Here are 5 common questions that stir up debate from within the spiritual community. Many discussions I’ve witnessed or been a part of revolve around spiritually inclined people taking differing positions on these questions. Of course the descriptions below are simplifications that don’t do justice to all the considerations behind them. The conclusion from doing this exercise is that value conflicts exist no matter how spiritual a person is and that making sense of and communicating those values is an essential part of understanding your own brand of spiritualism.
THE GURU QUESTION
Receiving training from a mentor or teacher is seen as a major validation for some members of the spiritual community. Then there is the so-called “anti-authoritarian” view, that “I am my own Guru” and that being self-taught in ways to connect to the divine is more meaningful and authentic than surrendering to the feet of any Guru.
A Solution: Everybody is at a different stage on their spiritual path and need different kinds of inspiration and teaching at different points in life. Some may require sensitivity to independence, others want to be part of a collective and enjoy the communal experience that goes with a religious tradition or the wisdom that is imparted from a religious master. Life provides different lessons at each step of the way. The important thing is to be aware of what the concepts of authority and surrender to that authority create. If anger against all authority is behind the drive for independence, then the matter probably lies much deeper than the Guru question.
DISCIPLINE OR ADDICTION?
Spiritual practice often requires a daily practice to remain connected or grounded to “the path” but some believe that this can lead to obsessive behavior. Is it a discipline or an addiction to be a daily spiritual practitioner?
A Solution: It shouldn’t matter what someone else is doing for their spiritual nourishment and what the frequency needs to be. There is also no such thing as too much Spirit. Listen to what works for you and drop the idea that the right balance for one person is universal. If God is an external experience to obsess over then no practice will satisfy the urge to be close to the divine. Similarly, the link to divinity is not made full by an empty ritual done just because it’s Friday today.
SUPPORTING THE SELF OR FEEDING THE EGO?
Some believe that celebrating and promoting the self is purely egotistical behavior and that any demonstration of desire or personal praise runs against the practice of selflessness and humility. Others argue that spiritualists like anyone else need to honor and value what they offer the world, and if we don’t market and promote ourselves, our talents, and our successes that we won’t survive.
A Solution: There is such a thing as a healthy relationship with the ego. Rather than becoming part of life’s proverbial furniture or trying to blend into the background to satisfy the judgment of others, it’s essential to be compassionate with the self, and it’s ok to celebrate your gifts, especially if you’ve felt others haven’t done so enough. If the self has become falsely inflated then detachment will be the challenge before you. Uniting with the one true source can wait till after you have enjoyed the benefits of grounding in self-appreciation and balanced self-care–even the Buddha understood this reality.
A Solution: Whichever side you swing on here, make sure the facts about how you view commitment are shared upfront and let the person making the agreement with you decide whether your values in relation to commitment match with theirs beforehand.
TRUSTING IN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY OR ENABLING THE VICTIM?
Some believe that the best way to be sensitive, compassionate and loving to a companion is by taking on their challenges to minimize their suffering as the best show of support—Others believe that fierce compassion involves stepping out of the way and trusting in the resourcefulness and abilities of the person experiencing the suffering to overcome their challenges.
A Solution: No one can sustainably solve another person’s problems and you may be enabling a sense of helplessness and victimization by believing that your interference will help the situation. Not to mention feeding your own hero complex. That being said, wait for an invitation first before making the choice to get involved and remember that minimizing pain is only compassionate if personal empowerment and personal responsibility are being cultivated too. Life always creates unfair suffering and support and care for each other are necessary. Just be careful that there is no unwarranted feeding of addictive behavior involved.
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