Gurus and modern spirituality
In this blog I've talked a few times about how I used to be really depressed. That depression pushed me to find what would make me happy, to find what it meant to love myself, and to feel each day was a gift rather than a drudgery. I read books, explored spiritual teachings and made change after change, generally following my principle of one step at at time.
As I became happier and began to feel I was thriving in life and not just surviving I continued to listen to current spiritual teachers and read their books. Sometimes it was just because I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the insights and meditations. But other times I still needed it, like when I lived in Holland...
Or did I? I certainly thought I needed it. After all, I was depressed again, and I didn't know how to get myself out of it. So I started listening. Everyday. Sometimes to more than one a day.
There's a funny thing that happens when you continually listen to all these spiritual gurus. None of them actually call themselves gurus, that is way unhip in the spiritual world these days. But guru, by definition, is Sanskrit for "teacher" or "master." Many of these people will tell you they're masters in their field. Otherwise, why would you listen to them? Would you rather listen to someone who is a relationship and love master or someone who thinks their love life is a train wreck? And all, of course, will tell you they're teachers. Therefore, if they're masters and teachers, they are gurus. However, we've all become a bit turned off by the idea of a guru. It's in fact contradictory to what many of these modern masters want to tell us: that we're the master. We already know everything. We are born into this world all knowing.
So why then do we start listening to masters? Why does anyone seek out a spiritual teacher? I did it. And I enjoyed it. But what happened was, I started to rely on it. Every time I had a problem in my life I wanted to hear a radio show, I wanted to read a blog or a book. I wanted to hear what a master would say about what I was going through.
Essentially, I wanted someone else to tell me how to run my life. My desire to learn from someone who supposedly knew more than me was causing me to loose faith in myself. I was not in anyway stepping into mastery. I was just following the beat of someone else's drum.
This need to get my answers outside of myself continued to grow an empty feeling inside me. Especially because as I listened to these shows, they kept saying, "You already know everything! You were born healthy, abundant, all knowing, whole and complete!" But then... why am I listening? And why can't I stop? Why can't I just trust I know what I need in each moment?
Part of it is the feeling that if life isn't fulfilling all of our dreams and desires then we're doing something wrong. So many spiritual teachings keep telling us that we can feel good all the time, we can be rich, in perfect health, perfect bodies and living our dream lives!!! Oh but wait -- if I can have a perfect body then what body am I in? And if I can be a millionaire then I must not be understanding how to attract abundance, because I don't have nearly that much money. And here comes the spiral, the feeling we're not good enough, so we seek out a teacher, and the teacher tells us that we are good enough, we just have to realize it, but if I'm good enough and I hate my car and I can't manifest a new one I must not be getting how life works, so I'll keep following the guru...
We're all pretty aware that there's pressure to be rich, thin and the best at everything. It's in advertisements, tv shows, magazines, you can't go through a day without seeing some image that makes you feel less than good enough. But what we aren't totally getting is that these new spiritual teachings can make us feel desperate for more also. The Secret was a ground breaking and eye opening book. It gave people new insight on how to become the master of their lives. And you know what else it did? It opened our eyes to the fact that what we have now is only the beginning. We can have more!! We can have anything!!!! Forget feeling content with what you have - aim for the biggest and the best! It was the first brick on the new road that would inundate us with a new round of messages that we should be striving for more. Do you think you're twenty pounds overweight? No problem! Don't waste time loving yourself as you are, use the law of attraction and THINK yourself into a thin body!
The point of all these law of attraction teachings, any spiritual teaching, is always that you are the master and creator of your life. But so often that message gets distorted, and what it becomes is what you have now isn't good enough. It's ironic that spirituality, the thing that was supposed to lead us away from mass consumerism and unrealistic body ideals, has led us right back there, and with a twist - if you aren't attracting perfect health, high flying happiness, passion, intimacy, inner-peace, riches and love then not only are you not good enough for society, but you aren't spiritual. Because spiritual people know how to manifest.
Spirituality was the thing that was going to liberate us from all aspiring to be rich, perfect and famous. It was going to show us that life has value in all forms and colors, that we could all walk to the beat of our own drummer and feel content. And yet, here we are, still marching along, seeking outside of ourselves for value.
