Color

 

There seems to be a general idea that western buddhist practitioners should be expressionless, should be above emotions, should be colorless.  It seems to me a limiting view, one that chokes this vital experience we call life and stuffs it in a tidy decorative box.  Perhaps this idea is what created Pandora’s Box, where emotions are stuffed away, suppressed, repressed, hidden from view and masked behind a crocodile smile.   We all know where that leads.

Once I was on retreat & the teacher called attention to what she saw as my inappropriate clothing.  I was sitting in front with colored toesocks.  I experienced embarrassment in front of the group.  I spent the rest of the day sitting in uncomfortable and painful emotional experiences.  It sent me deep into questioning: “was I drawing attention to myself by wearing colored socks as the teacher implied?”, “what should buddhists wear?” and “what was the intention for retreat?”  I went right into the embarrassment, shame, confusion… the whole mess.  I did not try to get rid of it, but instead let it be there, ripping away.  At some point, the whole mess fell apart & I saw things as they were with a sense of clarity & unbound joy.  The result was that I continued to wear my colored clothing, free from conventional concerns.

You see, “living fully awake” implies being alive in the changing dynamics that are energy itself, neither discarding nor grasping at what is and what arises.

“Unpolluted by meditation with intellectual effort
Undisturbed by the winds of everyday affairs,

Not manipulating, letting what is be itself,
May I become skilled in the practice of mind and maintain it.”

Ranjung Dorje the 3rd Karmapa gives us some hints: learn to meditate without intellectual subversion, learn to experience the gales and breezes of life, learn to release rigid control on how “things should be” and let what is be as it is.  Learning to do these requires practice, guidance, courage and consistency.  He speaks nothing of shutting down life, discarding colored socks or preventing emotions from being felt.

May I become skilled in the practice of living in the winds & letting what is be itself.

Copyright© Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio, 2012

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Look In

As we practice, we slowly learn to turn our focus
from “them” and toward the heart of the matter, which lies in our view, our beliefs, our own beloved thoughts.  We leave our house of blame and excuse, and enter into a new relationship with that which runs our life.  That is the first step on the path.  We give up “them” & go where our heart knows to look.

We are faced with having to learn how to relate to this crazy wild monkey which is holding the reigns of an unruly dirty elephant.  Are you willing to train?  Do you have any tools?  What kind of training would be most effective?  Where do you start?

I have looked at the elephant in this image of the Stages of Shamatha for years.  What is the elephant?  How does it manifest in life?  The elephant is dark, it is hidden from view & slowly gets clean along the path.  It takes time.  An elephant cannot be rushed with force if you want a friendly relationship with it.  Some years ago I had the fortune to work with an elephant.  What surprised me, was the elephant’s incredible sensitivity to touch.  The very lightest weight of just one finger on its skin resulted in movement throughout its whole body.  I had to modulate my use of light direct pressure in order for the elephant to respond with light touches of his trunk on my shoulder.  In this way, the elephant and I slowly developed a kind heartfelt trust in our mutual intention; to open to the mystery of experience.

The elephant reminds me of this practice question: What is my most beloved thought?  This cannot be discovered through pushing, forcing or any other such nonsense. This is the hidden thought about “me” which is cherished, adorned, protected at all costs.  It is the basis for most actions & consequences, yet it is often not in our awareness, it is in the dark.  It is like a magnet, attracting things that support it and dispelling things that challenge it.  It has become so covered up, that we no longer recognize or even see it.  It is buried yet very acutely active.

When we enthusiastically persevere, practice exposes the elephant, our buried beloved thought.  We thought we only had a monkey to train & now we see we also have an elephant.  Whereas the monkey has been primarily wild, the elephant is primarily sensitive and afraid.  The monkey requires patient attention & the elephant requires light warmth & kindness.  Working with the most beloved thought cannot be rushed if we want to develop a friendly relationship.  It takes time.  This is why the practice of awakening is not for everyone.  It has no quick fixes, no passive modalities, nobody can do it for you or to you.  Yet, for some, even though the monkey is wild & we see it is leading a sensitive dirty elephant, we are not dismayed.   We do not shout out “why me?’, but instead soften into experience and say “this is it”.   When we look in, we trust what arises to be exactly the path of the moment.   In this way, we learn by being in the richness of life.

