What does it mean to be a spiritual teacher? (And why you already *are* one)

Spiritual teachers come in all forms, but really, your only spiritual teacher is you. Or the Universe. Both actually, as those two are essentially the same thing...

Baby yoga teacher.jpg


Recently I spent time with a very wise soul who is also a 16-year-old. Meeting her was yet another reminder to ditch the idea that people can only teach things for which they have a certificate or can claim "expertise" around. Sure, there are exceptions - if I want to learn to kayak I'm going to go with a teacher who has mastered kayaking. But what about when we want to get better at things like self-compassion or letting go? What if we want to learn how to be part of this global shift in consciousness? What if we need a "spiritual" teacher?

The last 4 years it's been increasingly hard for me to claim "expert" status in anything. As a birth doula I had never actually given birth and as a Soul Doula I haven't *mastered* embodiment or serenity or being a perfect human (um....duh), which leads to the question: how can imperfect humans claim to be spiritual teachers or guides? After all, what is a "teacher" other than someone who knows something we don't yet know?

Schools set up the adult/child or teacher/student relationship as one where adults/teachers know and kids/students are there to learn. Back when I was teaching psychology to undergrads I remember getting feedback from my colleagues that I was saying I didn't have the answers far too often. "You can admit you don't know about once a week", said the chair of my department, which seemed INSANE to me. Because, sure I could *talk* about a lot of theories and had *read* more articles than most of my students, but I didn't *know* the answers to any of the big questions that psychology was posing like: "What is intelligence?" Or "What motivates humans?" Or even "What is a human?" Let's face it, none of us have those answers. Look at the world right now and tell me I'm wrong. Seriously.

These days, those who I see as "wise" slash someone I might want to "learn" from tend to be the ones admitting that what humans have been doing for thousands of years isn't working. Because when we admit that, we don't just rehash things that humans already know (so we can do well on the exam) we leave room for entirely new ways of knowing, working, playing, loving and relating to emerge. We allow for something that our minds want to deny or ignore but that our bodies and souls are just beginning to remember.

As a birth doula I began to allow myself to let go of knowing more than I'd been able to in my days as a professor. Of course I'd seen more births than most of my clients had, but rather than setting myself up as an expert in the field, I increasingly played the role of the holder of Mystery. The knowledge that was most often helpful to my clients was about feeling her body, letting go of her thinking and sinking into surrender. I simply got to hold loving space for that.

As a Soul Doula it's become even more explicit; the only instruction I get from the Universe before each retreat or session is "don't plan it". Instead, I am called to stay present to what is real, to hold space for what is possible and to deeply love the person or people in front of me. When we are loved unconditionally our divinely human genius emerges and miracles happen.

Anyways, back to this beautiful 16-year-old I met recently. She was so brimming with wisdom, intuition and life experience that it would be LAUGHABLE for me to set myself up as her teacher, mentor or advisor. So how could I be helpful to her? Simple: I could hold loving space for her to explore parts of herself that might not ordinarily receive recognition, acceptance or approval, I could model my own process of curiosity and surrender, I could offer her access to my tribe, and I could do her the courtesy of honouring her process. That's it.

Oh, and I could make it clear that if she thinks school will teach her what she needs to know, she's going to be disappointed. But of course she already knew that...proving my point that the younger generation have very little to "learn" from us and everything to gain from joining hands with those who happen to be chronologically older than them as we *all* step into the mystery, leaving behind what we think we know so that we can learn something we forgot, something that lies deep inside us all and is desperate to be reclaimed.