he offers to help us change and transform, leaving aside our need to be right and our need for control. Furthermore, training and asking questions about your process is paramount for your growth. If you are not engaging in your training, you are not growing and you are just practicing mental masturbation. When we pledge our devotion to our Teacher, what we are really doing is actually seeking our devotion to our own higher self and freedom, not to our Teacher. Our Teacher will guide us with the resources he/she has accumulated over the years with that particular lineage/s. A different way to see a teacher With so many schools of energetics, there are countless ways to see a Teacher. Here are the most common misconceptions I have observed: We can perceive the Teacher to be questionable because of all their imperfections and challenges. If the Teacher does or says something that we may not understand, we can judge by saying, “That’s his/her own psychosis.” That is easy because this still doesn’t challenge us. We are trapped in the tyranny of like and dislike, and this does not challenge vanity or ego. When this happens, we can disregard what we want and pick and choose what is “convenient” for us. The ego is mischievous this way. The superhero or superhuman Teacher. Putting them on a pedestal and treating them like some sort of god. When we do this, we put the Teacher in a position of Savior so, we do not have to train or do our work, this is common among individuals who have grown up in mega Christian churches and now they are looking for something else. This is all great until the Teacher does something that we may not agree with or simply we do not understand. At that point, our idea of a super Teacher is challenged and this can bring to the surface many unpleasant memories, feelings, and sensations. At that point, they are taken down off of the pedestal, and most times, we diabolize him/her. This is not a healthy approach. I believe the best approach to understand one of the most powerful, unconditional, and most overlooked aspects of an energetic system is not focusing on the person as a person, but rather understanding the dynamics of the relationship. This allows us to let go of any idea or expectation of how the Teacher will be or act. At the same time, this frees us to lean into the clarity about the functions of the relationships and our conscious choice to use that as a tool for our growth and freedom. The Teacher/Student relationship is one of the most challenging relationships we can have and requires skillfulness to navigate well in our paths. Many times we enter into the relationship without clear boundaries or understanding of how it will enhance our lives and how we can contribute and show up in the relationship. What does it mean for someone to be our Teacher? What does it mean to be a student under them? Many times the confusion happens because the Teacher is not clear in this aspect and they try to sound mysterious about it, but in all truth, they do not have a clue. That is not for us to fix. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to cultivate awareness, so when the moment comes, we can engage that person with clarity and awareness. Being a practitioner of the energetic and spiritual craft takes responsibility and commitment. If we are not honest with ourselves as to why we want to learn and what we want to learn, we may enter into a dysfunctional, unhealthy dynamic. This will push us to our usual patterns of psychosis to seek approval in our usual neurotic ways; usually trying to fix our mommy/daddy issues, or romantic relationship dynamics, or a combination of them. If you choose the path of taking a Teacher, this will take a tremendous amount of work on your part. Also, countless hours of self-exploration. It is a progressive process and everyone has their own pace. All of this is insignificant when compared to the Spiritual growth and advancement available in a Teacher-student relationship. It is important to bring awareness to this because, in today’s day, where everything is available all the time at all times, there is no level of suffering to get the material - I am not talking in a painful way, but more in a burning desire to learn from a particular lineage. I believe at this time we are devaluing the role of a Teacher. How sad it will be if the world stops recognizing the selfless effort of the Teacher and the beauty in the world that unfolds from their commitment to their students. Equally sad will be to lose the beauty and power of a curious student.

To all my Teachers, THANK YOU.