A wise and practical quickstart guide for anyone who wants—or already has—a spiritual teacher.
The User’s Guide to Spiritual Teachers is a necessary book for anyone who has, or wants to have, a spiritual teacher—regardless of faith or tradition. This book addresses concerns that many of us have on the spiritual path, including how to find a spiritual teacher, how to manage expectations about what they can do, and what to do when you realize you’re in a dangerous relationship with one. Spiritual teachers of all traditions will themselves find this book incredibly useful as they reflect on how they benefit their students or may be overstepping their boundaries and actually creating harm. This is your place to look for information, inspiration, sanity, and words of caution.
In this short handbook, Edelstein (Sex and the Spiritual Teacher) guides readers through choosing and working with spiritual teachers. Drawing on his four decades of experience working with spiritual teachers as an editor and agent as well as a student, Edelstein addresses a surprisingly wide range of topics to help readers make the most of their relationships with spiritual teachers. Practical matters such as how to assess a teacher's reputation and credentials, respond to eccentricities and mistakes, and identify boundaries are interwoven with broader issues such as the tendency to idealize spiritual teachers and the potential for teachers to abuse their role. Emphasizing the human fallibility of all spiritual teachers, Edelstein encourages "discernment," urging students to proceed slowly before acting and to pay attention to the reactions of mind, body, and heart in judging whether a spiritual teacher is a good fit. He notes red flags for teacher behavior that should lead a student to end the relationship without delay. Edelstein's guidance is largely sound, helpful, and wise, but and of his own advice he says, "Accept what feels wholesome, right, and useful and set aside what doesn't." Throughout, the author emphasizes the inescapable uncertainty of the human journey and the ways that spiritual teachers can and can't help with this fundamental dilemma. Edelstein's list of resources is slight, but a short appendix, "When You're the New Kid at the Spiritual Center," provides useful tips for those awkward first visits to an unfamiliar community.