The Brave NO
Some time ago a penned a Note of advice to those starting or at the beginning of their pagan/witchcraft path. One of the aspects I alluded to was the importance of learning from many traditions and a variety of good teachers. It is advice that I not only give but take myself: every year I take dedicated time away to learn more from my elders, other traditional practitioners or teachers. By keeping an open mind and by adopting an attitude of continual learning, my practice grows more deeply connected and more useful to others and myself.
Today though, I wanted to speak of the other side of the coin- the responsibility of being a teacher or wisdom keeper.
Now I remember when I first started investigating a spiritual path- I was excited and I wanted to know everything NOW. The rush of curiosity, this awakening that I had finally found something that resonated with me wholeheartedly, made me super-eager to learn as much as I could. At the same time, I had always been a fast learner in most things so I presumed that this kind of learning wouldn’t be much different. I was confident I could find a teacher or two and just suck it all up like a big fat sponge. Yup- easily and fast.
Luckily, I found some great teachers who held back information from me. Yes, you read that right- didn’t give me all the information I asked for!
Imagine a kid on his car probation plates being given a formula one racing car to drive, or a young doctor just out of university asked to do a heart transplant…
Consider how useful it would be to be asked at your first day at gym in a few years to lift your body weight or do a training session reserved for an elite athlete…
Kind of dangerous huh? Discovering the mysteries of and learning the skills involved in a spiritual path is no different.
Let me give you an example. When “The One” TV show first series came out it ‘inspired’ a lot of courses and workshops on mediumship and psychic skills. Lots of people teaching, lots of information flying about and lots of people really eager to learn as much as they could very quickly. Whether it was that the teachers didn’t know where to start or the students pushed the teachers into teaching too quickly, few curriculums began with what I lightly term the ‘safety demonstration’.
In almost every skill that I have ever learnt, metaphysical, sporting or physical, the tutor normally shows you what may go wrong, how to avoid it and if there is a safe way of doing a process takes the time to demonstrate this clearly. They ensure everyone knows how to do this and it may even be an examinable topic. Think of sports with a definate risk to them: scuba diving, iceclimbing, even cricket- there are preventative measures you learn, actual skills and procedures that will keep you safe and normally you aren’t allowed to do the activity unless you are shown them.
To crack open up your psychic self without knowing how to shield and protect yourself or not know how to ground yourself later is asking for trouble. If you believe enough in energies/spirits/entities/insert your label here, that you wish to communicate with them or receive guidance from them, then surely the possibility of attracting a less than friendly version of these things may have crossed your mind. Or not. It certainly should have crossed a good teachers mind though- the person who has the responsibility of keeping you not only informed but safe.
This is why, in my psychic skills workshops and so many others, we teach shielding and grounding techniques (our safety demonstration) prior to anything else. Now here comes the rub- for those students who are super-keen, this stuff is boring. I expect a rolled eye, someone checking their mobile phone for messages, someone taking that opportunity to go to the bathroom when I begin that section of teaching. In the way I teach witchcraft it can often be the same- we start gently on the history, on mythbusting, and then we have a slow reveal of wisdom and skills- but that too can be too tedious for our eager-beavers.
Metaphysical and indigenous magical practices were never just easily given in the past. Remember there was no internet or google to glean instant information. People were often chosen specifically to hold magical information that was not passed onto any one else, sometimes at birth. The information a learner or novice possessed was strictly controlled for their own safety and the safety of others. One had to reach a level of maturity and psychological solidity to be able to know what to do with the wisdom shared and to not abuse it.
Today it’s very different. Today it’s much easier to get information previously only available orally or through a teacher on the net, in books, in short courses or even FB. This society that offers so much information, in my opinion offers at time little wisdom. Often people want all kinds of info spoon fed to them when they need more experience to actually be safe or to even take this information in as its meant to be…as wisdom. There is not a week that goes by that I am not in contact with someone who has been damaged by being given or exposed to processes inappropriate for them.
I deeply believe good teachers are not just about what they share but what they hold back from you. This can be difficult to take at times. There has to be a degree of trust that they know more than you on a said subject and that there may be a good if not vital reason that they are not sharing “everything” with you yet. Yes, there may be teachers that abuse this power, making it about them, but I feel this is the minority or at least easily spotted.
A good teacher may be trying to teach you an important concept like resilience by not just telling you about it but by challenging you to BE so. A good teacher may be asking you to build your self care and self knowledge by refusing you the next difficult ‘stage’ right this minute but encouraging you to keep going till you get there. A good teacher will give you the parameters and the tools but not spoon feed you- as they say learning how to fish is more valuable that being given a fish.
Importantly, a good teacher is not your friend – but your teacher- even though their diligence, care and genuine rapport may make them feel like one to you. So if you confuse the two, when your teacher says “no” it can be a shock and there can be anger and resentment. I can tell you I have felt this once or twice in my learning life. At the time I couldn’t believe that I was being refused. In my eyes I had done ‘everything right’. Looking back, I am extremely grateful to these strong teachers that didn’t give in to my cajoling or anger. I know with hindsight that I was not in a place where I could appreciate fully what it was they were trying to teach me.
I have now, maybe with age J, become much more respectful of the ‘slow reveal’ and am delighted when my elders suggest I am ready for a new stage in my development rather than get upset that it’s not happening fast enough. Humility is a beautiful thing. Have I become friends with any of my teachers? One or two, but it’s taken a long time and the formal teaching process is well over.
Bottomline, we all have freewill. If you do not feel you are getting what you need from a teacher then, simply voice this calmly and honestly and if it cant be resolved, find another teacher that suits you better. But it is worth remembering freewill goes the other way too.
Teachers can refuse to teach you as is their right. Teachers are human beings too that may not feel comfortable teaching you as an individual. Teachers may decide that right now, this minute, there is a lesson for you to learn before the one you are gunning for, and that’s all they are offering you for whatever reason. Teachers may bravely say ‘no’. And if they do say ‘no’ it may well be the most sacred ‘no’ you will ever experience.
*Copyright Stacey Demarco,April 2, 2012
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