Wednesday, July 2, 2008

$pirituality - the conflict between money and awakening

There is a long-standing conflict in the minds of many - if not most - modern people between spirituality and money. As a working shaman and a Sheya mentor and initiator, this is an issue I have had to work with for over twenty years now - and I'm still trying to get to the bottom of it. 

There are several pieces to this puzzle. One is the way that money has come to symbolize all things material, when spirituality is so often seen as the antithesis of materialism. Another is the idea that spiritual instruction should be freely given and available to all, regardless of the sacrifices of those who offer it. 

I have come to a place in my own journey where I find these two suggestions absurd. Well grounded spirituality is about integrating the whole. As long as we keep any part of the whole outside of us and paint it with the brush of shadow, we cannot be truly liberated. It is only when we realize that WE are the ones who give money - and anything else - its perceived value, that we are set free of that projection, to use use money as a simple means of storing and directing energy. As for the belief that spiritual instruct
ion should be freely given and available to all, how are we to offer instruction is we don't set good examples. Would you take diet advice from an obese nutritionist? Marital advice from a counselor who have been divorced several times? Why would you take advice on how to live a full and happy life from someone who is neither? 

This is not to say that money is any indicator of health, happiness or fulfillment. In many cases, it has no bearing at all. However, being free of the stigmatized shadows we project onto money IS a good indicator of these things. As is the ability to meet ones responsibilities in an effective manner. 

It is my considered opinion - at least at the moment - that any system of spiritual growth that does not maintain a healthy balance of giving and receiving, is not offering its membership a viable role-model. I realize that I am a dyed in the wool non-dualist and this may have some bearing on what I consider to be effective and healthy spirituality - but there you have it.


Monday, June 30, 2008

awakening the teacher

For many years I have been rolling around the idea of "teacher" in my head - trying to figure out just what we mean by this word. 

As language is painted onto the essential concepts that we try to communicate, a veil is placed between the person who expresses the concept and the one who receives that expression. And yet, without that veil, would we even be able to communicate as well as we can? 

This particular concept has been calling my attention more lately as I've been designing a training program for Sheya mentors. Even there - in the choice of the word "mentor" instead of "teacher" - is a further attempt to communicate some essential variation on the concept, which is probably lost in the process. For me - though I still haven't quite gotten "teacher" firmly delineated - "mentor" is one who supports and assists the student through a process which they have voluntarily taken on. It is less concerned with passing on specific information than it is with helping the student through the various pitfalls and avalanches of the chosen path. 

This realization about "mentor" reminds me of the confusion arising from "teacher". There are teachers who stand at the head of a class and shove information into children's heads. There are teachers who sit in caves and spout nonsense to awaken their occasional visitors. There are teachers who have no contact at all with their students, but create patterns of words and images that continue to instruct others for generations after their own death. 

With this wide spectrum of usage, we really need to be clear what we mean when we say, "this is my teacher." It could mean anything from "I take a French class from this person" to "This person has awoken my soul." 

This leads to the question of what is my role when I accept someone as my student. If I believe that I'm being asked to help them awaken their soul and they think I'm just going to spoon-feed them some intellectual "mysteries" that will allow them to live a more interesting life - we have a problem. It is my responsibility to communicate the essential nature of the service I intend to provide to any potential student - along with any boundaries, expectations and goals pertaining to the relationship. 

Over the past 20 years or so that I have served as a teacher (with varying degrees of competence and incompetence) I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that prepares you for the task other than actually doing it. If a person is open to learning from their students, they gradually improve their teaching. This has been my experience and it continues to awaken my capacity to teach at deeper levels. I would say that I have learned considerably more since becoming a teacher than I knew when I started. And the process continues!