Finding your spiritual teacher

By Kim Michaels

I have been walking the spiritual path for 30 years, and I have studied a wide variety of spiritual teachings. I have also been involved with several organizations and spiritual teachers. I have friends who have been involved with many more teachers, and I have observed hundreds of people struggle with the spiritual path. Based on my experiences and observations, I have come to one very clear conclusion. The difference between those who are successful on the spiritual path and those who continue to struggle with frustration is how they look at the concept of a teacher.

The push-button mentality

If you take a step back and look at the big picture, the essence of the spiritual path (or life, really) is to move out of ignorance and into understanding, out of the darkness and into the light—in the mind, that is. There is an old saying which states, “If people knew better, they would do better.” I believe any normal person would never knowingly hurt him/herself. That is why Jesus said about those who crucified him:

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

So when we experience any kind of pain, limitation or suffering, it is because we are ignorant about something—we don’t know better. How many times in your life have you felt, “If only I’d known that at the time!” Why do we live longer today than people did 500 years ago? It is because we know more about hygiene, nutrition and how to fight disease.

I think all people have some sense that knowing more is important, but this is especially true about people who are spiritual seekers. We just know there is more to life than what we were told in school or Sunday school. We know there is something to find, and we simply can’t stop looking for it. And while this drive for knowledge and understanding is the driving force on the path – the motor that powers our progress – where would a car get us without a steering wheel? It would simply keep running in the same direction until it hit a wall or ended up in the ditch. My point is that we need to find a way to direct our quest for knowledge in the right direction. Where do you need to look in order to find the knowledge that will empower you to change your life?

I have grown up in the West and most of the people I have met were likewise Westerners, so things might be different in other cultures. However, when we Westerners first become aware of the spiritual path, we tend to approach it like we approach any other aspect of life, namely as consumers. We think the way we have been programmed to think, namely that if we have a need, we must find some person, service or product from outside ourselves to fill that need. We also tend to think that this is a mechanical process, meaning that when we find the right person or product, our need will automatically be filled and our lives will inevitably improve.

Most of us were not brought up with a conscious awareness of the spiritual path. At some point in our lives, we become aware that we are spiritual seekers, and we naturally think, “Oh, I need spiritual knowledge and understanding, so I just need to find the right teacher or teaching and then my life will automatically improve.” This is what I call the “Push-button mentality.” We have grown up around technology, and when we go into a dark room and push a button, we expect the light to come on. If it doesn’t, we think there is something wrong.

So what happens when we become aware that our minds are dark rooms and that we need to turn on the light? We think it is simply a matter of finding the light switch. So we venture into the religious supermarket and look for a teacher, a teaching or a technique that we expect will automatically turn on the light in our minds and turn us into enlightened spiritual masters. And we are immediately bombarded with numerous teachers and organizations who claim that they can do just that.

Why people get frustrated

As the well-programmed consumers we are, we pick out a product that looks appealing to us and eagerly start consuming it. Yet after a while – usually a short while – we start feeling like a person who has flipped the switch, but the light hasn’t come on. So we keep flipping the switch on and off, and while we can hear the click, the light still doesn’t come on. This is usually when we start feeling frustrated, and we might even take it out on the teacher or teaching that seemingly isn’t working. 

I have personally felt this frustration and I have seen it in many others. It is very understandable, especially when we consider that so many teachers or organizations do make promises on which they can’t deliver. They too have been caught up in the consumer approach to spiritual growth, and they have – either unknowingly or deliberately – decided to tell people what they want to hear.

So what do we do? Well, some people give up right there and never try again. Yet most of us don’t give up that easily. We take the politically correct consumer approach and reason that we simply hadn’t found the right product. So we start looking for another one, and when we find one that looks appealing – and makes the promises we want to hear – we think, “Ah, this is the right one.” Yet, once again, we flick the switch and the light doesn’t come on. I have seen people who have taken this approach for decades, and the frustration keeps building:

  • Some people blame it on the teacher and they go into a mode of feeling that it is the outer teacher that prevents their progress—they can't make it until they find the right teacher.
  • Some spend their time fighting a teacher or organization that they feel took advantage of them.
  • Some refuse to acknowledge that their chosen teacher or organization made empty promises. And they refuse to reexamine their approach to spiritual growth. So they remain fiercely loyal to an organization, often believing they are making progress while refusing to see that they are stuck in the consumer approach.
  • Some play the game that their teacher is better than anyone else’s so they have to convert the whole world.
  • Some give up the dream of instant gratification and instead believe in gratification in the tomorrow that somehow never seems to arrive. They have reasoned that if only they keep doing doing the same thing, their lives will one day change. Incidentally, Einstein’s definition of insanity is that you keep doing the same thing while expecting different results.