Copyright© Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio, 2011

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Memories

Last night I woke up from a bad dream around 3am.

My mind began to run with the usual 3am stuff, recriminations for poor choices, fears, anxieties.  I got up and went to my cushion and sat for a while.

I did a practice I’ve returned to again and again, a practice designed to bring up emotional reactions that distort perception and prevent one being present in what is going on right now.  As I sat, very frightening and vivid memories came up.  I experienced them as feelings, sensations, and fragments of visual and auditory stories.  Huh!  I thought I’d ‘worked through’, ‘dismantled’, ‘gotten beyond’ these long ago!

But here they were again.

I sat with them, experiencing them, including my awareness of the room, my body breathing, and the knowing that they were ,,,, here comes the ‘E’ word ,,,,, empty.  As in, there was literally nothing to be found when I searched for them.  They are vivid experiences, yes, but constantly changing, not concrete, and not something I needed to believe, act upon or do anything about other than experience them.

So I sat there and did just that:  included the vivid experiences the memories brought along with all the other aspects of the present moment.

After a time, those vivid, intense, disturbing ‘memory clusters’ changed, perhaps transformed, and I sat with a feeling of deep joy mixed with warmth.  And gratitude.

The memories were still there.  But I experienced them differently.

It doesn’t seem our memories go away.  We may forget them, but they are there, ready to be triggered by something that resonates with the feeling of them.  They don’t go away, but we can change our relationship with them.  We don’t have to take them as ‘real’, as something we must react or respond to.  They are just an aspect of the world we inhabit, the world created by the events of our lives, parts of what we call ‘me’.  Just like fingers or toes or the parents we had or places we’ve lived or times we’ve lived through.

We don’t have to react to these memories or do anything about them, but it is best not to ignore them when they do arise.  Experience them, without tumbling in to them or believing in them.  Don’t try to change them or make them ‘better’.  Let them be, along with the presence of your body breathing, the place you are in, the awareness that gives rise to them, and the vastness of no-where they come and go from.

Let them be mysterious.

Copyright© Jeff Bickford, Mahakala Radio 2010

On Fish and Camels

First

The fish needs to say,

“Something ain’t right about this

Camel ride –

And I’m Feeling so damn

Thirsty.”

Most of us come to practice meditation for exactly what Hafiz points to in this poem.  We get an inkling that something just isn’t right about our lives.  We cannot exactly say what it is that isn’t right.  All the externals may look great, yet the fish on the camel feels that it is not in its natural environment, and it is thirsty.  There is a yearning to connect to something deeper or higher or different.  “Is there something beyond being thirsty on this camel?” This thirst, this niggling feeling, becomes the initiator to start seeking.  What we seek is not yet known.  This is how the path begins & continues; following a feeling and seeking something that will start to quench that thirst.

In my own life, I came to practice through this kind of seeking.  In 1986, I was a dancer -training and auditioning in that competitive world.  I had studied with the “greats” of my time: Martha Graham, Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, etc.   I landed a coveted position with a prestigious dance company.  I was filled with the sense that I had “made it”.  In the third week of rehearsals it dawned on me, I was at the top of the world & yet I was “feeling so damn thirsty”. Something wasn’t right.  All the glamour was not touching what I was seeking.

I did something crazy.  I resigned.  I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I could not continue on the camel ride.  I spent many gloomy weeks doing my usual ritual of movement classes.  Technique was no longer fulfilling, other dancers avoided me & my internal critics had a heyday.   Then it dawned on me:  though I did not yet know what I was seeking,  I did have the use of a large old room at a local church in exchange for caring for their alter.  For three hours daily, for one year, I locked myself in the empty room, with the intention to move, listen & engage what I was seeking.

