Why I am not a spiritual Guru

Presentation by Kim Michaels, given July 2, 2016 at a conference in Seoul, Korea.


What I would like to do here is share with you some observations that I have made on my spiritual path. I think I said the first day that I don't present myself as a spiritual teacher or as a spiritual guru. One of the reasons for that is that I have been on the spiritual path for 40 years. I have always had this tendency, that many spiritual people have, where we are very conscious of ourselves. We are always looking at ourselves and how we need to change and what we could do better. I've also been very observant of what's going on around me, what's going on in the world, what's going on with other people. So during those 40 years, I have sort of been on a journey. 

I said that the first spiritual book I found was Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.  This helped me understand that there is a very, very long tradition on this planet of spiritual teachers and spiritual gurus. In India, of course, they have a specific version of it where you have these people who set themselves up as gurus and they attract chelas or students. 


The Indian guru system is not for the Aquarian age

The Indian system, at least in some gurus' practices, is that the word “chela” actually means a slave, and you become a slave of the guru. That means, you have to do everything that the guru tells you to do without questioning it and there isn't anything wrong with that system. The background behind it is that by completely surrendering to the guru and becoming like a slave, it helps you overcome your ego. In order to do what the guru tells you to do, you have to overcome your own ego. Many times, if the guru is good, he can attune to what your ego is, and therefore he will tell you to do the things that your ego absolutely doesn't want to do. 

That is, of course, a valid system. It can, of course, also be misused because if the guru does not have good intentions, or if he doesn't have a high level of awareness, then the student becomes a slave of whatever manipulation the guru will expose him to. I believe that you have actually seen, in the West especially, where some Indian gurus have come to the West and have abused their power and authority. Maybe you have seen that also in Korea, so there is no system that cannot be abused.

This was my first exposure to the idea of a spiritual teacher, a spiritual guru. For many, many years I really enjoyed Yogananda's book. I did not personally feel any need to go to India and I didn't feel a need to find a personal guru like Yogananda did, but I enjoyed the book very much. There did come a time, many years later, probably 25 years after I had first read the book, where I was reading the book again and all of a sudden I realized that the Indian tradition is not really for the Aquarian Age. It's not that there is anything wrong with it; but it only worked for a certain time and it really isn't what is needed on the planet in the Aquarian Age. What happens in India is that they have a glorification of the outer guru, the physical guru. Often they have a lineage of these gurus that goes back into time and they are very attached to honoring the lineage. In the Aquarian Age, we need to find the guru within, we need to find the inner guru, not an outer guru. I don't think that the Indian tradition is quite ready to make that leap because they are attached to their tradition and they want to carry it on.


The Western tradition of gurus

I was also a member, for many years, of an organization that was a Western organization that had ascended master teachings. But they also had there the concept that there was a person that was acting as a guru and who had the sponsorship of the ascended masters. Again, there was nothing wrong with this but the problem there was that the guru, of course, had only limited time. The organization I was a member of was a big organization. In an Indian ashram the guru will only take on the number of students that he has time to interact with. In this organization, there were so many people that not everybody could have personal contact with the guru. This was another model of the idea of a spiritual teacher.

Then, of course, I have over the years also seen other people who have set themselves up as spiritual teachers, who have written books, who give lectures, who give workshops and conferences and also present themselves as spiritual teachers. Obviously, I could have done the same thing. I mean, I could have set myself up and declared myself to be a teacher, or I could have claimed some kind of title  of guru because some people love titles. 


How to set yourself up as a guru

At a certain point, I realized two things. First of all, if you make a very big claim about yourself – that you have some kind of ability, some kind of authority – some people will believe it. Those people who believe it, will be very loyal to you and they'll do anything for you. I also realized that I never wanted anybody to look at me like that. I did not want anybody to follow me blindly, or to be loyal to me as a person or as a guru. I want them to be loyal to their inner path.