Common for all these people is that they keep looking for the solution – for the teacher – outside themselves. Fortunately, I have also seen many people who, often after a few failed attempts, realize that the consumer approach to spiritual growth simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what the spiritual path is all about.

The real purpose of the spiritual path

In our consumer culture we are programmed to believe that we can change our circumstances in life without truly changing ourselves. Take for example the issue of obesity. There are numerous products on the market that promise you that by taking a pill, you can lose weight without changing your diet. Eat whatever you want, and our pill will make you lose weight. Other companies are selling a diet, and they say you can use their diet to lose weight without exercising. Still other companies sell exercise equipment, and they say you can lose weight without changing your diet. Others say you can lose weight without changing your lifestyle or your attitude toward life.

Do you see the common denominator? They are all saying that you can take a piecemeal approach to life. You have a problem with obesity? The cause is this or that mechanical component, and by treating that one component in a mechanical way, you will solve the problem. This entire approach is based on the Western tradition of breaking reality into separate pieces, to compartmentalize it, so it seemingly becomes easier to analyze and manage. This approach has led us to create an entire culture that is based on the idea of shortcuts.

The basic approach to life in our consumer culture is that you can isolate a particular problem and link it to a particular mechanical cause. So by treating just that one cause, you fix the problem, That approach works great in a car. If your tire is flat, you just need to patch the tire; you don’t need to change the oil filter. Yet despite what our Western scientists claim, human beings are not machines. So as spiritual seekers, we have to make the effort to free ourselves from the programming of our scientific, mechanical consumer culture.

We might also say that spiritual growth is not about one particular aspect of our lives—it is about the totality of our lives. If you want real spiritual growth, you have to change your entire consciousness, not just a part of it. Again, even Western religion is based on a piecemeal approach, making many people believe religion is something we do on Sunday and then forget about the rest of the week. Yet spiritual growth is not the same as religion; it is about the totality of our consciousness. Therefore, to attain growth, you have to be willing to change your entire consciousness. As Jesus said:

The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)

You need to be willing to raise the whole of your consciousness. Many spiritual seekers have realized the fallacy of a piecemeal approach to life, and they are looking into a more wholesome approach, such as holistic medicine. Yet in my experience many people have not realized that we also need to take a holistic approach to spiritual growth. For example, obesity is not just a physical problem. Everything is consciousness, so your physical body is a product of your state of consciousness. If you really want to solve a physical problems, you have to uncover the psychological mechanism that caused the problem. That mechanism might go back many lifetimes, and it takes time and work to overcome it. Of course, that reality is very unpleasant for people who have grown up in a consumer culture that programs us to believe in mechanical solutions and shortcuts. And that is precisely why so many people become frustrated with the spiritual path and why many give up before they see results.

A reality-based approach to spiritual growth

What is the way out? It is to realize that life is a holistic process. Every aspect of your life is a product of something that takes place in your consciousness. Every aspect of life on this planet is a product of something that takes place in the collective consciousness. So the only way to really change our lives is to change our consciousness. The only way to change the world is to begin by changing ourselves.

This leads to the foundational principle for spiritual growth,

You can’t change your outer situation without changing your inner situation. You can’t change your world without changing yourself.

The conclusion is that the real goal of the spiritual path is to change your consciousness and this is not a mechanical process. It is tempting to think that changing your consciousness means finding a teacher or teaching that will give you some secret formula that will do the work for you. So many people are seeking for the holy grail or the philosopher’s stone. Yet the stark reality is that no teacher or teaching from outside yourself can do the work for you. You are the only one who can change yourself, and the reason is that God gave you the gift of free will.

If you are to change, you can change in only one way, namely by you making the choice to change yourself. An outer teacher might inspire you to make that choice and might give you information that makes it easier for you to choose. Yet the outer teacher can never make the choice for you. This becomes clear when you consider exactly what it is that has to change. Who is the you that has to change? It is the conscious self, and the core of this self is your sense of identity.

