I’ve been fortunate over the years to have many fine teachers. I don’t just mean teachers in the formal sense. I mean people that I can really learn from in whatever area I am engaged. Last night I went to a teaching on meditation by the Tibetan, Sogyal Rinpoche. Now, I am not a formal student of his, nor do I consider myself a Buddhist. I’ve always felt uncomfortable about identifying myself with any particular school, though I’ve learned from many of them. However, there are some characteristics of this man that inspired me to think about what a good teacher is, and how, therefore, to go about picking them out from all the dodgy ones out there.
The embody what they teach. This is as true for sales as it is for meditation, or any spiritual practice. The teacher has to have mastered what they are teaching. Without that their theory is just that, theory. The basis of a master’s knowledge is their own experience – they know the way through the fire because they’ve walked it themselves.
This mastery can usually be sensed in the presence of the teacher. Their knowledge is in their very body, every muscle and nerve, it’s grounded. This is why you’ll find that simply being around a master will have a grounding effect on you. This is also why, after a point, you’ll often find that verbal communication feels unnecessary and clumsy in the presence of a great teacher – they are able to sense where you are at, and the quality of their presence is instruction in itself.
This is more for teachers of a spiritual or wellbeing kind – the teacher is basically a happy and content person, irrespective of their material conditions. That is, they live with a certain amount of inner peace and contentment. This is of utmost importance because it is a sign that they are masters of their own mind. Now we’re all human and have ups and downs, but just watch how a true master deals with the down days and the challenges that life throws their way.
A good teacher is demanding. They know what you are capable of when you apply yourself with focus, and they believe in you more than you do initially, so they are less inclined to accept less from you.
However, a good teacher is also patient and is sensitive to where you are at. This comes to the heart of human relationships which in their finest form are expressions of love. Great teachers embody this love, and help it arise spontaneously in you also in ways that transform your deepest self.
Ultimately, it comes to the sense of trust that they inspire, and whether you are able to connect with them. No teacher is right for everyone, and I have also learned to trust that the teachers I need will be there when I need them, in one way or another.