Think you’ve found “it?” Go inside and ask yourself how you can possibly know that.
Nobody’s perfect…especially anyone who tells you he is. By all means, go for teachings, but watch out for “avatars,” “enlightened masters,” and anyone who attracts worshipers who does not seem to worship them (or you) in turn as the embodiment of the Divine.
Everyone has something to teach you, but nobody’s better than you. The best teachers in my experience are the ones who tell you this, and who embrace their own humanity.
4. Only you can be your guru. But make sure you are not a cult leader.
To my dismay, I recently discovered I am my own false guru and my own dewy-eyed devotee.
Years ago I had left a group I considered a “cult,” but I am still falling victim to my own bad teachings. For one thing, I still think that someone other than me has something to teach me or holds the key to my freedom, even though, intellectually, I know that I have no savior…that the world, and my own heart, hold the answers I seek.
I still believe a lot of other cultish ideas as well. I see that I continue to hold membership in the “I’m not okay as I am” cult; in the “my mother should have loved me” sect; and in a slew of other destructive groups that offer a false sense of security in exchange for abuse and imprisonment. I follow and surrender to these cults with blind faith, without discrimination, because I’m afraid of going it alone. Even worse…I do it even though I know that these cults are all of my own creation.
Ask yourself: which cult do you belong to? Who’s your self-serving, destructive leader? What are you afraid of losing if you leave it all behind?
5. Nothing is sacred. And nothing isn’t.
I think we take the spiritual life way too seriously. I suggest that if you meet the Buddha on the road to enlightenment…tickle him. Tell him his mother dresses him funny. If he’s really the Buddha, he’ll crack up.
Laughter is healing. Laughter is spiritual. Laughter gets you over the rough spots. Making fun might help you listen and learn.
6. This process is no picnic.
Your teachers won’t tell you how lousy it can be on the path. Or rather, maybe your guru eventually will, but his P.R. department won’t. They’ll tell you all about how you’ll lose lifetimes of sorrow and finally get free. They’ll tell you the Kingdom of Heaven awaits. As far as I know (which is admittedly not much), that’s no lie. But they won’t tell you—unless or until you’re in too deep to bolt—about how you’ll have to die to yourself and all of your concepts before you can go there. And they won’t tell you that this dying just plain hurts.
Many people do spiritual practices because it makes them feel good. It has not been my experience that doing feel-good practices for years and years gave me any lasting experience of what you might call the Divine. I may as well have taken frequent warm baths, had many massages or lots of sex, or downed a lot of tequila or chocolate. Was it God who said that prayer and meditation are holier than any of those things? I don’t think so! There’s a whole school of Eastern thought that teaches you how to get to the God-state through the senses, after all.
That method has never worked for me. This doesn’t mean I will deprive myself of the joy of chanting, or Sufi dancing, or meditating, or any other practices (or sex, or chocolate). I’m all for blissing out.
But in order to have a lasting experience of your Self, eventually you have to get real. And there is simply no way of sugarcoating the process of getting real. It means looking at all of your stuff and being willing to lose all of it as well. This ordeal cannot be sidestepped. If you try, your pain will just come back to haunt you. Eventually you’ll have to pay it some attention, and that means letting it be present alongside your bliss.
So unless you want to walk through hell, run far and run fast, right this minute, and don’t look back.
Good. Me too. I mean, where else is there to go?
Besides, if you’ve read this far, you’re already there.
Or so I’d say…if I were enlightened.
Whatever that means.