There is an old Indian proverb which states, “The knowledge that is in the books, stays in the books.” The idea is that you can study spiritual teachings forever, but if you don’t internalize the teaching, it will do nothing for you. Believe me, I have seen dozens of people who faithfully studied spiritual teachings and practiced various techniques, yet their lives never changed. The reason is that such people are not internalizing the teaching.

They are taking it in on an intellectual level, and some of them have a very impressive intellectual knowledge of any spiritual topic under the sun. They can go on talking about it for hours, and they often sound incredibly impressive to an inexperienced seeker. I have met people who seemed to live for the chance to impress others with their intellectual knowledge of spirituality, yet these people never seemed to change. And I have met others who couldn’t have explained a spiritual principle if their lives depended on it, but they lived that principle every day. Jesus explained this when he made the statement:

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

The scribes and Pharisees had a very sophisticated intellectual understanding of the outer scriptures, but they had not internalized the teaching. They had not been willing to let the teaching change themselves. They thought intellectual understanding could get them to Heaven, but in reality only a change of consciousness, a change in our sense of identity, can get us to Heaven.

What I am pointing out here is that the real key to spiritual progress is to realize that you cannot approach a spiritual teaching like a consumer. It is not a matter of simply reading a teaching and understanding it intellectually. It is not a matter of simply joining a church or spiritual organization and then expecting that you will automatically become enlightened. You need to internalize the teaching, so that it becomes part of your being. Thereby, the teaching will permanently change your sense of identity, and because all of your thoughts, feelings and actions spring from your sense of identity, your life will naturally change. So what is the key to internalizing a spiritual teaching? It is to use an outer teaching only as a tool for stimulating the process of getting insights from a source inside yourself.

The inner teacher

While there is more than one way to do this, I have found that the most efficient way is to adopt the approach that the real teacher is inside of you. That teacher is constantly trying to teach you and he/she does so through your intuition. Therefore, an outer teacher or teaching is not truly meant to give you the information that will change your life. AN OUTER TEACHER IS ONLY MEANT TO STIMULATE THE PROCESS WHEREBY YOU GET THE REAL ANSWERS FROM INSIDE YOURSELF!

The key to internalizing a spiritual teaching is to never let an outer teaching be confined to intellectual understanding. Instead, you use it to reach for an intuitive insight from beyond the intellect, from the teacher inside of you. One might say that you always look at an outer teaching as a tool for opening up the communication with your inner teacher. You study an outer teaching until you find a concept that appeals to you. You then send that concept to your internal teacher and wait for it to be mirrored back. This mirroring back will happen in the form of an intuitive insight that gives you a highly personal understanding of the outer teaching. It is this inner understanding that empowers you to internalize the outer teaching. And only then will the teaching change your life! That is precisely why the scribes and the Pharisees could not recognize Jesus as a spiritual teacher—they were stuck in intellectual analysis of the outer teaching.

Who is the inner teacher? It can be your Christ self, which is a spiritual being assigned to you from the spiritual realm. Your Christ self is the mediator between your outer mind and the spiritual realm. It knows you intimately and follows your soul on a very personal level. 

Your teacher can also be an ascended being, such as Jesus, Mother Mary or another member of the Ascended Host. Yet even such teachers communicate with you through the mediator of your Christ self. In other words, even the Ascended Host don’t want you to approach them as external teachers that are elevated far above you. Where do ascended beings reside—where are they found? They reside in the spiritual realm, what Jesus called the kingdom of Heaven. And where did Jesus say the kingdom of Heaven is located?

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

The message is clear. The real teacher is inside of you, and as long as you are looking for a teacher outside yourself, you are not likely to find the real teacher. Instead, you are likely to find a false teacher.

Beware the false teachers

Over the years, I have noticed an unfortunate polarization that divides spiritual seekers into two extremes:

  • I know many sincere spiritual people who cling to an orthodox religion, such as some form of orthodox or even fundamentalist Christianity. I know others who have the same loyalty to a New Age teacher or organization. This represents one extreme, namely the belief that one particular outer teacher or teaching is better than all others, and therefore the solution to the world’s problems is that the world becomes converted to the true teaching. I fell for this approach when I was young, and I have met people who have been stuck in it for a lifetime.
  • The other extreme is what I see in many New Age people. They have rejected the previous approach, often because they grew up in a hellfire and brimstone Christian culture and they rejected the fear-based, judgmental attitude that dominates such a community. Yet they often jumped into the opposite extreme and reasoned that there is no “right or wrong,” there is no “ultimate truth,” meaning that any teaching can be as good or true as any other teaching. Therefore, these people often reject the concept of evil and consequently they reject the idea that there could be false teachers who are deliberately and aggressively trying to deceive them and prevent them from making real spiritual progress.

