Separating the Teacher from the Teachings

Once while attending a night-time dream retreat—a topic near and dear to my heart—I found myself in awe of the teacher teaching the program. He took all of us hungry students on an unforgettable journey into the underworld of our psyches. Effortlessly, he imparted wisdom on mythology, archetypes and the inner worlds of our minds in ways I had never experienced. Like a magician, he magically exposed the language of our soul. He was able to bring our dream-images to life, animating them in ways that felt surreal.

Tending to dreams while asleep had never made me feel so awake.

But as the retreat winded down, my near-perfect-teacher-bubble popped. For some reason, he decided to entertain us with a personal story. It was a narrative that I didn’t find amusing. To my ears, it sounded crude and rude and I walked away feeling confused. As evening approached, my inner critic had a field day. My beloved teacher began toppling down from the very high pedestal I had carefully placed him on. Evening turned into night and down, down, down he plummeted until…splat! He hit the ground beneath my feet.

What had happened to my all-knowing teacher? How could someone who was so wise sound so superficial?

After all, this was a man who not only possessed numerous credentials, but more importantly, was vastly aware of invaluable matters such as the soul, the future of the planet and the importance of all living creatures. This person spoke my language! And how often, in a higher education setting does that happen?

Feeling restless and out of peace, I called my husband. After sharing how I was feeling, he said something that snapped me back into sanity, “You’re learning so much from his teachings, do you really want to throw it out the window? After all, he’s human just like the rest of us.”


How often do we elevate our teachers? The tendency to make them higher than we are is natural. Yet inevitably, it leads to disappointment.

As I prepared to go to sleep that night, I realized how close I had come to throwing the baby out with the bath water. My ego had done its best to divert me on to my teacher’s human foible and away from what really mattered: his teachings.

The next day, I awoke and like a dream (pun intended), my inner critic was no longer complaining. In fact, as I stepped into the classroom and greeted my teacher, I was filled with gratitude.

As a teacher myself, how many times had I fallen off someone’s pedestal? I’m reminded of a saying a friend and spiritual teacher once shared: “Remember, I’m not your savior. I’m a sailor, and just like you, I’m trying to sail home.” Touché.


Laura V Grace

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