Walking the Talk at Southwestern College

Santafe.com - December 2, 2011

"...it is my belief that our Inner Knower has the inside track on what is most true for each of us…"

I am the president of a spiritually-sourced graduate school, the mission statement of which is “Transforming Consciousness through Education.” With a mission statement like that, one must be extra careful to walk the college’s talk.

At Southwestern College, we emphasize “awakening the teacher within,” standing in our own trut, and the like. A lot of students (and faculty and staff, for that matter) are what I would call (I mean this in complete respect) “seekers.” They want more meaning from life, they want to be aligned with their Higher Self and they know that Southwestern College is a place where values like that are not implicit, but stated in the Mission Documents and shared in our materials, our blogs.

So we all have to be careful and conscious of any tendencies to either take on the “Guru Role” or, on the other hand, to give away our power to a perceived guru. It is all so seductive, from both sides. Heck, you see it on Facebook all day. It can be seductive to feel idealized and bigger than life, even at a less than conscious level, and seductive to feel you have found your spiritual teacher, your guru, the one who has the knowledge to access the levels of spirituality, or divinity, or consciousness, or some dimension to which you do not have access, and would not have access, except by dint of your relationship with this guru.

There is a fine line between admiring someone, feeling they have something to offer you on your path, believing that their experience will help you advance your own growth and mission in this lifetime, and subtly signing on to somebody else’s world view, paradigm, cultural ways, as a spiritual short cut to the top. Yet of course, teachers can be incredibly valuable, and I have had many.

We all know that “giving away power” happens anyway, and we all have probably done it. But if we are to be about “Consciousness”, it is incumbent on us to be conscious, stay conscious, to check ourselves, to question our teachers and elders, to ask ourselves if we are really aligned with our own vision, or just borrowing someone else’s because they look so blissful when they are aligned with it.

Personally, I try to measure any teachings against my own experience on the planet, and while I love the sacred Hindu literature and Celtic Druidism, for example, those traditions and writings, though timeless, are ancient, and that is not necessarily always sufficient for me. There are a million challenges of life in 2011 that are not addressed in those bodies of literature, and I have no interest in waxing nostalgic for the natural days before Facebook, or iPads, or texting or what have you. I love life now, I do not want to get away from it, I want to drink it in, and bask in the craziness of the speed and disruptive innovation that is happening at this point in history.

So teachers living in this day and age have something to offer me that no ancient texts or holy person living in the mountains can bring. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that contemporary teachers that I find most useful are those who live out in the world and can translate the perennial wisdom into the language and context of today, so that they are more directly relevant and not just disconnected tenets of some philosophy articulated centuries ago. That is what I am drawn to, though others are clearly drawn to something else.

Not everybody loves it when you bring this topic up. I look out into some New Age publications and see how many people are trying to make a living at what some unabashedly call “Spiritual Entrepreneurship,” and I am pretty sure that many of them do not want us to have this conversation. I am guessing some of these folks who advertise there, and on Facebook and  the bulletin boards at Java Joe’s, are great, and some not so great.

It is a personal and professional goal of mine as president to try to keep Southwestern College as conscious as possible about this kind of “Guru-Seeker” dynamic. I cannot presume to say that any student-teacher relationship is healthy or unhealthy, but I will encourage us to all “stay awake” in those relationships, and consult with our Inner Knower as often as possible, because ultimately, it is my belief that our Inner Knower has the inside track on what is most true for each of us…