For a year I listened.  Sometimes I was inspired by movement, often I laid on the floor wide awake.  At times my mind drove me crazy and periodically there was complete peace.  After a year, I said goodbye to this practice & sought a teacher who would be able to engage what I now knew & guide me in ways to follow what I yet did not know.  It a took a few years to find such a teacher.  When I found one, my heart spun; like a compass that has finally found north, like a dog, who finally understands that a person’s language means something & the possibility of a whole new world awakens.  And so it has continued for me.  I practice, I reach impasses, I listen, I contemplate the seeking heart and a new teacher appears. This is why many practice meditation, to learn to engage what we seek.  Meditation practice is not about ignoring some part of your life.  It starts like the fish on the camel; recognizing something isn’t quite right.  Then it proceeds to asking your questions, engaging your seeking heart and learning tools to bring this heart into your life.

First, The fish needs to say, “Something ain’t right about this Camel ride – And I’m Feeling so damn Thirsty.” – Hafiz

Copyright©Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio, Colorado Springs, April 2011

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Is Scolding Mind a Friend?

Seems like a ‘well duh!!’ question, right?

But for many of us, Scolding Mind is our best buddy, our most constant companion. We never leave home, or stay home, without it. We go through life continually reminded of how defective we really are, nearly constantly trying to remedy this, or at least hide it from others. Scolding Mind is always right there, ready and able to let us know who we are and what we ought to be doing.

Who would you be if you weren’t the Defective One always trying to either hide your defective aspects and/or fix them? What would your mind and body do without this constant effort?

What would it be like to accept who and what you are, right now, and accept that you aspire to a different way of being? Accept both. Experience both. After all, that is what is actually going on…. Yes? No? Maybe?

There is a teaching that advises us to stop hanging out with those who were once our friends, who now keep pulling us back into behaviors and views that don’t support our present intentions and continually hinder our practice.

Scolding Mind was perhaps once a friend. Maybe kept us out of the line of fire in family warfare, or hounded us into following through on school work. But then this one time friend invaded all of our interactions, all of our time, became a constant companion making constant comments. And a sense-of-self was formed that we believed, and still believe, to be truely what and who we are.

Consider meeting yourself just as you are, right now – with all the feelings of being defective, ‘wrong’, loathsome, stupid, ugly, a failure, with the ongoing efforts to hide this from the world, to put on a good mask, with the ongoing effort to fix or heal yourself once and for all, and with the hopes and intentions that bring you to practice.

Just be right there, ‘in the whole mess’ as my teacher told me many times. Breathing, feeling the ground, aware of the space around you, aware of sounds coming and going, of the world outside and inside constantly going by.

This is your life. Don’t wait for some future heaven, be in your life now.

Copyright© 2009 Jeff Bickford, Mahakala Radio, All Rights Reserved

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Responsibilities

This is for practitioners to read before attending our meditation classes and our Meditation & Movement retreats.

2019 Responsibilities for Practitioners and Teachers at Mahakala Radio

The responsibilities we ask of ALL our participants are:
1.  Do the meditation practices that are given in the class
2.  Stay within the time-frame of the class
3.  Apply the meditation practice in your life to the best of your ability
4.  Be clear about your intention in participating and return to that daily
5.  Do not misuse your meditation practice, other practitioners or the teacher/student relationship for your emotional needs
6.  Be curious, ask questions, be willing to practice and open to the effects & results
7.  Come to class ready to speak about your sitting & daily life meditation practice during the previous week

Responsible contact with other participants
In some meditation courses, we request in-person participants to contact an online participant at least 1x during the course.   Guidelines will be provided & a sign-up sheet will be distributed for this purpose.  We do not monitor these interactions.  This is a way to meet another practitioner & apply what you are learning.  We expect all participants to show up with respect, kindness and mindfulness.  A list will be sent to you to set up a time with another participant.  We expect you to not misuse the email list or the discussion.

