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  • Writer's pictureRuss Hewer

10 Steps to see what makes a good life coach, spiritual or mindfulness teacher

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

As we come out of lockdown, we as human beings have the potential to be resilient especially during these challenging times of which Terry Waite has recently given some words of wisdom.

Terry Waite spent 1763 days as a hostage in appalling conditions.


As we come to terms with Covid-19, right across the world there will be many people who are frightened, disappointed and angry. The world community faces an unprecedented situation and all our futures seem uncertain.

As a hostage many years ago, I faced the very same feelings and had to learn how to live under difficult circumstances. I had to learn how to keep hope alive. To recognise that virtually every disaster has a positive side to it although it may not be obvious at the time.

The future will be difficult for everyone and although we may be in isolation we are not alone. We all face a common threat. There will be suffering but in my days of solitude I said to myself, ‘Suffering, in most cases, need not destroy. Often out of suffering something creative can emerge.’

Many of the great works of art or literature have emerged from great suffering. It is quite possible that the same can be true for the situation through which we are now passing.

If we let it, eventually this seeming tragedy can and will be turned around. Let us keep hope alive and let this situation bring out the very best in all of us.

Five top tips for coping with isolation from Terry:

  1. Keep in contact with others via digital and other means, while staying safe and remaining physically apart.

  2. Keep yourself well: don’t slob around all day in pyjamas and a dressing gown!

  3. Keep up a routine: get up at a certain time, eat regular meals.

  4. Take exercise: dust off the exercise bike, do some online exercise or go for a walk.

  5. Take this time of restriction as an opportunity: do some of those things you’ve been meaning to do for years, such as reading that book that’s been on your shelves for years!

“In solitude we are in fact together, so keep hope alive and don’t allow despair to destroy a difficult but potentially creative period of your life.”

Terry was always asked the same question in the past, how he mentally survived the days as a hostage and he replied that he would take one day at a time.

Wheather you have a teacher who is faith based or secular for mindfulness or life coaching, what is important is that they lead by example and you sense a state of presence within them. They live one moment at a time and have a sense of joy when chaos surrounds them. Without presence then there is no space to bring everlasting compassion and joy to life, stay grounded and maintain a connection with the whole collective which has shown itself more in this pandemic. It’s not until now we can see the true essence of the people who are in the spiritual and life coaching professions and who have been challenged and have lost their revenue stream and financial security.

They say that “When the student is ready, the master will appear” and this is true but how do you know that this is the right teacher for you especially in these challenging times?

In Buddhism, there are two aspects of learning that are important, the intellectual argument of logic in dialectic school and the experiential development of intuition, resulting in heightened awareness by spiritual practise composing of rituals, rites and contemplation.

With heightened awareness we can see instantly a person’s true intention using non-verbal signals and our own developed intuition.

Step 1 – Micro expression

This rationale can see true intention by micro expression is a very brief, involuntary facial expression humans make when experiencing an emotion. They usually last 0.5–4.0 seconds and cannot be faked. About 1 in 10 people can fake happiness so if someone is pretending to be happy, they can’t normally raise their cheek muscles when making the expression. Look at the various expressions in the video and see if you can fake happiness? It’s important to know that a teacher in authentic and doesn‘t come from an alter-ego.

Step 2 – Behavioural Iridology

This is a holistic way to diagnosed a person behaviour status from a rational approach by investigating the pupils of the eyes. The left and right pupils give so much information to the long-term behaviour status of the individual. Whilst the science has shown this clearly, the intuition has worked this out from the very beginning. The video gives an introduction to behavioural iridology.

Step 3 – Eyes gaze.

Presence and intuition brings about a heightened awareness between the six senses, touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing and mind. The greatest external sense is sight and is considered the portals of your soul. I’ve always had a fascination with eyes and gaze and the information that can be derived from them especially since starting my spiritual practise. I always look at the eye gaze and would be fascinated to watch when people came out of meditation or seeing a realised master for the first time.

I was going to make a collage of eye gazes to demonstrate the different states of realisation and compare that with eyes of the general public but I found a great blog that demonstrates it clearly.

