Why you should never confuse self-help with helping yourself

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Have you ever stopped and wondered why self-help books never go out of fashion?

Why after decades of publishing tens of thousands of books in a ten billion dollars per year industry we still subscribe to online publications and Youtube channels promising the answer we seek? Giving us the one missing piece of information that will make our life better? The forgotten Yoga asana that will once and for all do away with those nasty self- destructive thoughts. Or was it mindfulness meditation all along?

Obviously we can come up with countless scenarios all describing the same situation: the promise of an easy solution to life’s biggest problems and the unfailing disappointment after we made it all the way to chapter 3 in the book and realize that we have tried it all before or have known what it says all along or realize it’s way more involved than we thought and isn’t there an easier way after all?

Ok, you get my drift. We all want something for nothing and are disillusioned time and again when we realize, that the prize we thought we had in hand was nothing but a mirage of wishful thinking. The truth we try to avoid is the fact that the most precious things in life are not for free. They may not have a $$ amount attached to them but only because they can’t be bought does by no means say that they don’t cost anything.

And a huge part of the non-monetary cost is giving up our inbred laziness.

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And we cannot self-help that as it was only possible for the Baron of Munchausen to free himself from being stuck in the muck by way of pulling up on his braid.

If we really want to achieve any state of transformation, we need a three-dimensional guide, a teacher, as only the 3D versions can deliver what the best laid out self-help book or video cannot: a teacher sees your back.

Ok you say, what about falling prey to someone who thinks they are a teacher but really they are just in the game to make a quick buck off the newly clean self-help book junky? Yes, of course these people are out there but this is why we have to keep in mind that what we want to achieve spiritually is not for free. We have to build our vessel first, get purified a bit and understand that the path to liberation of all those things we want to leave behind is not a quick fix.

So yeah, the first guy we gave a glance of our back didn’t turn out but maybe we learned something anyway? After all, there must have been some reason why we attracted that particular person into our life. And here we might have already gotten a great gift: we took the first step towards honest self-reflection.

And there are no other means of self-help, self reflection it is.

Now let’s assume we ran this cycle of finding and discarding a teacher a few times and still have the perseverance to stay on the path, we may be lucky enough for a true teacher to appear. Because supposedly when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Now what are the marks of a true teacher? Is he rich or poor? A he or a she or a it (I have to confess that the image of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange came to mind for that one)? Old or young? By himself or part of a group? Is he religious or secular? Is he the guy next door or of a fancy ethnicity? Well, yes to all and no to all at the same time.

You will recognize your teacher with the eyes of your heart but all true teachers share one important trait: They will be not codependent with you.

They won’t tell you the things you want to hear but the things you need to hear as they will care for one thing only, namely to help you transform your less desirable characteristics, the ones that create obstacles for you over and over and they will not sell you any false hope. They will always be kind even though you may not always recognize it, especially when their love comes with a frown. They are not ever dogmatic or issue commands. They are never telling you you are special but they will always be all inclusive. They will tell you that the path is difficult and treacherous likened to the ascend of Mount Everest without the help of oxygen tanks.

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But they will always be there to catch your fall. And fall you will. And then they tell you why you did and you will not want to hear it.

So you will likely venture out, finding yourself once again in the self-help section of your favorite book stere — analog or digital. And while you try to run, you realize that you are held on the tight leash of your commitment in the form of the voice of your teacher. And you remember that all you have to do is allowing the world around you to show you where you stand. And then bring that to your teacher for a reality check.

If you can do that, you have helped yourself.

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