Friday 12 July 2013

What Do You Do If You Have No Teacher?

This question didn't arise directly from the previous post but is one I was recently asked and has much in common with it so makes a good follow-up to that post. I would imagine that the query concerns many of us in these times when there is probably greater interest in the spiritual path than ever before but the problem of finding a good teacher is no easier than it has ever been, especially if, as is the case for most of us, we cannot just drop everything and retreat to an ashram. As a matter of fact, I believe one of the challenges facing the modern disciple is to lead a spiritual life whilst fully immersed in the world. No doubt many of us have experienced monastic lives in the past but must now express what we learnt then in everyday existence in order to progress. That is why, for some people, to go into a monastery is actually to step back and repeat past lessons. These people may find initial peace and contentment in their lives but that could just mean that it is the desires of the lower self that are being satisfied, and it is likely they will feel increasing frustration and discontent as their higher self attempts to push them back onto their proper life path. We're not in this world to find peace, we're here to learn. Hence the suffering of the saints.

I don't usually like to talk about the Piscean and Aquarian ages as I consider there's a lot of fantasy and speculation where these are concerned. I would also be talking about something that I don't know for myself so would merely be passing on received opinion which is not the purpose of this blog. However cycles do exist and monasteries and the secluded life are associated with Pisces much more than Aquarius which tends to be an outgoing sign that looks to be involved in the world. This is quite possibly why the focus for many seekers has shifted somewhat over the last hundred years or so. We must be in the world though not of it thereby demonstrating our ability to retain a spiritual connection under all conditions, and also play our part in bringing matter under the sway of spirit. It is very clear that's not where it is at the moment. Having said that, we all have our individual paths so, as always, each one of us should be guided by what our heart tells us - making sure that it is our heart talking and not personal predilection.

Here's the question.

Q. What are the basic rules for leading a spiritual life if you cannot go into a monastery and don’t have a guru? How do you follow a spiritual practice on your own? I meditate every day and have done for five years but don’t really feel I am getting anywhere.

A.  First of all, regarding getting anywhere. We’re probably the last to be able to judge our own spiritual progress. Don’t worry about getting anywhere, just continue your path, letting go of attachments and keeping the Creator in the forefront of your mind. Spiritual practice is not complicated but it does require wholeheartedness, sincerity and love of God. If you have these then you have nothing to worry about. If you don’t yet have them, strive to acquire them through meditation and prayer, both of which are important as the one deepens our awareness of the soul while the other brings us closer to God. You could say that meditation leads us to God Immanent and prayer to God Transcendent. Both are necessary parts of a properly integrated approach to the divine.

Spiritual progress is not measured by visions or experiences but by equanimity in the face of hardship, and persistence during barren spells when nothing seems to be happening and you might even doubt that there is anything to happen. It is measured in little advances that you may not even notice not in dramatic leaps forward.

If you don’t have a guru, seek the guru within and look for him in the experiences that come to you in the normal course of events. Inner guidance is the higher form of guidance, and our life lessons come to us as part of ordinary existence. We just have to be open to them and know the right way to respond to them. If you are destined to have an outer teacher you will find one at the correct time. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bother looking if the inner urge is there but I can tell you that I found my teachers quite by chance, or so it appeared, and it came at the time I was ready to benefit from their instruction.

The basic rules of spirituality are to love God, not to be attached to things of this world, to seek truth in stillness and to abandon self-will. Or, to put it in a single phrase, to see yourself as the spiritual soul rather than the earthly personality. That's really all there is to it but because these things go completely counter to our natural inclinations, which are to love self, to seek to accumulate (possessions, knowledge, praise, power), to pursue temporal happiness and to identify ourselves with our thoughts and desires, they are a good deal easier to understand than to put into practice. Nevertheless you should know that no teacher can tell you much more than this in general terms though he may, of course, be able to pinpoint precise areas of weakness as well as bring out psychological flaws that keep you from treading the path to your full potential.

So, if you haven't yet found a teacher in the outer world you have to be ruthlessly honest with yourself and not hide from the reality of what you, the unredeemed lower self you, are. You must examine your heart, confess your desires and admit your fears, and then subject these to the light of divine reality which, if you do this correctly, will start to burn them up.  At the same time, rest assured that you do have a teacher on the inner planes who watches over you. This teacher is the gardener of your soul; his job, to uproot the weeds of worldliness that constrict the growth of the delicate shoots of spiritual awakening. Try to make contact with him in moments of quietness and become sensitive to his impression. He will lead you forward and may, if and when he deems it necessary, bring you to a teacher in the outer world. Until then the best advice I can give is the advice I was given in the last talk I had from the Masters.

Trust your intuition. Have faith, courage and carry on.

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