For classes offered online – Responsibilities of our distance participants
1.  Email us at least one time a week, at least three days before the next scheduled meditation class date.  We want to know about your practice, questions/concerns or anything you would like discussed in the next class.
2.  If you have a personal practice concern that needs immediate attention, let us know & we may request to talk in-person.
3.  We offer distant participants one private meditation consultation during the course.  This is to support you as a practitioner & there is no extra fee.  This appointment can be with Jeff or Gail, your choice.

Jeff Bickford and Gail Gustafson have the following responsibilities:
1.  To respond in a timely manner & address what is presented by each individual
2.  To teach what we know through experience
3.  To train practitioners through interactive methods in tools and methods on their path
4.  To point out emotional, physical and mental blocks/patterns & to provide means to address them
5.  To not misuse the teacher/student or the teacher/teacher relationship
6.  To introduce the possibility of living from a different view & finding your way

*A teacher cannot:  do the work for you, save another person, answer your deepest questions

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The Teacher – Student Relationship

We need teachers to guide us in spiritual work, it is far too easy to lose our way or for our practice to get derailed and go nowhere.  Having someone to point out when we are falling into confusion is useful, perhaps essential.

In spiritual practice, a teacher appears in order for learning to take place.  The teacher’s role is to create the conditions for a student to learn what they need to know in order to move towards meeting the intentions that have brought them to practice.  The student’s role is to fully engage what arises in the interaction and bring that into their practice.

A student – teacher relationship is defined by the intention of the relationship – to help the student recognize and move towards their intention in practice. All interactions are defined by this intention, everything else is secondary.  The interaction is not to meet the teacher’s needs, or the needs of the student for companionship, recognition, or acceptance.

A teacher can appear in many guises:  as a spiritual friend who is there to deeply listen and sometimes give feedback to what they hear and observe, as a consultant who gives feedback on a student’s engagement and interaction with a practice process, as a ‘practice teacher’ who gives a series of practices designed to meet the student’s practice intentions.  It can also take the form of an ‘inspiration teacher’ – a teacher who inspires the student on their path but doesn’t interact with the student directly.

The relationship is best realized if it takes the appropriate form to meet the student and their needs.

The student and the teacher are equals, but in this interaction there is a role difference – the student comes to the teacher because there is something they wish to learn and they hope it can learn it from the teacher.  So there is a respect there.  The teacher recognizes that the student has a great deal of life experience and respects what they bring to the interaction.

Both parties in this relationship have responsibilities. If the teacher or student does not abide by them, then the relationship is over.

The student has four primary responsibilities:
1.  Be clear about your intention.  
Recall it daily.
2.  Practice what is taught, as it is given.  
Work on the method as the teacher intended, without changing it.  If you have questions, ask.   Notice the effects of your practice.  Be proactive.
3.  Take the practice into your life and work with it.  Notice the effects.  It is in your life that practice bears fruit.
4.  Be an open vessel
. If we try to add water to a full pitcher, the water will overflow.  You need to have space available in order to learn.

The teacher has four primary responsibilities:
1.  To not misuse the relationship for their own needs,
2.  To teach what they know from their own experience,
3.  To train the student thoroughly in the techniques & tools that are appropriate,
4.  To point out the physical, emotional, and mental patterns that block the student & provide methods for addressing them.

The teacher expects that the student will listen to what is suggested and whole heartedly open to it enough to try it out.  The teacher in turn will respond to the student’s experience when they try out what has been offered, open to their questions, and let the interaction evolve to continue meeting the student’s intentions.

The relationship requires that both student and teacher be as open and clear regarding their experience as each is able to be.

A student needs to be awake and attentive as they check whether this teacher truly meets them.  At the same time this requires a certain amount of commitment, a willingness to fully engage what the teacher suggests in order to find out if it speaks to their intentions in practice.  At no point should a student give up their own discernment, at no point should a student not raise questions when things don’t make sense.