I also realized that if you tell people what they want; it's very easy to attract followers. There is a certain amount of people that are spiritually interested and they want to hear certain things. It’s fairly easy to find out what people want to hear. The main thing they want to hear is that they are special, so if you make a big claim about yourself and why you are special, why you are different from all the other gurus out there, then it automatically follows that those people who recognize you, they are very special because they can see how special you are and nobody else can. If you tell people why they are special and that they have a special mission and nobody else can see this, then you can again gather loyal followers. I saw these patterns and how gurus set themselves up and how they interact with people.

Another thing I realized was that as a guru you have to create a basic distance between yourself and your followers. You have to create a mystery around yourself. There must be something they don't know about you and they don't understand you. When you create this space, people's imagination will start creating all kind of special abilities for the guru in the gap. They don't know, but they like to imagine and so they idolize the guru.

One of the examples of this was that there was a book that was very famous in America some years ago, called Eat, Pray, Love. The woman who wrote it describes how she went to India to an ashram. She doesn't say which movement it was, but I of course, looked it up on the internet and found out and this was an Indian movement. They had a female guru that nobody had seen for many years. To me it was just so strange. Here you have an organization that's very loyal to this guru, but nobody has seen her for several years,they don't even know for sure if she's alive. But because she wasn't there, they imagined all kinds of things about her.


Overcoming the need to feel superior 

I started to see all of these patterns and I have used this to kind of look at myself and say: “Well, who am I? I know I'm in a certain position. The masters have anointed me as a messenger and I'm bringing forth these teachings and I'm publishing them. And it's obvious that people will come to look at me a certain way. So, how do I personally want to deal with this?” 

I realized, of course, that I don't have any desire whatsoever to set myself up as being more important than other people. That's because you come to a point where you make contact with your own higher being, your own I Am Presence. When you realize who you are as a spiritual being, you realize that you have an I Am Presence that is up there in the spiritual realm and it is completely free of ego. It doesn't have any of the concerns we have down here. My I Am Presence is a unique being, but when I know my I Am Presence, I also know that each of you have an I Am Presence, which is also a unique being. In uniqueness there is no value of better or worse or higher or lower. Nobody is more special than anybody else. We are all special.

I realized that I don't want to relate to people based on this model where the guru is above the student and is special, compared to the student. I don't like relating to people that way, I like relating to people in the sense that we are all equals. There is no value judgment here, it has no meaning. I don't like to relate to people that I'm up here and talking down to people, I would like us to realize that we are all sons and daughters of God and we are all equally valuable. When we get all of that nonsense out of the way, then we can relate much more directly. 

We can also acknowledge, that perhaps I have certain experiences that you can benefit from because I have been on the path maybe longer than you have. But it doesn't mean that I am better than you. The important thing is that if you think I am better than you; you will not think that you can do what I have done and learn from my experiences. All of a sudden, there's a barrier between us, and I don't like barriers.


You cannot teach anybody anything

I also realized that the whole concept of a guru, as most people look at it, is that the guru is teaching the student something. I came to a point where I realized, that you cannot actually teach anybody anything. It's an illusion to think that you can teach another human being something. The reason for this is that in the West we have the concept that when we learn something, we are getting knowledge that comes in and we take it in and we understand it intellectually. We understand it with the thinking mind, with the rational mind. But this will not change us

I have known so many students in my 40 years of being on the path who have studied a certain teaching and they know the teaching very well. They can quote long passages of the masters' books and they can always come up with some quote. "The guru said this" and "The guru said that.” Therefore, we are supposed to do this and therefore we are supposed to think this way. But when you look at themselves and their behavior, they haven't changed. I have known people who have been in an ascended master teachings for 30 years and they have studied the teaching and they have practiced, but there are certain aspects of their personality that haven't changed at all.

That's why I realized that you cannot teach people anything. Because giving people this intellectual knowledge is not going to change them. It doesn't help anybody that I describe what I believe and what I know and people accept that at an intellectual level. What actually helps people – the only way I can help people – is to be an example that might inspire people. What will change you is that you have an experience inside yourself. It’s not up here in the head; it’s in the heart. You suddenly realize there's a different way to live, there's a different way to be, than what you have seen before. That's why I'm saying you can't teach anybody; but you might be able to show them. And in order to show them something, you first have to live it, you first have to embody it.


