Every day we get emails proclaiming the latest discovery, teacher or workshop we MUST do if we are to have lasting happiness and self-mastery. Each proclaims we will be freed, transformed for ever, even fully enlightened. We received notice of a Guru Training program where we can become a guru in two weekends after which, the brochure assured us, we are guaranteed to receive endless adoration, wealth and fame, or our money back.
We were invited to a conference on Altered States of Consciousness: Enlightenment, Entheogens, Shamanism and Peak Experiences. There were forty-six headlined speakers, all of whom had endless credentials, books, and centers. Subjects ranged from The Humpty Dumpty Trajectory: Cracking Open Consciousness, to Gender-Specific Altered States of Consciousness and, thankfully, The Miracle of Ordinary Awareness.
When we taught at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London England, speakers were offering topics as diverse as Attract Your Past-Life Soulmate NOW!, The Secret Tibetan Red Egg Cure, and Learn What Planet You Are From. And that was just on the first day. Later on you could Teach Your DNA to Listen to Your Higher Mind or, if that didn’t work, at least you could Learn How to Bend Spoons.
All this shows that when we’re in need of emotional or spiritual support and guidance, making us susceptible and vulnerable to outside influences that we’ll easily believe persuasive people who say they can help save us.
There seem to be four main reasons for this:
- Life does not easily satisfy our needs. We get something but always want more. From constantly wanting more materially and emotionally, we then apply the same need to spirituality: more teachers and techniques must be better than just one. Surely this one will finally solve all those nagging difficulties in my life? Or maybe it’s this one?
- To a large extent religion has failed many of us. We crave more esoteric excitement than sitting in church allows us, more out-of-this-world explanations for why we’re dissatisfied or unhappy, more lasting ways to find happiness than atoning for our sins. There must be more meaning to life than we have found, surely?
- Like the musk deer in India that has a beautiful smell in its glands but searches throughout the forest for that smell, so we look for happiness outside ourselves. But we’ll always come up short as whatever we find always changes. This is the truth of impermanence: nothing lasts forever. Yet we continually search for that elusive promise of for-ever-ness wherever we can.
- We externalize our needs, believing another sooner than we believe ourselves due to not trusting our own judgment and wisdom. Even though, logically, we are the only ones who can save ourselves, we’d much rather someone else do it for us.
Many teachers do have something wonderful to offer us, but what can we really learn in an hour or two, or even a weekend? When we dig for oil we have to dig deep to reach it; if we dig too many different holes we will never get to the source of the oil. In the same way, if we guru-hop and workshop too much we will never get to the essence of the teachings.
The one thing not included is how to find the guru within ourselves, the inner guide that lights our path. Are you listening to your own wisdom or is someone telling you the way they think it is? Do you go guru-shopping or can you look within your own mind and heart for the truth? Can you stop and simply be still?