In my observation, people in the first extreme often become rigid and make very little progress, even though they often take great pride in belonging to the elite that is saving the world. People in the second extreme often have very confused, scattered and inconsistent beliefs, even though they often take great pride in belonging to the elite that is saving the world. What is the way out? It is to be a mature consumer in the religious supermarket. You don’t have to go to the store with the idea that one brand of soap is the only right one and that all others are of the devil. On the other hand, it would be naive to expect that any product in the pharmacy is safe and has no side effects.

The key to being an informed consumer is discernment, the ability to tell what is true in a higher sense and what springs from the dualistic mind. I have met many people who attempt to build this discernment based on some outer criteria. People in the first extreme judge everything by comparing it to an outer teaching, such as the Bible, which they see as unquestionably true. People in the second extreme refuse to judge, and they accept whatever sounds good, often based on what they want to hear.

The only way to have true discernment is to rise above the outer mind, the dualistic mind of intellect and emotions, and reach for the inner teacher. It is only through the mind of Christ that you can know the difference between what is true, meaning that it is one with God’s reality, and what is not true, meaning that it sprang from the mind of separation from God. As Jesus said:

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

The trick here is to realize that the Son is not exclusively the outer person of Jesus but the universal Christ mind, which you can access through your individualized Christ self. In other words, the key to discernment is the mind of Christ, or as Paul put it:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5).

The true meaning is that you make conscious contact with your inner teacher. As you start the spiritual path, this might seem difficult, yet if you had no contact with the inner teacher, you would not have been open to discovering the spiritual path. So you simply need to multiply the talents you already have by expanding your intuitive connection. To do this, it can be extremely helpful to follow an outer teacher or teaching, and this gives you an excellent measure of discerning between a true and a false teacher:

A true teacher knows that the key to your growth (even your salvation or ascension) is that you become a spiritually self-sufficient being, that you find the truth inside yourself instead of relying on anything outside your spiritual self or I AM Presence. So the true teacher is always working on bringing you closer to this self-sufficiency. One might say that a true outer teacher is always trying to connect you to your inner teacher so that you are empowered to the point where you no longer need the outer teacher. The true teacher sees that the true measure of success is that you no longer need the teacher.

In contrast, the false teacher also knows the key to your salvation, and therefore he is constantly trying to prevent you from connecting to your inner teacher. You can see obvious examples of this in the so-called cults that seek to isolate their members and make them feel they can be saved only by their particular outer teacher who is the mediator between God and them. Incidentally, some mainstream religions fit into this category—I intentionally mention no names.

Unfortunately, there are many far more subtle examples of false teachers that give you a lot of truth but mix in enough error to prevent you from becoming fully self-sufficient. Yet the ultimate false teacher is your own ego, who can survive only by preventing you from making contact with the inner teacher. The ego will attempt to keep you stuck in one of the two extremes described above. The key to escaping this is to take a balanced approach to the path. Instead of reasoning that there is only one true teacher or that all teachers are equally good, you reason that there are false teachers and true teachers. You can learn from both, but only if you are willing to discern between them and only if you are willing to learn from your mistakes—which means that you have to admit it when you make a mistake.

Overcoming pride

When I discovered the spiritual path, I was 18 and thought – as most teenagers do – that I had it all figured out. I found an organization that taught a form of Eastern meditation and gave some teachings that were a mix of Hinduism and science. At the time, I thought I had found the only true teaching and that converting everyone would solve all of the world’s problems. Yet after a couple of years, I intuitively felt something was wrong, but I could not consciously understand what it was. I left the organization in great disappointment, and for a couple of years I was in a spiritual vacuum. I felt I had been fooled and I was suspicious of any other spiritual teaching, and the result was that I didn’t find any other teaching even though I had a longing for it.

