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Modern Spiritual Guidance

After decades of self-reflection on the path of personal spiritual evolution, I understand the confusion over teachings many of us consume. Spiritual seekers struggle over what to do about the “self” or their “ego.” We wonder how to apply spiritual teachings to addiction, relationships, work and an often hectic daily life. We enter a world of enigmatic gurus, arcane terminologies, subtle and sometimes conflicting concepts and dogmatism. Snares and rabbit holes abound.

I sympathize with anyone facing the task of making sense out of the inner and outer challenges life presents. Lately, questions asked on social media sites, including sites dedicated to spiritual guides such as J. Krishnamurti, Echkart Tolle and others have prompted me to respond. The following is a selection of interactions with kindred spirits. Minimal editing and the names of participants were omitted.

September 2021, Eckhart Tolle Facebook Group:

Questioner: I’ve been identified with anxiety and PTSD and addiction for most of my life. I’ve been in recovery from my drug of choice for over 10 years but still felt like I was in a prison in my mind during this time … I work in the recovery field and I’m doing training that touches on Emotional Intelligence and being able to label emotions as they come … Is labeling and naming them really the best way to process them? I have been so disconnected with my emotions all of my life and I’m just trying to figure the best way to process them with my new understanding of them.

Response: Labeling emotions is not the way to fully experience, understand and set them free. Once you label a feeling as “anger”, the inner conflict process begins. How? Well, the word anger brings a reaction, a judgement that it is bad, dangerous, socially unacceptable. From there we try to control, repress, distance ourselves from it. The struggle goes on. When we can’t fight or we choose to act on anger, we justify it.

To see all that for yourself, you have to look without words or judgment as the feeling arises. Just let your mind be open and feel whatever it is for the first time.

Now you are learning about yourself in real time and in a productive way.

All the best. (The questioner “loved” this response).

September 2021, J. Krishnamurti Facebook Group:

Questioner: Krishnamurti says observe so attentively that the observer disappear(s). That state is impossible to achieve. I do not agree with the thought of Krishnamurti.

Response: The observer K is discussing is of the past, of memory, conditioning and judgment. That observer exists in words, ideas, images and the constructs of good and bad, of morality. That observer looks at life through a lens such as religion or Marxism.

The question is, have you ever looked at something without all that? Have you ever come in direct contact with anything? There is no “observer” when that happens as there is nothing separating that mind from the object it perceives. There is only a communion.

Questioner: Is it possible to observe something without memory?

Response: You have to find that out for yourself. I wish there was a way I could bring you that experience. But it is up to you to pay attention to what’s happening inside.

First thing is simply to notice what happens when  you come upon something like a tree or flower, a stream or mountain. Understanding what is going on, see whether there is an alienation, a separation. Feel it. Get familiar with it.

August 2021, Eckhart Tolle Facebook Group:

Questioner: The older I get the more introverted I become. I find people overwhelming … I have a strong urge to withdraw from human society and be in the presence of animals for the majority of the time. Is this the ego speaking?

Response: What is at the root of this urge to withdraw from others? Find out. How? Let the feeling speak to you. Allow it to express itself as you would a child.

I could share my ideas on what the answer is but that would not be helpful. It’s better if you find out directly.

This is an opportunity to learn and expand your self-awareness.

Questioner: Thank you, Al. I’ve tried many times over the last three years to work out why I switched from a teen extrovert to a middle aged introvert. I experienced trauma between the two life stages, and I think that might be the reason I now withdraw.

January 2021: Al Guart LinkedIn Profile, The Anonymity of Snow

Questioner: Inspirational, well written piece. Can you please illustrate how to apply motiveless awareness in daily life?

Response: This is not the best forum for a great, detailed response. However, let’s try. All the content in our minds, the thoughts, memories, fantasies, visions of tomorrow, the fears, the beliefs, the goals, the compulsions, all of it fills our minds daily. We are totally occupied with all that.

Many of us believe that mental activity is everything there is within our minds. But is it? If we bundle up and put aside all the noise and reaction taking place in our minds for a moment, is there anything else? Find out. Try it now.

So, is there a state of open inquiry, a watchful silence? Did you discover quiet intelligence free of the past, free of all motive and judgment?

There is a deep stillness within. And from this discovery, we can observe all the activities of daily life anew. We are no longer captive to the thoughts, memories, fears. We have touched upon something new and a new journey is underway.

To sum up, we need to first find out if there exists within us a motiveless awareness. The rest will take its course.

August 2021, Eckhart Tolle Facebook Group:

Questioner: I’m aware of my ego cringing when I hear bad grammar, and have much difficulty not cringing even though it’s my ego. Please help!!

Response: Words have become so important, haven’t they? But what’s essential to living a full life is beyond language, beyond thought. It is in silence you come upon something deeper, the movement of creation itself.

Words, as they say, can get in the way. (The questioner “loved” this response).

September 2021, J. Krishnamurti Facebook Group:

Questioner: I need your thoughts:

I see that I’m violent (non-physically) and I wish to put revenge (legally) on someone who hurt me in the past. I know it’s stupid but that’s my reality.

Response: I have lived long enough to have seen there’s no need for revenge. I let go of the issue and let life unfold. I don’t forget what happened, but also don’t get stuck with the negative emotions. Those who wrong you will reap their rewards. And when they do, it is better than any act of revenge you could conjure. So I let it be.

Questioner: Thank you. But isn’t this thought about “they will see the consequences in their life” a wish for indirect revenge from rules of life and similar to when you yourself try to put revenge?

Response: Not if you really let go. You aren’t hanging onto any emotions from the perceived wrongdoing. However, I have seen things take place in the lives of people who I felt intended harm to me. I couldn’t have conceived of the events that visited them. So, I try to avoid getting into situations where someone might have bad motivations towards me for their sake. I have come to believe if they try to harm me they are harming themselves as well.

Don’t take my word for it. Experiment. See what happens. You may be surprised.

Questioner: Thank you again.

August 2021, Eckhart Tolle Facebook Group:

Questioner: How do you have boundaries if you let go of ego?

Response: Great question. Easy. You don’t let go of ego. That’s silly. You understand yourself. It’s a lifelong process of getting in touch with aspects of yourself you’ve come to judge as undesirable.

We should feel everything fully and learn from it all.

The search and destroy approach to your own self is misguided. You can spend years living with inner conflict. That’s not enlightenment.

Third Party Comment: I really like your take on this question. ‘Search and destroy approach.’ Oh! That’s what I did in my awakening years with my own self. And this is what is happening in America (probably the world), too) with the so-called social woke movements.

Response: Yes. It’s a violent mentality, not the compassionate, understanding approach needed to heal ourselves and the world. Glad you found your way out of it, too.

August 2021, Eckhart Tolle Facebook Group:

Questioner: How do we stop judging ourselves?

Response: You will stop naturally when you understand the harm you are doing to yourself. Once you judge yourself, you sentence yourself to living in conflict. You cannot be at peace. When you really see this as an inescapable fact, you will not have to ask how to stop.

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