The outer versus the inner path

I realized that there is a certain consciousness in spiritual circles and among spiritual people, that the guru gives forth a certain teaching. For example, you see in many spiritual movements that the guru gives a teaching that you're not supposed to live a certain way. Then, the guru himself doesn't follow the teaching, he doesn't live the teaching. They can always come up with an excuse why the guru is not living the teaching. What I realized from this is there is a certain level of consciousness where you find a lot of gurus and a lot of students and it's because again, for them being spiritual is an outer thing. 

It's like you go into a teaching and you study the teaching and then the teaching gives you certain rules for how you're supposed to behave. Then, people think that by following these rules, by living a certain way; that will give you spiritual growth. That will bring you to enlightenment or the ascension, or whatever the goal is. They think that by changing their outer behavior, they're making spiritual progress.

That's why, you can have these gurus who tell their followers what to do and then they are not doing it. And then the followers have an excuse for why the guru doesn't have to do it. Maybe he's at a higher state of consciousness so he doesn't have to follow these rules and this and that. What I realized was that this is all artificial. It’s actually artificial to think that by changing your outer behavior, you are making spiritual progress. It’s naive to think so. That's why I realized that if you are to give people an example, you cannot define a certain behavior and say: "This is how a guru should behave."

I could sit here with the best of intentions and I could say: “I have an intention, I just want to help people. How do I need to behave in order to help people, in order to be a good teacher, a good guru? How do I need to behave?” Then, with my outer mind I could define these rules for behavior: "This is how the ideal teacher should behave." I realized that this is not what it's about. If I want to help other people, if I want to inspire other people, there's really only one thing I can do. "I can be myself. I can be myself!" 


Defining the ideal spiritual person

When it comes right down to it, what is the spiritual path all about? It is not about following certain outer rules. Look at, for example religious movements where they have a certain model for how a good Christian should behave. You see people who behave this way. You see some people (I have met it in new age movements) where they think that if they talk very softly and very slowly (audience laughter) and always seem to be very kind; then they are spiritual. This becomes an outer thing that people are taking on.

I realized that you can very easily define a certain model and say: "This is how an ideal spiritual person should be,” but it's just not true! A spiritual person is one who has inner contact with his or her I Am Presence and you are expressing at least some of your divine individuality. It is coming from your Presence and your Presence is unique. So how can you set up a model for how a spiritual person should be? To me the ideal spiritual person is a person who dares to be himself or herself. It’s, of course not the human self, the human ego, it 's the Divine individuality. 


The pressure of enlightenment

I looked at this and I came to a point where I realized that, there is this concept that's floating around among spiritual people, and one example of it is that persons can be enlightened. You hear certain gurus and certain teachers out there and either the person himself has made the claim to be enlightened, or his followers claim that he's enlightened. You can create this model that we are all supposed to work towards being enlightened and that you can come to this point where, while you're in embodiment, you are enlightened. I spent a lot of time contemplating this and I thought: “What does it actually mean to be enlightened?” I realized that the whole idea that you want to label something, comes from the human consciousness. It comes from the duality consciousness because it wants to divide people up and it wants to say: "This person is enlightened, and all these other people are not enlightened." But you see, there's a dualistic mentality there.

For many years I thought that if I was a good ascended master student and if I worked on my personal psychology, there would come a point where I would have resolved my psychology and I would have reached a higher level of consciousness. That's true in the sense that if I look back at the 40 years I've been on the path, I can see that I have changed a lot in those 40 years. I have overcome a lot of wounds and a lot of patterns in my psychology. I am much more at peace with myself and with life today than I was back then. But I still experience that I have certain things in my psychology that I see. On a regular basis I will come to the realization: “Oh, there is this pattern that I hadn't seen before,” and then I'll look at it and I'll work on it, until I am conscious enough that I can let it go.

