Teacher-Student-Relationship Reloaded: My Personal Story
Part 3 of 4 of a White Paper on The Evolutionary World Spirituality Unique Self Vision of Dharma, Lineage, Students, and Teachers Based on the Teachings of Dr. Marc Gafni
Although I was a student of spiritual teachings for more than 20 years, I was always repelled by the mythical Guru systems, where I would have had to give up my autonomy, in order to obey to the authority of the guru who will or will not abuse it. With all my longing for connection and union, I just couldn’t do it. Again and again, I decided to stick to the postmodern student-teacher-relationship (the second model adduced above), where the teacher is mainly a friend who can maybe teach me some cognitive concepts or can lovingly point me to some issues in my psyche that I otherwise would not be able to see. And although I have learned a lot this way, my heart always knew that there was something missing.
Even if I didn’t know the framework of Unique Self, I had enough intuition of it that my own path and practices helped me to realize my Unique Self even without a comprehensive Dharma of it, helping me move beyond True Self experiences. My True Self experiences were beautiful peak experiences, but were not ends in and of themselves. I resolutely understood that no Guru or Master could ever replace my own Unique Self. With my growing skills of discernment, I perceived people who submitted to a Guru as though their Guru had actually replaced their own soul, higher self, or what I now call Unique Self. And definitely, that was not what I wanted.
So, I stayed in my autonomy. And even the communities I became part of could never fulfill my deepest yearning for true connection. And there weren’t so many teachers around who were:
- Real lineage holders in one or more traditions
- Not only transmitting but also evolving their lineages
- Able to transmit enlightened states of consciousness and love
- Respectful for the autonomy of the Unique Self of their students AND
- Coming from a truly integral perspective and framework
In meeting Dr. Marc Gafni, I have found all of this and I immediately and intuitively decided to become his student. Until now, this intuition has been confirmed by reality over and over again. In the midst of many challenges we are facing together in our collaboration for the Center for Integral Wisdom, my trust in him as a teacher and leader is deepening almost every day of working with him.
The Three Stations for Me
So, let me give you a first person account on how I experience being a student of the Dharma, a part of this emerging Unique Self and Eros lineage, and finally a teacher and lineage-holder myself.
I have been through some smaller and larger cycles of the three stations of love with my teacher Marc and the Dharma and I can say that my relationship to him and to it continues to deepen. There are times where the subtle energy transmission is so strong that my whole body vibrates for days — even when there is a whole ocean between us. And it seems like Marc always knows the exact proportion of masculine push and feminine holding that I need in order to grow.
Now, does that mean he is perfect? Of course not! Like every other human being he has a unique blend of wonderful unique gifts and also weaknesses. As Marc often says “we are all imperfect vessels for the light.” That he embodies his Unique Self most of the times, which gives him an incredible energy to do whatever he is doing (and I have not seen many people work as hard as him), does not mean that he can do everything. He is constantly inviting us to partner with him in this emergent movement of World Spirituality and Integral Wisdom and to do better than him. Yet, when he is in the teacher function and in his transmission, there is a great clarity, wisdom, and love coming through him and from him.
I also have challenged him and the Dharma in several situations. And I was often surprised how Marc has welcomed my view and empowered me to take a leadership role wherever appropriate.
We move through these larger cycles between the Stations of Love, and after moving through Station 2 — Separation — and coming to the other side of it in Station 3 — Sweetness — our relationship emerges with greater maturity, clarity, and love. At the same time as these cycles are happening, I am becoming able to hold more and more the paradox of autonomy in communion, surrender and personal power.
And finally, I was able to start teaching the Dharma myself, starting to contribute to it my own views and experiences. This is when I find myself in utter sweetness. My Unique Self blossoms into and delights in it. And I continue to let the Dharma work me and the lineage has taken me inside. I can feel it, I am proud of it, and I bow to it in humility, while at the same time I audaciously dare to give my own unique contribution to it.
