by Kelvin Chin, Life After Life Expert and Meditation Teacher
What red flags should you watch out for when choosing a spiritual teacher?
I think what is most significant is if a teacher is teaching something that in any way promotes an alleged understanding — what I would call a “belief” — in some other stage of life where the experience is supposedly fuller, better, or greater than living now in the present — whether that is a promise of some higher state of consciousness, or a promise of heaven, nirvana, enlightenment, or of living life in some other dimension.
If I hear that, or something resembling that, then that's always a "red flag" to me to question the depth of understanding, and even perhaps the motivation of that teacher.
Because all that really matters in life is living in the continual present. Because all we really have is the present. Everything else is imagination. The past has already happened, and the future has yet to occur — and given that Free Will is always in play, the future is always subject to change.
And living life in an imaginary world, in a fantasy world, is the opposite of living life. It is the opposite of reality. It's the ultimate in teaching a student to live his or her life in some projected reality, in living in a fantasy world.
Many spiritual teachers unfortunately promote this type of thinking — maybe unwittingly, but nevertheless they do. They may do it for their own selfish reasons, or they may do it because they honestly think it’s the best way for their students. And that belief by the teacher is usually based on their having followed blindly their teacher, without having really synthesized and integrated the teaching within themselves.
Many times that happens because the tenets of the tradition they come from actually explicitly state that either “unquestioning devotion” — or sometimes what is referred to in Vedic or Indian culture as “Bhakti” — is a foundational precept on which the teaching and learning must take place.
That is also another huge red flag. It is a powerful precept because by definition it is based on the heart, on the emotional draw between the student and teacher. And that is hard to shake. It is difficult for the student to rationally see clearly beyond that cloud of emotion. Plus, as I mentioned, they are often encouraged and maybe even told ‘not to question.’
But I think it’s crucial to realize — this type of thinking where it’s focused on our prospective life “in the future” — postponing one’s happiness until some goal is reached or some state of being is attained — is harmful and actually contributes to suffering.
It contributes to suffering because it discourages or disallows the individual from enjoying the moment, enjoying the now, enjoying their current experience. There is always something better, always something that the person feels that they should be experiencing that is "other than" what they are experiencing now, in reality.
That discord, that mismatch between "what is" and "what they would like to be" creates suffering.
Now, you may ask: "How is that different from complacency? What about having a vision of what one would like to have?"
Here's the thing. I'm totally OK with having visions of what one may like to have in one's future. However, when that vision becomes the yardstick for how to measure one's success in life, one's happiness in life, that is a big problem.
Said another way, the tendency for most of us is to "identify" with that vision, to "hold it" in our minds to such an extent that it becomes who we are. We become so emotionally attached to that vision that we, in effect, become identified with it.
That is unhealthy.
Because when we do not meet that expectation that we have created for ourselves, we feel like we have failed. We have failed ourselves, and therefore we become unhappy and depressed. We suffer. This is not good. It is a result of not matching reality with what we desire. And taking what we desire too far.
How to manage this better?
"Turn within" regularly. Connect with oneself in a "non-content oriented way" regularly.
By doing so, we create a connection within ourselves that transcends the usual external desires we have. We naturally become more identified with our own mind in a less emotionally charged state, with our soul in a more expanded way than how we are in our normal focused awake state when we're walking around.
This builds an 'insurance policy,’ so to speak, for us so we are insulated from becoming excessively wooed by the desires we may have. We become less likely to identify with them and less likely to define ourselves by those desires and visions of what we would like to have our lives look like.
And by relying on ourselves more, by acting from that more ‘centered’ space, we act more effectively. We are more likely to be successful in making those visions and desires materialize.
We also create an insurance policy protecting us from any potential incursions into our Free Will by any, even well-meaning, spiritual teachers we may encounter over time. Asking them questions, seeing if their answers make sense to us using our own common sense and our own 'body of experience.' Not merely relying on their body of experience and their saying to us, “this is the way it is….” Because that is the beginning of the path labeled “Follow me blindly….”
And no spiritual teacher who understands spirituality and personal growth would demand that of any student. True spiritual teachers guide you to find your own way. To interpret your own experiences in your own way. To figure it out yourself.
Because that is the only way personal self-development can occur. Personally. Through oneself.
Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within Meditation and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.TurningWithin.org.