Aren’t our real teachers in life ourselves and each other?
The experts change their minds about everything.
Coffee used to be good, then it was bad, and now it’s good again. Of course that is only if it’s drunk in moderation and if you’re not sensitive to caffeine or suffering from adrenal exhaustion.
Spirituality and self-development for those on the path of spiritual awakening is much the same.
Navigating all the teachings, working out what to take on board and when, and finding our own inner compass are huge challenges. Some philosophies and practices passed on by spiritual teachers will resonate and be good for some people and yet won’t work at all for others. Even if we find something that appears to be the bee’s knees for our own personal salvation, it is likely there will be some pitfalls and caveats associated with whatever so-called solution we find.
Without a doubt there is a lot of good stuff put ‘out there’ by spiritualists, psychologists, therapists and thought leaders that can be used to guide our own journeys.
The problem is sometimes we take the wisdom too literally, applying it unthinkingly without any critical discernment and other times we might resist the very truths that could liberate us from our suffering.
It is easy to deny the very truth we most need to hear. I know this well. I can strongly resist advice from a friend even when I know they’re right because I can usually find a reason to ignore it when I’m not quite ready to hear let alone act upon their suggestion.
Yet it can also be very tempting to apply a cookie-cutter style template for personal and spiritual growth to our own lives with the wish that it will work without us having to really ‘do’ anything. The sugary promise that what worked for another – changing a belief, repeating an affirmation or clearing a childhood wound – will also work for us is compelling but is unlikely to be the complete answer.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any magic bullet spiritual remedy that will save us from our own humanness.
More likely we will have to keep looking deeper and with more honesty and self-awareness into the parts of ourselves we are still running away from. There is inner work to be done if any of these other practices are truly going to pay off. It’s called a path for a reason.
It’s true to say I have stumbled many times on the path and probably will keep doing so. I have tried and been disappointed by pretty much every piece of wisdom and practice I have ever come across in the quest for freedom from my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual suffering. Understanding the Universe and the various practices meant to bring us closer with that – meditation, yoga, therapy and healing modalities – are only aids on the path, not the path themselves.
We often forget there is also a lot of good stuff ‘in there’ – inside our own centre of wisdom if we can trust its voice among all the conditioning and fear that talks much more loudly in our ear and prevents us from taking our own advice.
Maybe the stumbles and disillusionments and huge periods of doubt have actually been necessary after all, leading me to discover my own Guru that was here all along buried under that big pile of muck I call ‘my conditioning’. Perhaps I needed to go through all that to get to a place of being able to learn rather than lean on the wisdom spiritual teachers share.
The good news in all this is that teachers are all around us, not just in the books we read and blogs we follow but in the people we partner, be-friend and work with – our so-called allies and adversaries that serve to show us what is really going on inside of us.
Even the very words that come from our own mouths show us where we need to start paying more attention. The piece of advice I recently gave to a friend of mine about getting off his ass and starting that blog he had been talking about for months is the same advice I needed to hear myself on that very same day.
If we choose to drop our armour of ‘having it all together’ and interact with life in an open and authentic way, perhaps we can all be each other’s teachers.
Each of the people we meet has a piece of the truth puzzle for us. We need to be sharing our stories with each other. These are the conversations we should be having in coffee shops as well as in cyberspace, with kind strangers willing to lend a compassionate ear as well as the people who know us the best. These are the people who can reflect back to us the things that no book or distant teacher ever could.
I’d like to be the kind of teacher for my own life that stumbles across the truth in coffee shops and between flat whites. The type of Guru who learns via long caffeinated conversations with other travellers also stumbling and picking themselves up.
From my Guru to yours.