Here, my utmost autonomy comes together with my sense of being connected to something bigger than me, which is the nature of every Unique Self. I am part of the All while I am also whole (not separate or lacking) by myself. Letting myself be held by the lineage, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the teacher, who in these moments represents the Goddess or Divine Mother, finally releases that old sense of loneliness in me, the sense that I have to “do it all by myself,” which can of course never be enough. At the same time, my unique contribution to the All, together with my sense of personal power to actually change something in the world, can finally take root as I have given up that notion of having to do it all by myself; and I surrender again and again to being part of this.
Now, again, does this mean that I have become perfect all of a sudden? Of course not! I still have my challenges that I work with almost every single day — learning and growing and sometimes reaching the end of my rope. Yet, when I am in the teacher function, I can often feel a great clarity, love, and wisdom pouring through me. And the more I can embody my own Evolutionary Unique Self in my life, the more I get access to that inexhaustible source of energy within me or the cosmos that we can all plug into through our unique “plugs” offered by our Unique Selves — to borrow another image from Marc.
The Idea of Lineage in a Wider Context
Here, I want to add something to the notion of lineage that comes from my own background.
Earlier in my life, I had been doing some (family) Constellations work that goes back to the work of Bert Hellinger et al. In it, working with representatives for a constellation of the family of origin often results in a constellation at the end where all the (representatives for the) ancestors of the client are standing behind him or her, giving him strength and blessings for his own path of life that is in front of her. Having been in such constellations myself (as client, representative, and leader) I know that this is a very powerful experience. There is a palpable feeling of strength and empowerment coming from behind, that actually strengthens the sense of the own Self, the alignment to and embodiment of one’s own Unique Self.
When I teach the lineage Dharma of Unique Self and Eros that I study with Marc Gafni, I have a very similar experience as I had during these constellations: I can feel Marc and his whole lineage behind me transmitting the Dharma to me while I am transmitting it myself. Giving and Receiving become truly one, as is a part of Marc’s teaching on Eros. I can only give as much as I receive, while at the same time, my own Unique Self is totally present and grounded, giving my expression a special flavor, adding my own experiences to it, translating the teaching not only into a different language (German) but also into a different culture, sometimes even reaching some people who have been formerly closed to this Dharma… And I totally love it!
If we are really conscious, we realize that all of us stand in the lineages of countless thinkers, mystics, and powerful people. All the people that have been before us, on whose experiences and realizations we build upon, are actually part of our lineage.
As 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury put it:
“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”
So, why then is what I describe not a normal experience for all of us?
In Constellations work, for most us, there are some rituals that have to be taken and really embodied first. The most important one is that we acknowledge to our parents and grandparents that we are small. We bow to them and say: “You are big. I am small. You give. I take.” And the taking here is not a passive receiving, nor is it a taking without receiving. We open to receive but we also need to actively take hold of whatever is given.
Mostly what hinders this experience is that we make ourselves too big. We think we are big already. We think we may actually need to save our parents and ancestors. Or we think they did it all wrong. And we actually forget that we are the dwarfs sitting on their shoulders.
In not giving credit to all those on whose knowledge and realizations we draw upon, we do the same thing. We make ourselves big. We act as if all those realizations are just coming from ourselves and nobody can or needs to transmit to us. Yet, little do we know… Without the realizations of all the generations before us, we would have to start over again as hunters and gatherers — reinventing not only the wheel but also the fire and language and basically everything that we take for granted in our lives.
Giving credit to those who came before us, acknowledging all the lineages we are part of, realizing that we are small beyond measure as long as we don’t open ourselves to these lineages, that is exactly what opens up all the strength, all the support, all the blessings from our ancestors and predecessors, from all the direct and indirect teachers in our lives. And that paradoxically doesn’t weaken our access to our own spirit or Unique Self, but it strengthens it greatly. And of course, we potentially have something small or great that we will contribute to it. And the lineage is waiting for us. Not giving credit is actually not only arrogant, but it is also the dumbest thing we can do.