We are living in a world that allows everyone instant access to basically everything. At our fingertips, we can read about whatever catches our fancy and that’s frankly quite amazing and mindblowing. You don’t have to go to University anymore to start learning about Neuroscience for example. Or economics. Or psychology.
The problem with that is, of course, that the knowledge we acquire, without a teacher, may lack depth and structure. And we won’t get tested to see if what we think we learned is really what the teaching is about.
Effortlessness for everyone!
Recently I was listening to one of my favorite teachers Adyashanti on YouTube as he was responding to a woman’s question. She was in quite a distress because her spiritual practice felt like so much effort. And she had learned from other teachings that it ‘should’ be effortless. She was really struggling with herself.
Adyashanti’s response was like a light bulb going on as he said:
“Effortlessness is like an antidote. A medicine you prescribe to someone who needs it. It’s not the answer for everyone in every situation.”
Me, too, I had felt inadequate at times for not being able to stay in ‘effortlessness’. I had judged myself for being stuck in Ego because I was unable to access the easy flow of life that ‘true’ spirituality offered.
Hearing him say those words then, struck me hard with the realization that a lot of the teachings that the mainstream is so fast to adopt can actually have the opposite effect of what’s desired. Namely keeping us stuck rather than helping us progress on our journey.
If you have a rigid personality structure, the advice to do things with less effort, to relax and soften may be the perfect advice. It’s because the rigid personality is a lot about controlling and perfectionism. But if for example, your pattern is one of merging, leaving and collapsing, the advice to not put any effort forth may be the opposite of what you need to hear.
Your pattern may be one of letting go too fast and giving up as soon as you encounter any resistance, of not being able to stand your ground and firmly planting your two feet in this reality to pursue what you truly want.
Likewise, I remember a client of mine who had just read ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. He was dealing with a lot of his undigested past at the time and he felt horrible for not being able to stay ‘in the moment’ and ‘present’.
What he was not taking into account, of course, is that he was reading a book written by someone who had a profound spiritual realization and who was sharing his insights, the outcome of his process. He was not sharing how he got there. It was not my client’s OWN realization and journey. He was simply at a different stage of his process. It was perfect for him to finally look at his past and feel his way through all of it. Rather than ‘spiritually bypass’ it by wanting to stay present.
I could go on and on with examples. Practice gratitude, be positive, be kind. These are beautiful teachings and quite universal, of course. But maybe before you get there, you might have to explore something else first. You might need to explore your shadow aspect first, the part of you that is NOT kind. The part of you that feels quite negative or has a sense of entitlement.
You might be at a stage in your spiritual journey where you have to embrace these aspects of yourself first before you can enter the same insights and realizations that the spiritual masters you admire had.
Every human is unique. And it’s so easy for us to say you ‘should’ be like that or this is what you need to do. But we never see the full context of someone’s life. Including our own. If we have been morally uptight, living in a world that’s black and white, to go binge drinking, crazily partying and being promiscuous might be our medicine for a while.
If we have never applied ourselves with dedication and commitment to anything, to put in the proper effort might be exactly what we need at the time.
There simply is no universal truth out there, a one size fits all spiritual teaching that we can all follow regardless of where we are at.
We all enter the spiritual market place in different class grades. And you don’t learn the same stuff in 5th grade as in 10th grade.
So how do you know what’s meant for you?
I cannot answer that for sure. But I do know one definite telltale sign of what’s not meant for you: If you are suffering because you are not living up to your ‘spiritual’ expectations, you might be climbing up the wrong tree.
Every time I followed a teaching that was exactly what I needed at a time, I felt uplifted. I had the energy for the practice. It wasn’t just an idea that I liked, it was almost like a visceral need that I followed and it felt good.
But then again, that was my experience. And maybe your suffering and climbing up the wrong tree is exactly what you need to go through to learn how to be honest with yourself and to trust your own guidance. Only you will know.
Just be gentle with yourself.
Or not. :)