There will always be things you want, goals you have, dreams, desires, but one thing that spirituality taught us that will never change is this: a sense of value and fulfillment comes from within. It comes from feeling content with where you are, and knowing that your life has value as is. You don't have to become Meryl Streep, Mother Theresa, Kobe Bryant, your slightly more successful sister or whoever it is you think has more value than you in order to be fulfilled. Meryl Streep's soul did not come into this world with the same set of intentions as your soul did. You came here with things you wanted to learn, to play with, and to experience.
Here's all you really need: To see value in where you are in your life and to trust yourself.
You are allowed to see value and feel content with your life, just as it is. Even if you feel angst, longing, insecure, unworthy, even unfulfilled, that's okay. You can still dream of what you want and feel your life, as it is, is a beautiful, spiritual experience. And it is. No life is ever wasted. None. Ever. Even if you wake up hating life, yourself and this world, you are experiencing something important. This can be a little tricky to hold in your mind at first, but if you can do it, it will be the most liberating thing ever. The day I started walking around naming what I don't like and saying 'and that's okay, all is well', is the day I started to feel contentment. I just let it all flow until I felt I was no longer resisting: "I don't like that I'm poor. I hate that bill collectors call me. I hate that I need a new car, I'm tired of this shit, and I see it all, just as it is, and I know that my life is an adventure, it's like a mountain I'm climbing, and each time I pull myself up I gain strength and a higher perspective. The sun is shining, I'll take a walk later and see the world I live in, and best of all, I'm still breathing...."
You may have not liked that I used the words "I hate..." in there. This also goes against spiritual teachings. We're supposed to love everything, and if we don't, bad stuff will happen because of the law of attraction. But here's the catch: if you detest something, like maybe your job, avoiding thinking it is not going to change anything. It's only going to create resistance, and resistance is what makes life feel so difficult. So say what you don't like.... take a deep breath... and then let it go. It's already inside you, so naming it won't hurt, it'll just liberate the feeling. Don't harp on it. Don't dwell. Once it's out, start to focus on what's going good. The sun is shining. You have air in your lungs. What else? You know what's going right in your life.
And from here, from the place where you know what you don't like, you've named it, and you see what you do like, you can achieve contentment. Contentment is the point from which you can ask yourself honestly, "What do I really want? Do I want to stay at this job, or do I want something else?" From the point of contentment you will seek answers not because you think it's what you should do, or what the law of attraction tells you that you need, or what your neighbor does, or your friends, but it is the zero point, the center of your soul. From the center of your soul, all answers come forth. And you may get the answer that all is well. You don't need to change or strive for a single thing. All is well.
So here we are at what I wanted to say: At the center of your soul you will get all the answers you need. You really are all knowing, it's just a matter of figuring out how to get the answers to come forth. And when you get there, you might be living in a depression. You might be living with a spouse you no longer love, living alone and lonely, or be in a job you feel drains your life force. But that's okay. It doesn't mean you don't get life or you don't know how to live a proper life. It's where you are, it's where you're learning and growing, and you are always right where you're supposed to be. Every moment that you struggle is a moment you are engaging with and interacting with this complex, rich and fantastic world. Struggle is not the indicator of value though. There is no measure for that, because in fact all experiences have value. Contentment has value. Poor, happy, rich, sad, old, ugly, fat, gorgeous, wrinkled, young, whatever. It all has value. You have value, just as you are.
At this point, you might be saying, well if I shouldn't listen to gurus why should I listen to you? Good question! You should only listen if it feels right. I have listened to the teachers in the past, and they did truly and profoundly help me. I write this as a reminder that at some point, you have to stop listening to what's outside you and start trusting that you are a master also.
I am only telling you what I know from my perspective. You have your perspective. You know what's right for you. I would like to propose you give yourself a little challenge, or a game to play, that will help you start to trust yourself more. When you feel some sort of upset or despondency close your eyes. Breathe into your heart 4 or 5 times. Long, slow breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Quiet your mind by focusing on your breathing and visualizing the beating of your heart. Then ask your heart, "What would you like to tell me in this moment? Why am I in this situation?" And when you get your answer, trust that it was right and trust that you heard what you needed.
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