Just click on the picture below to read more about eye gaze

If you look at Adyashanti gaze in the blog, he is detached but there are two great yogis that are enlightened with great detachment. Try to look at the two sets of pictures and see the difference. When your mind becomes more present, there becomes a lumosity in the first set of pictures.

For me, the two next videos show a more readily enlightened state which is easier to differentiate.

The first one is Drubwang Könchok Norbu Rinpoche on this amazing documentary about the Yogis of Tibet at 53.11mins. If you have time, it gives great insight into many aspects of yoga, meditation and retreat practises

The second one is The Great Yogi Drubchen Namkha Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Step 4 – Actions speak louder than words.

This presence manifests itself in external qualities such as patience, tolerance, kindness, being non-judgemental and compassion. In this pandemic, many teachers have become polarised in their thinking and as a consequence have lost their connection with the whole community.

This is an indication of their lack of spiritual equanimity and a result of becoming judgemental. Spirituality has no bounds and should be an innate quality that transcends the divide and provides a bridge to accomplish that. In most faiths, this is a central pillar and in Buddhism it is too. The first teaching in Buddhism is Sem-kyed, the generation of enlightened mind and it brings an intention that should we come out of cyclic existence and achieve enlightenment, then we chose to be born again to help liberate all sentient beings.

When you make this intention in the beginning it seems fake and fabricated but with perseverance and persistence, change can happen and enlightenment is possible.

Step 5 - Charismatic and motivational teachers

Don’t get carried away with teachers that are very charismatic and motivational, look at their intention and motivation as their object maybe to put commercial success before benefiting the individual. Sometimes the teachers that have the smallest groups are the ones that bring quality to their class by giving their time and effort to bring change in the individual. Get to know them first and take time to see how they are with their students.

Osho is a great example of this, owning 93 Rolls-Royce cars and being responsible for many other misdemeanours. Osho was a realised teacher but many of his students did not have a deep spiritual foundation to detach from the materialism where the Rolls-Royce was the ultimate test. The cajoling and hierarchical nature of the organisation led, ultimately to its demise. Osho brought some great teachings then which are still relevant in these modern times. Some teachers find it very challenging, living life modestly in the east and relocating later in life in the heavily materialistic west, the temptations can be too great.

Step 6 - Countertransference.

About 30 years ago, I was doing my basic skills in counselling and we were talking about countertransference. I never heard of that word before but over the last 30 years I can now understand why it’s so important. I realise that many people are motivated to enter life coaching or mindfulness teaching because they have had an epiphany from being coached or taught themselves either directly or indirectly. They may be very new in the profession and their own emotions can be an obstacle to providing a professional service.

Many use their new found motivation to discover themselves and at the same time help others in the process which will be very popular once we move away from the pandemic. The pandemic has been a period of forced reflection and maybe forced unemployment as well and with the increase in mental health issues because of lockdowns and recent restrictions, there will be a flood of new demand.

These are six signs of countertransference:

1. They are extremely critical of you.

2. They sit too close to you for your comfort.

3. They express intense feelings about you, your problems, and your choices.

4. They take on a parental role with you.

5. They want to meet outside of therapy.

Whilst there are ways to use countertransference as a positive transformational tool, it takes wisdom and a lot of experience to use it that way. In Buddhism, countertransference is called wrathful compassion and is a tantric process which I will describe later but can have a quick transformational power.

Step 7 - Esoteric connection and lineage

There are teachers that we are naturally attracted to whom we think that we have known before but in fact have never met. A kind of deja-vu feeling that can bring about a special connection. It could be called karmic connection so this is mainly faith based and has the potential to bring about rapid progression. “Surrender to what is” will bring about tears from your eyes which fall and bound to the floor.

This is a state that in deep, powerful and transformational. Surrender is the connection to the divine or the god within you and if you achieve this whilst in spiritual practise, will bring about a profound experience.

For faith-based teachers, cutting through the dogma and having the courage to experience other faiths and non-faiths alike brings about a liberal view. They embrace other faiths and traditions and believe that the essence leads from one godhead. For secular teachers, integration in our diverse community brings about empathy and understanding and they come to the same conclusion.

If anyone says that “It’s my way or the highway” then this is indication that the teacher has not come to this conclusion?

