When receiving instruction from a spiritual/shamanic teacher, it is important to place one's self in the most effective state of consciousness to receive the depth of the teaching. This is because, unlike subjects which which can be communicated through words, numbers, diagrams and the like, there are many spiritual teachings which can only be passed along through direct transmission.
By direct transmission, I mean that the teacher and the student share a field of charged energy, through which the teacher shares a profound experience or realization with the student. This is not something that can adequately be described, nor can it be communicated through books or film. Though it is possible, if the student is truly ready, for the transmission to arise spontaneously.
Back in the late 70's I had the opportunity to attend a siddha yoga event. I was quite young and very resistant to the idea that there was anyone who knew more than I did about anything of interest to me. However, I had been attending a small local siddha practice group for awhile and had memorized a couple of the chants, so I thought I would give it a try. The first day, I sat with my legs turning to lead and fire, feeling gradually more and more excluded and disconnected from what was going on around me. I was able to get something out of the guru's talks, but I found that my mind insisted on questioning everything he said, and that I would often miss points, because I was busy refuting something in my own head. I finished that day frustrated with myself and with the whole experience. Worst of all, I was stuck there for another day.
I began the second day without any expectation other than boredom and discomfort. Late in the morning, we began one of the chants I had memorized and I was able to keep up for a change. It seemed like we chanted the few simple lines of sanskrit for hours, perhaps days. At some point, I realized that I was smiling and that my body felt warm and expansive, rather than painful and congested. The chant finished and we sat in silence for a long while. Glancing around, I saw that others were also smiling and I found that it felt good to be sharing this with them. Then the guru began to speak. I don't recall anything that he said, but do remember laughing with others at some of his comments. At one point, he paused and and turned toward me, looking into my eyes. My body shuddered involuntarily and he smiled and turned away, continuing his talk.
Nothing else remains in my memory of that day. It is as if a very small and precise nuclear explosion went off inside of me, wiping everything clean. To this day, I cannot put into words what I received in that moment, but it remains within me, and has helped to lead me to other teachings. One thing is clear though, I was extremely fortunate to experience the event is such a way that it peeled away my resistance, doubt and inhibitions, leaving me unknowingly prepared to receive that spark of realization.
Over the many years since that event, I have slowly come to realize just how important preparation and attitude is in the process of receiving spiritual teaching. I now realize that much of the meditation and chanting that so many spiritual practices use, places the student into an extremely receptive and open state, where they are most capable of engaging the energetic field of the teacher and of receiving what passes through that field.
In my own teaching, I try to be transparent about this process of preparation, letting my students know that the most important things that they will receive from the workshop will not come from what I say, but from their experience of being present in the shared, charged space.
There is of course, a place for discernment as well. To accept the instruction of any teacher, myself included, without discernment is potentially dangerous. But the time for judgement is after the teaching is received. Then is the time to try it out. Put it to work in your life and see if it has meaning to you. If it does, then you know that you have received something of value for you. If it does not, then you know that you can move on.