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Sex and the Spiritual Teacher: why it happens, when it's a problem, and what we all can do
Sex and the Spiritual Teacher looks at the complex of forces that tempt otherwise insightful, compassionate, and well-intentioned teachers to lose their way—and that tempt some of their students to lose their way as well. It analyzes why most of our current efforts to keep spiritual teachers from transgressing usually don't (and in fact can't) work. Perhaps most importantly, it suggests a set of practices and structures that can build community, encourage healthy student-teacher relationships, increase trust and spiritual intimacy between teachers and their students, and help authentic spiritual teachers stay happily monogamous or celibate. Sex and the Spiritual Teacher is for anyone who is or might become part of a spiritual community: students, teachers, clergy, lay leaders, and even casual visitors. It's a reader-friendly, no-nonsense—guide to making spiritual life safer and fuller for all of us one person, relationship, and community at a time.
“This is the book we should all read before we need it.” —Jean Illsley Clarke, bestselling author of Self Esteem: A Family Affair
“Written with insight, compassion, wit, and a willingness to challenge prevailing views, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher fills the gap between the knowledge that harm-doing exists and the wherewithal to do something about it—not only after harm has been done, but before it even starts. I propose that this book be required reading for students of any religious tradition, for any apprentice spiritual teacher or clergyperson, and for the governing bodies of every religious institution.” —Anne Katherine, author of Where to Draw the Line and Boundaries
“Profound and compassionate. Anyone who has a spiritual teacher or hopes to have one someday should read this book.” —Natalie Goldberg, bestselling author of Writing Down the Bones
“A well-thought-out and eminently practical guide to protecting the integrity of students, teachers, and the organizations to which they belong.” -Mic Hunter, bestselling author of Joyous Sexuality and Honor Betrayed
“Balanced, readable, and thorough, this is a timely and much-needed book that should be required reading for all spiritual teachers and their boards of directors.” —Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery and author of Mindful Eating
“A book well worth reading.”—Steve Hagen, bestselling author of Buddhism Plain and Simple
"Scott writes about a subject that is seldom addressed so concretely, vividly, and clearly. By doing so he provides a rich gift for spiritual teachers, students, and communities alike the opportunity to openly explore and personally review a subject that has heretofore thrived in ideological darkness and personal or social confusion. From my own experience as a meditation and yoga teacher for the past 26 years, I know only too well the intricate pitfalls that Scott addresses, the damage they can cause, and the benefit a work such as this offers by way of preventing them. I highly recommend this book to students on the spiritual path for it can empower and enlighten—thereby inoculating them against their own or others’ potential transgressions; to spiritual teachers so they may accurately reflect upon their behaviors, motives, and impact; and to communities so they may create and sustain a healthy atmosphere that supports the very thing they strive to realize—Truth."— Alan L. Pritz, author of Pocket Guide To Meditation
“We can fall in love with a spiritual path as passionately as we can fall in love with a beautiful woman or man. When these two loves are entangled, the trouble begins. Scott Edelstein reminds us that spiritual teachers and students alike are graced with a wonderful, mysterious, and volatile sexual energy. This down-to-earth book is good medicine, helping us all to take care of ourselves, each other, and our spiritual communities with balance and wisdom.”—Erik Fraser Storlie, author Nothing on My Mind
“There's reason to be wary when you're about to enter into a relationship with a spiritual teacher, and that wariness can get in the way of spiritual growth. But here comes Scott Edelstein with the perfect antidote to guru-angst: a sensible, loving, plain-spoken, honest but shame-and-blame-free book that you can use to make certain that the teacher-student relationships in your spiritual life are healthy ones.”—Jon Spayde, former senior editor, Utne Reader, and author of How to Believe: Teachers and Seekers Show the Way to a Modern, Life-Changing Faith
“The importance of this book lies in its clarity and in its avoidance of judgment and blame. Anyone involved in a spiritual community should read this important book, and take to heart its wise lessons."—Melissa Myozen Blacker, editor of The Book of Mu, Guiding Teacher, Boundless Way Zen
"With clear-eyed intelligence, a fine-honed wit and immense compassion, Scott Edelstein breaks open one of our most taboo subjects: the abuse of sexuality within spiritual traditions by those in positions of authority. Unlike any other book on the subject, Edelstein's Sex and the Spiritual Teacher analyzes the relationships, culture and beliefs that lead both teacher and student astray, and offers pragmatic guidance and solutions. A groundbreaking call to action, this valuable book is essential for any person who seeks to receive or give spiritual guidance."—Kiera Van Gelder, MFA author of The Buddha and the Borderline
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Edelstein has studied happily and productively with several spiritual teachers, including Toni Packer, Dainin Katagiri, Tim McCarthy, and (currently) Steve Hagen. As the friend of several spiritual teachers, he has also spent much time with them “off duty,” sometimes serving as confidant. He is a longtime practitioner of both Buddhism and Judaism, and a committed proponent of serious spirituality in all forms and traditions. Scott’s short work on spiritual topics has appeared in Shambhala Sun, American Jewish World, The Writer, the anthology What About God? , and elsewhere. He is also the author of 15 other books on a wide range of subjects.