Gratitude to Old Teachers

 When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

This poem by Robert Bly resulted in reminiscence about some of the important teachers in my life. I realize that much of the foundation of my belief systems has resulted from the teachers who crossed my path at precisely the right time.

In The Beginning The first supportive character in the tortuous drama of my early life was the Reverend Pullen, the chaplain at Christs Hospital, the public school “borstal” to which I was condemned to spend six abysmal years of my early life. He had given us an assignment to write a paper on “Why God was a good God and not a comic sadist?” I turned the title around to argue that God was a comic sadist. The result was unexpected as he surprisingly praised my paper for its thoughtfulness and for a time supported my challenging journey with my father who seemed to think I was now condemned to hell.

Letting Go Of The Past The next was a Minister of the local Baptist Church, the Reverend Gordon Glover. I was fifteen years old and my inability to accept the basic tenets of the church was causing great conflict with my father and mother. Somehow my mother persuaded me reluctantly to visit the Minister of the church I had been dragged to for many years. After he welcomed me in I explained the foundations of my disbelief – the loving God crucifying his son to save me, the absurdity of being born again, the inconsistencies in the whole story. He looked at me with care and concern then leaned over and said, “you are absolutely fine, don’t worry about it. You will find what you need in your own time.” Needless to say this earned him the enmity of my father for the rest of time but to me it was an amazing moment.

Becoming A New Age Spiritual Flirt It was not until I reached fifty that I spent any time reflecting on this mystery of which we are all part. This was the consequence of the trauma suffered from a second failed marriage. My younger second wife abandoned me leaving a shattered shell. However the gift of a bizarre psychic relationship led me to a therapist who suggested spiritual possibilities that up to thus time were quite alien to me. This led to a search for knowledge and understanding, curiosity and synchronicity led me to explore many paths. Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Moore, to name some of the more reputable but also some of the more esoteric – channeling, angels and fairies, aliens, etheric ascensions etc. Unwittingly I had become a spiritual flirt.

When the Student is Ready the Teacher Appears. It took breaking my ankle to find my next teacher. After a fateful hike, I was seated with my splinted leg raised horizontal, reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche when I read his suggestion to stop flirting with different paths but pick one and go deeper. It coincided with a friend of mine suggesting I go to the Unity church. I had told him I was done with Christianity but this combination of events resulted in a change of mind and so I discovered the amazing late Reverend Marvin Anderson of the Unity Church in Vancouver that guided my path for a number of years. He reintroduced me to a form of Christianity that gave me the freedom to have my own beliefs. No longer was everything in the Bible literally true. God was no longer an elderly, patriarchal male who believed in retribution. He helped me to see that my previously proclaimed atheism was actually a lack of belief in the God espoused my father. He had a brilliant mind, was widely read and helped to broaden my spiritual search.

Going Deeper I began to study at Unity Village in Missouri for two years and deepened my quest in many ways. He introduced a concept that was profound and as far as I can tell original. “The simplicity that precedes complexity is useless, the simplicity that follows complexity is the pearl of great price.” It helped me through the years when I had to let go of simplistic beliefs and attitudes in order to grow. Finally he preached a sermon that freed me from a trap of my own making. I was sitting in the balcony of a packed church in the company of hundreds of kindred souls. It was as though he was speaking straight to my heart. “Some of you need to move on, your time here is done.”

Going Wider Leaving Unity opened the door to my next teacher. Following a series of signs and synchronicities I enrolled in a two-year program called the Art of Spiritual Guidance. It was crazy thing to do; I did not know the teacher; it was a significant commitment of money and time; yet I felt called. Atum O’Kane was a profound influence in my life. He opened the door to the psychological aspects of my spiritual journey. He introduced me to Carl Jung, the unconscious and the shadow, dream work, body sculpture and drawing to connect with deeper wisdom, and a deeper understanding of Soul. He introduced me to Sufism, mystic Judaism as well teachings from the Christian and Buddhist tradition. He provided the groundwork that gave me the confidence to practice as a Spiritual Coach, teaching how to hold sacred space, how to listen from the heart and trust my intuitive wisdom.

Unravelling My Psychology Atum is still a big part of my life, shows up in my dreams but the primary teaching role has passed to a man that I deem to be the wisest I have ever met. James Hollis is Jungian Analyst, writer and teacher. His framework for the spiritual life feels right. His belief that meaning is a much higher aspiration then happiness has profoundly influenced my work. His understanding of the powerful forces of the unconscious is second to none, yet he is the first person to say, “I know nothing about the unconscious, that’s why it is called the unconscious.” However he helps us understand that we can derive from dreams and the patterns of our lives the forces that unconsciously control our responses. His explanation of complexes, how they originate and how they affect us is a keystone to my understanding of self, limited as it may be? His audio book, Through The Dark Wood is the best recipe for a meaningful exploration of our lives I have ever encountered. Up to this time I have listened to it ten times and each time I get something new.

I am the product of my great teachers, I feel amazingly blessed to have met each one of them on this earth walk. I sense that each builds on the foundation of the other. To quote the beautiful song written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley – “They are the wind beneath my wings.”

2 Responses to Gratitude to Old Teachers

  1. ritadhahan says:

    I very much appreciated and enjoyed reading this blog on the teachers who crossed your path at just the right moment in time in your life. It begins a further reflection for me on who those teachers are for me, you being one of them! Books (their authors) have often been my teachers and James Hollis has definitely been amongst them. Thank you for sharing your personal journey!

  2. Maryann says:

    Lovely reflection, Trevor. Thanks for sharing.

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