I realized that this is probably the way it's gonna be for the rest of my lifetime, because we are very complex beings and we have been in embodiment on earth for a very long time. It will take a lot of time for us to resolve this psychology. The conclusion that I came to was that I would stop worrying about whether I'm enlightened or not enlightened, whether I've reached a certain state of consciousness or not, because it doesn't really matter. What matters is that I'm being myself and that has two aspects. As I said, one thing is that I'm constantly striving to be in tune with my I Am Presence and be myself as my divine individuality. At the same time, I allow myself to be a human being in embodiment and I allow myself not to be perfect. I don't have to be perfect.


A spiritual teacher must be perfect

There was a time where I felt a pressure on me because I felt that if I'm in this position that I'm a messenger for the ascended masters and I do these conferences and I meet people, I had to live up to a certain standard, I had to be perfect. I had to know everything so that I could answer any question that people would ask me. What I came to realize was that this was a pressure that came from my own ego. I needed to look at myself and I needed to see why I had this idea that I had to be perfect. 

I realized that there is a very strong consciousness in the world that as long you are following the crowd, as long as you're a member of the crowd, there isn't any attention on you. But as soon as you stand out from the crowd and start to do something beyond the ordinary, there is this pressure that you're supposed to be perfect, you’re supposed to live up to a certain standard. It was my ego that made me feel that I had to do this.

I looked at this and I said: “You know, I don't want this anymore. I don't want to live this way!” And I worked on it until I could let it go. What I have done since then is I have allowed myself to be imperfect. I don't have to live up to some standard. I also realized that there is a certain consciousness that always wants you to live up to a standard; but nobody can define the standard. What does it mean to be enlightened? What does it mean to be perfect? I realized that I wanted to let go of that whole consciousness.

Where I'm at right now is that I realize that I'm a human being like all of you are. I still have aspects of my psychology that I'm working on. I'm sure there are things that I don't see in myself. But I'm also sure that they will gradually come up and I will do what I have done for 40 years. I will look at them, I will work on them and I will overcome them. I will continue to do this for the rest of my life. All of a sudden, when you do that, it's like you are making peace with yourself, you are allowing yourself to be who you are right now. Because what can you really do other than be who you are right now?


The trap of perfectionism

You see, for many years on the path it was like I realized I'm here and I'm not perfect, but I should be up there, and there was always this gap. There was always a gap between where I am right now and where I should be and I should feel bad about this and I should always feel I was behind. Again, I looked at that and said: “I don't want to live like this for the rest of my life.” The way to overcome that is to realize that I am a person who is willing to look at myself. I am willing to work with myself and my own psychology. Whatever comes up, I'll look at it, I'll work on it until I see it and then I'll let it go. Well, what more can anybody demand of themselves? What more can you do than take one step at a time?

When you really accept that, when you really allow yourself to accept that you don't have to be perfect, you can be at peace with being who you are. Right now today, I am at a certain level and this is who I am right now and I'm at peace with that. Now, I know that a week from now or a year from now I may see something that will allow me to come up higher. And then I'll be a different person, but that's also perfectly okay.

I realized that instead of always feeling like I was behind – like there was always a deficit, I wasn't good enough, I should be up there, but I'm here – you can come to a point where there's no gap anymore. You are just being who you are right now. You know that when you follow the path and you study and apply the teaching, you are going to continue to grow, and all of sudden the pressure disappears. You don't have to be somebody else, you don't have to be something different. You can allow yourself to be who you are right now and you can be at peace with that.

I, of course, realize that by telling you this, you can't necessarily make that switch in your mind instantly and be at peace with yourself. But I hope that it can at least inspire you to think about it and also come to that point where you allow yourself to be who you are and not be perfect. You're not always judging yourself according to some standard that nobody can really define, you don't always feel behind. You accept yourself for who you are. Of course, you realize that you are on the path and you are constantly changing. You will be growing and you will become someone different a year or two years from now, but that's okay because right now you are who you are.

You can actually come to a point where you enjoy life the way it is right now. You are at peace with the way your life is because the experience you are having in life, is an expression of who you are right now and is perfectly alright. When you come to that point where you want to get away from a certain experience or you want something more, you can look at yourself and your psychology and then you can discover the pattern that's keeping you trapped in the past or trapped in some pattern. You can look at it and you can come to the point where you can let it go. And then you are somebody different and then you will have a different life experience.


