Teachers can be found anywhere, even when you aren’t looking for one. As humans, we are programmed deep within our being to learn. This programming is most active when we are young, but even into adulthood that urge to learn, to know, to understand, is present.
So, the trick isn’t so much finding a teacher, but finding the right one who has the knowledge we need to learn. Some teachers, through conscious or unconscious awareness, teach us things which are harmful to our being. They teach us we have no worth, that us we are helpless or incompetent, or stupid, and powerless.
So the first, and most valuable lesson we can learn is that of discernment. We need to learn how to sort those who have something positive and life-affirming to teach us, and those who have something negative and life-denying to teach us.
You will often hear me say that through some teachers I didn’t learn how to do things, but how not to do them. I have also had teachers who came not to teach me something I didn’t know, but to remind me I already had that knowledge and experience.
As a note here – just as everyone around you is always a teacher, you too are always a teacher for someone else. Now ask yourself – Do you want to be the person teaching others how not to do it, how not to act, how not to treat others? Or, do you want to be the person who demonstrates how to do it, how to act, how to treat others?
Many years ago, when I first came to the UK, I decided that I wanted to do a correspondence course on witchcraft. This was a 1 year course, 12 modules. Frequently, I found myself disagreeing with what the woman running the course was teaching, and I was conflicted. She was a published author, respected in the witching community (or so I thought) here in the UK, had many more years of experience than I did. And I didn’t agree with what she had written.
Finally, about 3/4 of the way through the couse, I was meditating and speaking to the Gods and I asked them. “Why did you tell me I needed to do this course? I already know this stuff!” And They responded with – “Exacty.”
I finished the course, because I had started it, but with the awareness that I had been told to do it, not because I had much to learn, but because I needed to realise just how much I already knew.
I by no means know everything there is to know about Paganism or witchcraft. But I know a lot more than I sometimes give myself credit for. I have to be careful not to fall into a trap of thinking that because my knowledge base is more experential, and less theoretical, that somehow my knowledge is somehow inferior.
I wouldn’t recognise a Lesser Banishing Ritual if it stood in front of me and danced a hula. But I have stared an entity in the face and told it to get the hell out of my house. I can’t tell north from south without a compass but I can invite the elements into a Circle and work through them there. I don’t memorise scripts, and never do a ritual the same way twice but I can hold sacred space, raise energy, and ground.
I have had a few human teachers over the years, both in my learning as a Pagan witch and in my learning as a Healer. I have had non-human teachers, and many times muddled through with no obvous teacher at all. Not really learning, more remembering things I had forgotten I already knew.
A great deal of my studies have been intuitive and instinctual in nature. I am able to pull in bits of awareness from many different experiences and combine them. Sometimes, they work. Sometimes they don’t. As a good recent example, I am able to send Energy Healing through any part of my body. This all started when I asked my Qi Gong teacher of the time, “Can a man with no arms do Qi Gong?” He responded that a man could because of the intention he was setting in his mind. I took this and applied it to the Energy Healing work I did. Can Reiki, can Energy, be sent without using the hands? Yes, it can.
Not having an obvious teacher has been a plus and a negative at times. On the one hand, there are times it would have been nice to have someone I could go to, to ask – what should I do? On the other hand, because I didn’t have someone over my shoulder saying “It can’t be done that way.”, I just went ahead and did it. I’ve taken to calling this a Pippi Longstocking effect.
Too many times, I think we get caught up in trying to find “the perfect teacher” who can give us all of the knowledge we need, forgetting that teachers really are all around. Recently, my youngest son gave me lessaons in finding joy and pleasure and gratitude in tiny accomplishments. “You completed that level! Yeah!” Another son (now a teenager) is giving me much needed lessons in how to be around people who are projecting anger without shutting down emotionally or attacking. While my eldest has become a needed role-model in pacifism as I work on not showing up for every heated debate I am invited to.
Many more times than I kcan count however, I am not really aware of just what it was I was learning until after the fact. What I have taken to calling “Oh shit!” moments. Those are generally the most important lessons of all.