A student may work with several teachers over a period of time, fully engaging the relationship with each one, but after ten years or so they may begin to be able to deeply trust that the student-teacher relationship with a particular teacher is speaking to their intentions in practice and commit to working with that teacher.  This is when practice begins to deepen and mature.

But even then, the student needs to continually check what a teacher suggests or points to against their own experience.  And keep in mind that teachers are human and may become caught up in reactions that can confuse the interaction.  The student never gives up their power or their responsibility to be mindful and as awake as they are able to be.

Jeff Bickford and Gail Gustafson
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Finding a Teacher

Unfortunately, teachers are humans.  I have said this often recently in response to the many varied difficulties between teachers and students that arise in this complex relationship.  With power and protection, teachers can go awry.  With projections and blind devotion, students can go askew.  The teacher and student become lost in the Four Obsessions from Buddhism, perhaps most often in pleasure & power.  Students suffer emotionally, spiritually and sometimes physically. The teacher suffers in the same way.  Others suffer by developing distrust of all teachers.  It is said to take a minimum of ten years to recover from the kind of confusion and abuse that can appear in this dynamic relationship.

“When the Student is Ready, the Teacher will Appear”.  This saying is tossed about in regard to spiritual teachers.   It sounds great.  However, few of us have any experience working directly with a spiritual teacher.  It can be confusing, as we have no categories that fit this kind of relationship.  This applies whether the teacher is of a movement centered form such as yoga, qi gong or a stillness centered form such as meditation.  Is this a therapist-client relationship?  no.  Is this a parent-child relationship? no.  Is this a friend-friend relationship? no.  The spiritual teacher-student relationship is unique, having elements of other relationships, it is still none of those.  Clarity needs to be brought into this relationship, so that its benefits can bloom without causing harm.

There are three categories that can clarify this relationship.  What is the basis for a spiritual teacher-student relationship?  How do you discern a useful teacher from a harmful one?  What are the responsibilities of this relationship?

My teacher, Ken McLeod, spoke of the teacher-student relationship as is a Shared Aim relationship.  The Aim is the student’s awakening.  It is plain and simple.  Anything beyond that basis is extra.

In the tradition that I practice, ten years is considered a short amount of time to decide upon a teacher.  No matter how long you take, here are a few points that will help the process.

1.  Find out why the teacher is teaching – what is their motivation?
Ask them.  Are they teaching for power, fame, money? Is their intention explicit?  Observe their teaching.  Does their teaching instill hierarchy, create trance, build connections, diminish others…?  Does their teaching align with your intention?  What are this teachers unique gifts?  What are they lacking?

2.  Find out why students work with this teacher
Ask and observe the students.  How does the group behave?  Do they seem special, exclusive, kind…?  How do they describe the teacher?  What is explicitly and implicitly expected of the students?   Do the student’s speak openly?

3.  Find out if the teacher’s practice is in balance
Balance is dynamic, not static.  Are their words & actions in balance?  What methods are taught to balance physical, emotional and mental material?  Is there too much focus on ascent; ‘leaving the physical plane’, ‘attaining higher energy”, or on descent; ‘dismantling blocks’, ‘digging deeper’?

Both parties of a Shared Aim relationship have responsibilities.  If the teacher or student does not abide by them, then the relationship is over.  The student has four primary responsibilities.

1.  Be clear about your intention
Recall it daily.  Too many students abandon their intention when a charismatic teacher provides “a better one”.  Blindly giving up your intention leads to problems, such as; practicing to get something from the teacher – attention, power, sex…

2.  Practice what is taught as it is given
Work on the method as the teacher intended, without changing it.  If you have questions, ask.   Notice the effects.  Be proactive.  If you feel the teacher is asking you to do something unreasonable, secret, or special – watch out!