There is a law, which can be described in the following saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” So if I had a couple of years where I had not found a teacher, the only realistic conclusion is that I wasn’t ready. Why wasn’t I ready? Because I had not been willing to admit that I made a mistake. I was still blaming my experience on the outer organization and its leader instead of admitting that the real problem was that I was taking an immature approach to the spiritual path. I was too proud to admit my mistake, and I have seen many other spiritual seekers fall into the same trap, thereby keeping themselves either in a vacuum or keeping themselves in a particular organization even though they should long ago have moved on.

My problem was simple. I intuitively knew that I had been in a false teaching. Yet in order to admit that with my outer mind, I had to admit that I had been wrong in wholeheartedly embracing this organization as the true savior of humankind. I had to be willing to admit that I had been fooled because my discernment wasn’t good enough. For a couple of years I wasn’t willing to admit that, and the result was that I kept myself in a vacuum that prevented the next teacher from appearing in my life.

A better approach to finding your teacher

Is there a better approach? I believe there is, and hopefully it won’t take you as long to adopt it as it took me. The approach is to realize that the real teacher is always your inner teacher. This teacher is constantly seeking to guide you to make the maximum progress on your spiritual path. In order to do so, your inner teacher will often guide you to find a particular outer teacher or organization. The trick is to realize that your inner teacher is NEVER trying to guide you to the ultimate teacher or organization. Your inner teacher is above and beyond the outer approach, the consumer approach, to spiritual growth. Your inner teacher knows that no teacher or organization is the only true one or the ultimate key to salvation. The only key to salvation is that you raise your consciousness.

So your inner teacher is not trying to guide you to the ultimate outer teacher. Your inner teacher is guiding you to the outer teacher who is best suited for teaching you the lesson that you need to learn in order to take the next step on your personal path. And in some cases, the lesson you need to learn might be that you cannot put ultimate trust in any outer teacher or organization. You need to rise above outer teachers and make contact with your inner teacher. And who better to teach you that lesson than a false teacher, even though – or perhaps because – he might fool you for a time?

My point it that I intuitively felt that my inner teacher had guided me to my first spiritual organization. When I started feeling that this was a false teacher, my ego managed to convince me that I had been misled by my intuition and that I should never trust it again. While I maintained that mistrust, I was in a vacuum and my life felt empty—I was literally depressed.

The way to neutralize this ego-plot is to recognize that your inner teacher is always guiding you to the place where you can learn the next lesson. When you give up the dream of finding an outer teacher who will automatically turn you into an enlightened being, you can stop pursuing an impossible dream. Instead, you can see every situation as a stepping stone to further progress, and you can actively look for the lesson you are there to learn instead of believing that you have to remain in that organization forever.

You see, your ego is constantly trying to use every situation to stop your progress. So if the ego can't prevent you from starting the spiritual path, the ego will try to use any mistake you make to get you to stop taking the next step. On the other hand, your inner teacher will guide you on how to use every mistake as a driving force for taking the next step. The problem is that pride will cause us to listen to the ego instead of the inner teacher. The only way out is to make a conscious effort to reach beyond the ego and find the inner teacher.

I realize today that I was truly guided by my inner teacher to find my first spiritual organization. Yet I was guided there to learn some very specific lessons that would help me develop a more mature and discerning approach to the path. After I learned some of those lessons, I was ready to find the next outer teaching, and this was a true teaching sponsored by the Ascended Host.

In the beginning, I thought I had now found the ultimate teaching and that I would remain there for the rest of my life. Yet gradually I came to realize that even a true teaching can become a trap if it prevents you from becoming one with the inner teacher. And today I know that no outer teacher can ever do all the work for you. The outer teacher can help you rise to the point, where you stand before the door that leads to eternal life, or whatever you want to call it. Yet in the end, you must walk through that door on your own power, and you can do that only when you no longer rely on anything outside your Self.

Incidentally, everything said in this article also applies to this website. This website is obviously an outer teacher. If you will read between the lines, you will see that Jesus is constantly talking about the need to find the inner teacher and to take a balanced approach to spiritual growth. Thus, you should never allow this website, or the teachings and tools on it, to prevent you from going within. This website has only one purpose, namely to connect you to your inner teacher, so you no longer need this website. As Jesus has said, “If no one follows in my footsteps, I have failed as a teacher.”

Please don’t let Jesus and his teachings fail. Find the kingdom of God within you!



Copyright © 2009 by Kim Michaels



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