Overwhelmed by Gratitude for Your Teacher

river, nature, blue sky, white clouds, fir trees,
I talk a fair amount about the spiritual student-teacher relationship because it is so unique. There are few other relationships that are comparable to it. Oftentimes, I discuss the qualities of love and hate that the student feels towards their teacher, and those are primarily part of the ego like/dislike program. But some of the more interesting responses are deeper, natural, and unbidden responses. 

One such response is a devotional love that can arise between the teacher and student, and which I discussed in my November 2020 newsletter.

(If you're not on my newsletter list, you can sign up here).

But another really interesting one is the gratitude that can rise up and which, at times, can actually feel overwhelming. And today, I wanted to talk with you about it.


Not Your Average Gratitude

Most people know what gratitude is. You feel thankful for someone giving you a ride to work when your car is in the shop. You appreciate when someone compliments your cooking. You may feel grateful even to be alive. 

And honestly, most of those are ego forms of gratitude. The ego is liking what it is receiving. 

Conversely, it does no good to try and be grateful for things that you don't like. Usually, when we try to be grateful for the flat tire in the dead of winter and the middle of nowhere, we're trying to find a way to believe that we still benefit from the experience. As usual, the ego corrupts a lot of things, and so it's not a very deep level of gratitude at all, no matter how much we try and convince ourselves that freezing and waiting for a tow truck is something to be grateful for. It's best to return to the neutrality of awareness instead of trying to force ourselves to feel grateful and creating inner conflict.

Staying as Awareness

But there are whole other worlds of gratitude beyond the ego, and when one arises for a student with a teacher, it can be more than they're prepared for.


The Ego Resists the Gratitude

For a very beautiful response to a relationship, the ego often has a great deal of trouble with gratitude. It's too much for it somehow. It's like the ego feels like it will be somehow demolished or broken by it.

I know. It's strange. But this happens.

In some ways, this level of gratitude is linked to the devotional love to a teacher. In grateful moments like this, a person may truly see that they needed a level of support far beyond what their ego would have allowed. In receiving that support, they have shifted in a way that is significant for them--whatever that may be. I think the ego on a certain level rebels because it feels a deeper level of control slipping away. The shift or shifts were beyond the ego's control, and now this gratitude is beyond its control. 

And there is a force to this gratitude that often propels a student into a deeper quality of relating with their teacher. And that tends to be both new and more vulnerable and also beyond controlling.

And despite what a lot of people think, most people don't want to be that vulnerable.


Trying to Give Back

It's pretty normal for my students to feel overwhelmed by gratitude and want to somehow overcompensate for that sense of having received so much from me.

Which is ironic since I offer nothing.

Nothing to Show for Your Spiritual Work

Yet, this process of remembering the truth of oneself/one's Self leaves people with the sense of deep abundance. Real abundance. This isn't collecting experiences and things, which is what most people are doing when the term of abundance is thrown around. Most of that is Western entitlement that has become a kind of spiritual entitlement.

No. This abundance is the vastness within. That's the real abundance, which no one wants until they discover it.

And then they don't know what to do with it.

So the common response is to try to give more to me or whoever the teacher is. It's appreciated, but unnecessary. Usually the better response is to sit with the ego's discomfort to gratitude and the sense of having received "so much" and see what arises.


Surrendering to Gratitude

So of course, we end up back at surrender. Of course.

Of course.

What happens if you are feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for a teacher or anyone in your life?

How long before you try to move that feeling into an action?

Does this gratitude dissipate? Does it build and get stronger?

If it gets stronger, how long can you surrender and what is on the other side of that intensity?

It's so funny that sometimes people can sit with other kinds of discomfort like fear or depression, but faced with the more "positive" emotions, the ego has less tolerance. But surrendering to these emotions is critical. In so doing, other things arise to be seen, and new levels of gratitude and love normalize.

Spiritual Growth and Discovering New Worlds of Expansion


Normalizing to More Gratitude

Normalization is an interesting thing. If we're normalized to suffering--as most people are--the suffering is invisible. However, if we know that we're normalizing to gratitude, it becomes invisible in a different way as we're far more aware of it. That's the beauty of being more conscious, e.g. more aware of what is real. We can see more of the nature of things, and getting used to intense gratitude allows us to flow through it, much like we learn to flow through all experiences.

It is true that you can sort of forget that this has happened--that's the invisible to which I just referred. My comfort with love and gratitude is pretty big now, and I only notice that by how small other people's abilities to receive are. This isn't bragging--I have no interest in such a thing. It's merely an observation mixed with my own sense of compassion and humility knowing that I was no different. In some areas of love, I was totally stunted in my growth for most of my life until the grace of a spiritual awakening arrived.

So any new and intense experience can become a new normal at which point it isn't overwhelming anymore, but it's not invisible in the same way that our suffering once was.

Spiritual Humility and Life Under God's Grindstone


Talk to Your Spiritual Teacher!

One of the biggest mistakes a student makes is not communicating with their teacher. So if you are experiencing a strong emotion of any kind, you need to talk to your teacher, and you need to look for what inside of you that is creating that strong emotion. You also need to look at what is resisting that strong emotion. As I said earlier, sometimes a positive emotion (I'm using positive in terms of how society views gratitude) can be heavily resisted or routed towards actions that are unnecessary or counterproductive or even unhealthy. The ego is crazy!

And sometimes, students leave working with their teacher because they can't handle it. Self-worth issues will trigger someone to do that. The gratitude gets interpreted by the ego into a feeling that they don't deserve such a relationship.

Misinterpreting Spiritual Experiences


New Levels of Beauty in the Relationship

Gratitude is just one aspect of the spiritual student-teacher relationship. A maturing student-teacher relationship is a dynamic thing, full of a myriad of changing experiences and emotions--just like life.

It is very beautiful. 

So if you have come up against a powerful experience with gratitude, love, or something else for the first time, please know that there are even deeper levels beyond this. This new experience is an opportunity to grow in one of the most beautiful ways a human being can grow with another. So take a breath. Talk to your teacher, and surrender to this surge of gratitude. Then see what new doors open for you both.

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