1. A Teacher is Found Wherever You Are When You’re Ready for that Teacher

“As far as teachers are concerned, a teacher is found wherever you are when you’re ready for that teacher. If you’re aware enough to ask the question, “How am I going to get on with my work?” and you answer it, “Well, what I ought to do is calm my mind down,” the next question would be, “Well, how do I calm my mind down?”

Ram Dass, Functions of a Teacher

We think finding the right teacher is this arduous journey, that can take a lifetime of searching. It’s not. It’s as close as your iPhone and the Amazon Kindle store, the teachers at your yoga studio (and surrounding local studios), workshops, yoga festivals, or a retreat in an exotic location.

2. Your Teachers Are Often People Who Have Been Around You All Along

“The act of asking that question sensitizes you to see a lot of beings around you who have been busy calming their minds down, or teaching people how to calm their minds down. Until you asked the question you’ve passed by them and never noticed their existence, because you were busy thinking of them as kooks, nuts, cranks, or people that do those things but who are nice guys anyway. And so you begin to find out that your teachers are often people who have been around you all along.”

Ram Dass, Functions of a Teacher

So, read a book, take a different class at another studio with a teacher you’ve heard great things about, attend a weekend workshop, feel the energetic bliss of a yoga festival, zen out at a retreat getaway. Look around you for a teacher, find one that looks like they have the information you’d like to learn, and then go practice.

3. Honor Everybody You Meet As Your Teacher

“So you learn to honor everybody you meet as your teacher when you realize that there is nothing else you can do but be conscious, for the good of yourself and for all your fellow men and women, and to bring you closer to the place you’re trying most to get to by all the other means you thought you were working on. You work on your own consciousness, and the way to do that is to see the teaching that is in everything in the universe … about where you’re not conscious or where you’re asleep.”

— Ram Dass, Functions of a Teacher

Every situation and person, you encounter offers a chance to learn something. By being conscious of what takes place around you. You will be able to find hidden teachings in all aspects of life. A teacher can be anyone along the path. It might be listening to a stranger’s story at a concert, offering a wise bit of advice to a friend, helping a family member move, or taking a new class with a teacher you’ve heard great things about.

“Wherever you go, see everyone as the Sage, just keep it a secret.”

4. It Depends on Your Readiness to Get On With It All

“So your teacher is everywhere. Your guru is waiting for you to be ready for him. That’s the model you can work on. So you don’t have to rush to India because it’s always right where you are. There are beings who can get as high as any enlightened being ever got, sitting in the middle of Topeka, Kansas, or in the middle of New York, or in the middle of anywhere. It depends on your readiness, and that has to do with your karma or your readiness to get on with it all.”

— Ram Dass, Functions of a Teacher

It all depends on your readiness. What are you doing to further your own path? It’s like when you see someone with their car pulled over to the side of the road. If the driver is just sitting in their car with the flashers on, you won’t really see anyone stop to help. But, if you see a driver get out of their car and push it through the intersection to the gas station, people will get out to help in getting the car through the intersection.

We stop and help those who are trying to help themselves. The same goes with teachers. They are waiting to help us, we just need to find them. Spirit will come and move in those who are honestly and openly seeking certain teachings.

“Your guru is waiting for you to be ready for him.”

5. Listen, Tune, Feel

“Later on you may feel drawn to a specific teacher. As you look about for teachers, be open. Listen, tune, feel. Sense whether the teacher, teachings, and practices are harmonious with your needs.”

— Ram Dass, The Nature of a Teacher

When you feel drawn to a certain teacher or teaching, it may feel like the Universe is pulling you in this direction because this particular teacher has something for you. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re looking for; sometimes we think we know exactly what we’re looking for. This is why it is important to be open. To listen, tune, feel. If we are listening for a certain tune, we will know it when we feel it.

When we are in the presence of a teacher that is right for us — dead or alive — there is a softness to the exchange, and a warm golden glow. It’s like your Inner selves are communicating with each other. With all the shimmering particles of the Universe radiating and dancing between each other. This is how transmission of knowledge and wisdom occurs.

6. There’s No Need For Gossip

“You may meet a teacher whom everyone else respects, loves, and honors, but in your heart nothing happens. There’s no reason to judge this person, nor to persuade or argue with others. Simply decide what’s right for you at the moment. Move on if you must. This does not deny the possibility that at some later date the same teacher may be perfect for you, or that he may be perfect for others. It’s tempting to sit around and judge teachers rather than use their teachings and get on with it. There’s no need for spiritual gossip.”

— Ram Dass, The Nature of a Teacher

We’ve all been here. “You’ve got to so-and-so’s class/workshop/retreat/etc.” Maybe we’ve taken their class, and didn’t understand what all the commotion was about? Or, they just had too much gooey yoga goodness in their voice than our ears could stand. Just think of it this way, the teacher may not be right for you now, but they may be perfect for you at another time. Take whatever serves you in the moment and leave the rest; and let everyone decide for themselves what is right for their own path. No gossip.

7. Simply Watching Your Reaction Makes Everything A Teaching

“Whether teachings experienced along the way are beautiful and pleasant, or unpleasant and harsh, or even bland, all are grist for the mill of awakening. The slightest reaction reflects the subtlest clinging. It is a meaningful clue to where you are still holding on. Simply watching your reaction makes everything a teaching.”

— Ram Dass, The Nature of a Teacher

It’s important to constantly challenge yourself, and shake things up a bit. A little bit of discomfort is good for you, for it allows you to constantly be challenged.

Say you’re feeling energized and want to take a class that matches, but when you get to class the teacher says they’re slowing everything down today, how would you feel? Watching this reaction is crucial. Are you able to let go of wanting an energizing practice, and surrender to the mellow flow; or will you fight it with your mind the entire hour of class?

It simply comes down to a choice: Either we surrender to what is in front of us in the moment (slow and mellow vs. energized class), or we fight it with our mind the whole time (stealing from ourselves that hour of practice to work on our well-being, creating more tension in the mind and body than reducing).

8. Surrender. Open Yourself to the Instructions

“When you take teachings you have certain obligations to your teacher and the lineage from which the teachings come. Surrender. Open yourself to the instructions. Don’t hold back, saying, “I’ll take just a little teaching from you, but no more.” To get the most from a teacher you must dive in and immerse yourself fully. Risk getting wet. Trust that you will be able to get out of the water when you’ve had enough.”

— Ram Dass, The Nature of a Teacher

One of the most important aspects in the transmission of teachings is our ability to surrender. In the West, surrender is often seen as a term of weakness, of submitting to another. In the East, surrender has a different connotation. Surrender means to open yourself to the teachings, risk jumping in and getting wet. Soak up the entire essence of the teachings, and when you are all pruned and ready to get out, know you will be able to just fine. Just think of how refreshed you’ll feel when you’ve finished your swim!

Bonus: Ultimately You Must Go Beyond Forms

“Teachers and teachings are forms, and ultimately you must go beyond forms. If you are true to your own inner voice, as it gets subtler and subtler it brings you to the moment beyond separateness of seeker and guide. Then you have served your teacher well.”

— Ram Dass, The Nature of a Teacher

~Thanks to Yoganonymous for compiling this!