Step 8 – Sleeping with the students

I have been meditating for 44 years using Transcendental Meditation (TM), Landmark, Insight meditation, new age guided mediation and Buddhism and they all have teachers who have slept with their students. This is mainly men but it also has been the other way round. Many students in a group have a reverence or a strong love for the teacher and this state can sometimes lead to their trust being compromised.

I first saw this when I was 17 years old in TM but with the recent changes in law, this has reduced in the west. There are many teachers such as Soygal Rinpoche, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Bikram Choudhury, OSHO and many more who have slept with their students. I have met many students who have long life negative experiences which has made them leave their group and denounce their teacher.

There are some insightful films on Netflix which shows OSHO and Bikram Choudhury

But in Buddhism, it can also be an awakening as the tantric sexual union which can lead to a deeper realisation. The teacher must have the wisdom and knowledge to see the consequences of their actions and the student needs a deep spiritual foundation. Not knowing the spiritual intention of the teacher and having a predominantly monogamous society in the west can be challenging for the student as expectations are formed. It is possible the teacher’s intention is compassionate and the student is detached without expectation, then both can have the benefit of the sexual union and it could be just a single act.

I do not know anyone personally who has a long-term polygamous relationship with a teacher and are still in that relationship.

Step 9 - Wrathful compassion

Some faith-based teachers may seem angry and challenging and they don’t smile at you. Don’t judge them for that but give them time enough to see if the group or individual dynamics change for the better and this itself can be a tantric process. Wrathful compassion can easily be misunderstood and sometimes shouting and screaming to embarrass or shame can be the single action that brings about change where change has not happened before.

I have been on the receiving end of that action and it made a great change within me. You need a strong connection with the teacher and an unshakable faith but also a teacher who has that realisation to know when and where to do it and the action is based in a compassionate mind.

Whilst this is a valid method, it is frowned upon in the west and a good example of an exponent of this is James Arthur Ray. He was a life coach, sweat lodge and fire walker organiser who was brutally honest and direct to his students to the point where they would cry and howl.

You can watch the rise and fall of James Arthur Ray:

It’s on Amazon Prime:

For more understanding about wrathful compassion, see the following link. There’s some conjecture but useful information and you can see examples of wrathful deities which is part of spiritual practise.

Step 10 – Leading by example

When you have practised for many years, the integration of the practise in your daily life means that you eventually don’t need to be as disciplined as when you first started. But when you teach, its best to start from first principles and demonstrate by example.

When you see attention given to starting from first principles and putting effort into correcting the student to give them the best possible experience, then this is a great example of a teacher leading by example. The teacher becomes a role model and you can see other external qualities that reaffirm that.

There are many other external signs that you can see and feel such as shiny skin, a warm glow or aura, a sense of joy, looking young, a child-like quality and laughing. You can see this in some of the teachers shown in the video Yogis of Tibet.

Finally, we may need courage not to eventually depend on the teacher but solely on the teachings.

How to use this information?

There’s so much information and it overwhelming. Start at the beginning and read it through to the end in your own time. Have a look at the videos and documentaries at your leisure and enjoy the experience. Read it again from time to time and you will see more value in it as your own understanding gets deeper from your own experience. It’s a cycle of experience and understanding and personal academic investigation.

Why is it important to me?

I wish I had this information in 1976 when I started TM as I was given a two-syllable mantra in Cambridge and little philosophy. You learn the minimum that you need to know to gain the most in the shortest possible time which in TM was about reducing stress.

It could just end there if you just looking to reduce stress and its then easy to get the right teacher for your needs. But should you want to go deeper to permanently change your behaviour and maybe take a spiritual path then it becomes more subtle. This information would have benefited me more after my TM days as I could have been more objective in understanding the teacher and myself.

How can this help you?

After the pandemic there will be an enormous supply of new teachers and life coaches as they change their careers after losing their jobs and retrain. The whole country has gone through a deep introspection and many have changed their life goals including the ones that have lost their jobs. There is a mental health epidemic to deal with and a supply is needed to meet that demand.

What is important is who teaches the teachers and its those teachers that need evaluation now. Eventually the student will become the teacher so you will need the tools to evaluate yourself.

There are hundreds of different therapies, meditations and healings available promising change so now is the time to learn.

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