3.  Apply what is taught in your life
Take the practice into your life and work with it.  Notice the effects.  It is in your life that practice bears fruit.  If you feel something is unbalanced, address it.

4.  Be an open vessel
This requires true maturity, the willingness to look inside and work with the material of your life.  If we try to add water to a full pitcher, the water will overflow.  You need to have some space available in order to learn.  Recall your intention.

5.  Trust
Once you have decided upon a teacher and have studied with them for some time, then you need to trust their guidance.  Follow their suggestions.  Their guidance in your practice will move you to places that are both uncomfortable and sublime.  You need a teacher whom you can trust and with whom you can dive into what is beyond words.  If the teacher’s guidance is not sound, meaning they are abusing ethical behavior and causing harm physically, emotionally or mentally to you or others, then you have a problem.  It is up to you the student to name it as such, as abuse is never okay.

The teacher has four primary responsibilities.  They are: to not misuse the relationship for their own needs, to show the student the possibility of living awake, to train the student thoroughly in the techniques & tools they will need, to point out the physical, emotional, mental patterns that block the student & provide methods for addressing them.

The teacher-student relationship is like weather;  projections form fog, emotional needs cause rain, and mental confusions build thunderstorms.  There are numerous stories of dangers, downfalls & destruction.  It requires commitment, active attention & trust.  Still, the efforts you make working with this type of teacher are worth the time.  This relationship can be a catalyst for deep insight to unfold.  Through it, the mystery of being can open at the center your life and there is no need to look anywhere else.

Copyright© Mahakala Radio May 2018 –  Gail H Gustafson

About Gail Gustafson

Gail Gustafson teaches awareness by means of meditation & movement through courses, retreats, workshops, individual instruction in person & online.  She was a student of Yen Lu Wong, Warren Lamb, Thupden Chodron, Ani Tenzin Kacho, Venerable Geshe Gyeltsen.   Ken McLeod was her primary teacher, who authorized her to teach in 2003.  Gail continues to attend teachings and retreat with various traditional and western Buddhist masters.  She also organizes and participates in two spiritual teacher support groups.

More Gail:  Gail began her study of movement & meditation at a young age.  For 15 years she was a professional dancer, working with choreographers and visionaries who were exploring body, mind and spirit.  She has studied many somatic movement forms including Body Mind Centering, Hanna Somatics, the Feldenkrais method, Movement Pattern Analysis and others..   She is a Laban Movement Analyst, a Tellington Touch practitioner (companion animals), a student of Ba Qua Qi Gong, Chen style Tai Chi and Intuitive Archery.

“I was fortunate enough to find teachers who were willing to be right there in all the ups and downs of actually practicing meditation in this complex world.  For over 15 years, I worked with my primary teacher Ken McLeod.  His unrelenting insight and precise instruction, set free in a field of kindness, inspired and changed my way of  being.  Without this intense teacher-student relationship I could have never moved into guiding others in meditation.

I approach teaching as a unique adventure with each person.  There are many possibilities. Teaching in this way is lively, warm, direct and vulnerable.  I have heart-breaking gratitude for the awesome humanity of the whole endeavor.”

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Leave the Valley

In the past 20 years, Yoga & Buddhism have exploded from obscurity into popular culture.  Now we have Yoga & Buddhist retreats in exotic destinations linked to everything from surfing to ecotourism.  We have inspirational, charismatic teachers touring internationally.  We have Yoga Expos and Buddhist Conferences.  All of this is wonderful.  It can also lead to confusion about Spiritual Growth and about Types of Teachers.

– Do I have to travel a long distance to achieve spiritual growth?
– Is spiritual growth inextricably linked to a beautiful center far from home?
– Do I have to study with a famous teacher to insure real results?
– Is the unknown teacher in town marginal in comparison with the popular teacher who travels?

There is a Tibetan saying “You must leave the valley of your origin.”   Its meanings can help clarify the confusion around Spiritual Growth.

