“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” ~ Zen proverb
We come across many spiritual teachers throughout time that guide us on our path and challenge our set beliefs; forcing us to look beyond the obvious. To the mind that is open to these teachings, it helps us with our inner work.
Each teaching offers a valuable lesson, and a fresh outlook on life. Here are a few lesser known spiritual teachers who have, and still are, spreading light in the darkness.
Don Miguel Ruiz
“Only you can change the world that you create, and by changing your world, the world will change ‘and that is the Truth that will set you free’.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
Blending ancient wisdom and modern insights, Don Ruiz’s ideas come from the ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of Southern Mexico.
He was highly influenced by the teachings of Carlos Castaneda, and has authored books like The Four Agreements, The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, The Fifth Agreement, and The Toltec Art of Life and Death, to name a few. The simplicity of his teachings remains a source of great enlightenment and aspiration.
In The Four Agreements, he speaks about the four agreements that each person must make to themselves in order to achieve a more mindful and liberating state in their life.
The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word: “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love…”
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering…”
3. Don’t Make Assumptions: “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life…”
4. Always Do Your Best: “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret…”
Later on, he wrote a follow up book, The Fifth Agreement, with an added lesson that he felt was needed to be taught:
5. Be Skeptical but Learn to Listen: “Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message…”
2) Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“We all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
Estés is a Jungian analyst, writer, poet, and post-trauma specialist. Among her writings are: Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, and The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough.
In her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, she talks about the instinctual woman archetype, and the ways to go about healing and renewing her within each woman. What is unique about Estés’ philosophy is that she has the ability to give truths of the soul in a beautiful way: through ancient stories.
She takes the ancient stories of her ancestors and presents them as unearthed wisdom. Through her stories Estés presents the truths of the unbreakable soul bond, and how to redeem it. She teaches that a true instinctual woman is strong, intuitive, and full of life and creativity. Her stories show the process of rekindling, awakening, healing, and following the voice of the soul.
“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don’t waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success.”
3) Byron Katie
Byron Katie, an author and speaker, talks about a method she calls “The Work”. While going through a difficult time in her life, Katie came upon an idea that changed everything she believed.
She realized that believing her thoughts made her unhappy, and that by using a method of self-inquiry to look at her thoughts and beliefs she was able to make suffering a choice, and not a given.
“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.” ~ Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
In her book, Loving What is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, she relays the basic recipe to turning around thoughts and beliefs that are ruling our lives and attitudes. The four questions are:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
The idea that she teaches is that by putting your thoughts (specifically negative thoughts) through these questions you are able to turn it around and gain a more fresh and healthy perspective on your thought patterns. Her message is that your life and attitude is in your own hands. It is your choice to suffer or to be happy.
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
4) Dipa Ma
“It is important to distinguish between sense-pleasure and sense-desire. There is nothing wrong with sense-pleasure. Pleasure and pain are part of our human experience. Sense-desire, on the other hand, is the grasping at pleasure or the avoidance of pain. This is what creates suffering-grasping and avoidance.” ~ Dipa Ma
Dipa Ma was a student of the Indian teacher Anagarika Munindra, a prominent female Buddhist, and teacher. Her early life brought her much difficulty, and the deaths of her family led Dipa Ma to explore the wisdom of meditation. Her grief drew her towards her own enlightenment, and later, to the enlightenment of those she taught. After studying for many years she started teaching her own students.
Her philosophy was made up of the idea that meditation and enlightenment can be reached in any environment. Her first students were mostly women and homemakers; women who did not have the luxury to sit and meditate for hours.
She helped these women to meditate by giving them meditation practices that can be done while still living life to its fullest and busiest demands. Her belief was that meditation can be something to carry around; a mindfulness to be brought into life, and not the other way around.
“The whole path of mindfulness is this: Whatever you are doing, be aware of it.”
5) Brian Weiss
“The number of days and years one lives on Earth is insignificant. It’s the quality of those days and years that’s important, quality measured in loving acts and achieved wisdom. ‘Some people do more good in one day than others do in a hundred years.’ This is their message.
‘Every soul, every person is precious. Every person helped, every life aided or saved, is immeasurably valuable.” ~ Brian L. Weiss, Same Soul, Many Bodies: Discover the Healing Power of Future Lives through Progression Therapy
Weiss is a psychiatrist, hypnotherapist, and an author, specializing in past life regression. His specialization in past life regression started when his patient began to recount past life memories while she was under hypnosis.
After checking the legitimacy of these memories, Weiss came to believe that bits of us are formed from past lives. He began to use past life regressions with his hypnosis theory claiming that many phobias and patterns are directly related to past lives and can have healing effects on the patient when properly acknowledged.
Weiss believes that by delving into past lives the patient is able to deal with present life issues in a more well-rounded manner; and with less blockages that may have been placed in front of them from past-life issues. He also believes that anyone can reach this knowledge through hypnosis, meditation, or even in dreams.
His teachings are also recounted in some of his books such as: Same Soul, Many Bodies: Discover the Healing Power of Future Lives through Progression Therapy; and Miracles Happen: The Transformational Healing Power of Past Life Memories.
“Learning the lessons of life can be so simple if you believe in immortality.”
Along with past life regression Weiss is focused on the continuity of the soul. Weiss concludes that the soul is the traveler that unites the many different physical bodies through time, and is the holder of the universal truth; and the truest essence of the person lies in the soul.
“To see and appreciate the soul of others with whom you are in a relationship is a higher state of awareness. To see only their outer characteristics provides a limited and incomplete perspective. Their current personality, just like their current physical body, is a temporary manifestation.
They have had many bodies and many personalities but only one enduring soul, only one continuous spiritual essence. See this essence and you will see the real person.”
6) Jon Kabat-Zinn
“You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Kabat-Zinn is a professor, and former student of Thich Nhat Hahn and Seung Sahn. Though his practices are those of a Buddhist, Kabat-Zinn refers to himself as a scientist.
His many years of learning Buddhism and his many years in science brought him to combine the two in a way of bringing more mindfulness, and less stress into one’s life.
He has also advocated for meditation to be made active in classroom settings and taught to children from a young age. Meditation, he says, is a great way to counteract the many technological distractions that we are faced with in our daily life, and that children are introduced to from a very young age. His book Wherever You Go, There You Are, gives over these teachings.
“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”
7) Alex Grey
“I acknowledge the privilege of being alive in a human body at this moment, endowed with senses, memories, emotions, thoughts, and the space of mind in its wisdom aspect.” ~ Alex Grey
Alex Grey is an artist, author, and teacher. His primary work as an artist revolves mainly around the psyche and the spiritual journey. His artwork depicts the developing psyche and the active relationships between mind, body, and soul.
Afterwards he went on to express different ideas through his artwork; mainly the unique human moments such as human interaction, kissing, making love, giving birth, death, dreaming, and meditating.
His artwork shows the interconnectedness of all by taking everyday occurrences and showing the “magic” behind the veil of physicality. Such paintings as a man praying, dreaming, or painting show clearly how these are not “just” daily things, but a universe within these moments. He shows the viewer that within each simplicity is a moving, breathing universe.
“The infinite vibratory levels, the dimensions of interconnectedness are without end. There is nothing independent. All beings and things are residents in your awareness.”