The futility of telling others to change

I have realized that we all have our individual paths to follow. I have seen so many times – I have seen it in other people, I have seen it in myself – that you can see a person who has a certain characteristic in his or her personality. And many people can look at that person and see that this is making the person unhappy because the person is just repeating these old patterns. Many people can see that the person needs to change, the person needs to see this and let it go. You can try and talk to the person and say: “Can't you see what you're doing?” But the thing is, until the person reaches the point on their path where they are ready to see this, you can't make them see it. You can't force them to see it.

I've seen this so many times, I've done it myself, I've seen other people try to do it to other people. I've experienced other people try to do it to me and tell me: “You need to see something!” The thing is, if the person is here and they need to get up here before they are ready to see it, then it doesn't matter how many times you tell them. They can't see it until they are up here and it's the same for all of us.

That's why I'm saying: "You are who you are right now, and as long as you are walking the path and you are striving to become more conscious of yourself (you are using the teaching of the ascended masters or other teachings to increase your awareness), then you are doing all you can do right now. There may be some things you can't see, but that's okay. You can allow yourself to grow gradually, instead of always feeling like you should be up there, but you can't be up there. 


The challenge of accepting ourselves

If you look at the staircase outside here, none of us can jump from the ground level to the 19th floor. We have to take one step at a time and that's the way it is in our life. I realized that we can actually change our minds so that we are not dissatisfied with ourselves our whole lives. I mean, what's the point of being a spiritual person and living your whole life being dissatisfied with yourself and feeling like you're behind? And then maybe just before you die, you realize: “Oh, I can be at peace with myself.” What's the point in that? 

Being at peace with yourself does not mean that you have to reach a certain level of perfection. It means that you have to accept yourself for who you are right now. We are so programmed from the world to think that there is something wrong with us and that we need to become better. The masters have said many times that this consciousness is put out there by the fallen beings because they want us to feel bad our whole life.

A week ago, I was at the forty-year anniversary of my high-school class. I graduated from high-school in—I almost said 1776, but in 1976. So, it was 40 years this year and I met some people from my class. And I was talking to one of the persons from my class, we were good friends when we were in high-school but we hadn't seen each other for 40 years. And I knew he was also somewhat spiritually interested and what I said to him (because I realized that he was in that state of consciousness where he didn't accept himself) and what I said was: “The hardest thing in life is actually to accept ourselves, it’s the most difficult thing.”

We have this consciousness in the world, that comes from the fallen beings, that we are not good enough, there's something wrong with us. The fallen beings, of course, want us to believe that we will never overcome it. So here we are, we find the spiritual path and now we hear about ascended masters and they are talking about a path we can climb towards Christhood, the ascension. Then we are transferring the image from the fallen beings to that path and we are saying: “Okay! when I reach that level, then I can accept myself, then I can feel good about myself.” But that's not what the ascended masters have said and that's not what they want for us.

That's why I'm saying that no matter where you are on the path, you can actually make a conscious switch, a conscious decision and accept yourself for who you are right now. It doesn't mean that you accept that you are going to stay the same for the rest of your life. Of course you are going to grow on the path, but you can accept yourself for who you are at this level. When you do that, it becomes so much more enjoyable to walk the spiritual path. It becomes so much more enjoyable to be alive because all of these pressures just fall away and you can just be yourself. That's all I wish for any of you, and I hope that we can find a way to allow ourselves to be ourselves, to allow each other to be ourselves, for who are right now and relate to each other based on the fact that we all accept each other for who we are.

Because in the 40 years I've been in spiritual movements, in every spiritual movement I've been in I've seen the same pattern: People go around judging each other. They often use the teaching of the guru, whether it be the ascended masters or another guru, to judge each other. And I just think it's so unnecessary and I hope that we can find a different way to relate to each other, where we can all accept each other for who we are and who we are becoming. So, that was all I wanted to share with you for now.



Copyright © 2016 Kim Michaels


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