1.  If you lived 1,000 years ago in the Himalayas and there was no teacher in your valley, you would have to walk over the mountains to the next valley to find one.  Today, in our own valley, there are many teachers.  There are teachers who are supported by religious centers and educational institutions with established systems.  There are also teachers who teach independently of organizational support.  If that does not satisfy, we have access to the internet full of teachers.  We no longer need to leave our physical valley to start on our path of Spiritual Growth.  However, we do need to make a journey.  We must leave the valley of our habitual lifestyle.  Leaving this valley requires the same effort as crossing the Himalayas on foot.  Both require consistent daily training in order to arrive at the other side.

2.  The ‘valley of my origin’ is that mess of ideas, beliefs, stories & ways of seeing that I live in and never question.  In spiritual practice, that valley will present itself for reflection & deep inquiry.  For Spiritual Growth to happen, you must look, with an open heart, at that valley and see its effects.  In this way, you no longer take ‘the valley of your origin’ for granted as the truth.  You start to ‘leave the valley’ by looking clearly at your actions, intentions, and emotions.   You do not ‘leave this valley’ by skipping off to Tahiti for a month.  This valley will come with you, until you choose to work with it.

3.  When you commit to spiritual practice, you “leave the valley of your origin” by stepping outside of your comfort zone.  You are like a refugee, without a cozy home in which you can hide.  You form an intention to commit to growth, which means to move beyond your current condition into what you do not know.  You do not seek a safe state or a protected zone.  In order to grow spiritually, you must “leave the valley of your origin” within your own life. This does not involve plane tickets and exotic destinations.  The traveling is done in your own body and mind, with a well supplied backpack of teachings and with a spiritual guide who knows the language and can help you when the going gets rough.

Traveling to a distant beautiful place to study can be useful.  It can give us a jumpstart.  However, the real traveling that must be done for Spiritual Growth is internal, in your own body and mind, every day.  Like external travel, it requires effort, yet the reward is longer lasting.

Most practitioners have two different teachers in their lives; one is the Inspiration Teacher and another is the Practice Teacher.  For a very fortunate few, both of these roles are rolled into one actual person.  Knowing the general roles of these two Types of Teachers can clear up confusion.

Inspiration Teachers – These are the teachers who inspire us to practice, study and live in presence.  They often are charismatic, acclaimed, uplifting and revered by many.  We flock to these teachers for the energy they transmit.  We can be galvanized to practice meditation or yoga because of these teachers’ enthusiasm and quality of being.  In their presence, we can feel vital, awake, open to possibilities.  They travel through our valleys and give us a taste of another way of being.  We may see our Inspiration Teacher once every year or once in a lifetime.  We may never have a private conversation with the Inspiration Teacher, and yet their energetic influence stirs us on every day.

Practice Teachers – These are the teachers who provide us with the tools, the step-by-step process, to actually make spiritual growth happen in our life.  They are often unknown, hard to find, innovative and deeply attuned.  We go to these teachers for their ability to listen and apply methods directly to our individual situation.  We learn how to practice, look inward, and transform difficulties into energy.  In their presence, we can feel vulnerable, vibrant, and known completely.  These teachers walk beside us as we go through our dark nights and challenging days.  We see our Practice Teachers often and have regular private conversations with them.  Through their influence we develop confidence, courage and competence which guides us in all aspects of our life.

These two types of teachers are synergistic.  The Inspiration Teacher embodies the possibility of living awake and the Practice Teacher shows you precisely how to get there.  If we only have the Inspiration Teacher, we will be passive and never enter the stream. If we only have the Practice Teacher, then we will lack aspiration to energize our efforts.  We need them both for balanced Spiritual Growth.

Use wise means in the endeavor of spiritual practice. If you travel to a beautiful retreat then balance it with equal internal travel.  If you meet the Inspiration Teacher then use that spark to learn how to awaken with the Practice Teacher.   In this way your path is certain to bear fruit.

©Copyright Mahakala Radio, Gail Gustafson August 2012

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