Tether Your Camel or Follow Your Bliss? The Corporate vs. Spiritual Dilemma.

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(Photo: Harold Dorwin via Smithsonian Institution - Flickr)

Around 20 years ago, while I lived in the ashram in Pune, India, I would notice a fairly common occurrence.

From my early morning vantage point in the lush gardens of Osho’s commune I would see the arrival of all the new Westerners. The wide eyes and the looks of terror and astonishment were a common sight. Of course, all of these new participants would find themselves immediately thrust into the wonder of meditation and group work. Many times, they’d wander about as though their mind were tethered to a distant star.

Inevitably, it seemed like a number of these folks, within days, would report into the ashram in a state of anger and revenge. We all knew that they had been introduced to the various pickpockets that roam the streets of India.

And what would the old-timers, like myself, often tell these newbies? We would deliver a version of an old Muslim adage and say “lose yourself in bliss and meditation, but don’t forget to tether your camel.”

Opposite Sides of the Coin

This little story has become an interesting way to categorize the various seekers, all of whom I serve. You see, my day job is that of a corporate leadership coach and consultant, and into that work I have migrated a lifetime’s journey chock-full of spiritual content. What is clear to me is that the two worlds that I love—the corporate and the spiritual—seemed to collect those with a leaning in one direction or the other.

My corporate compatriots are ever so adept at tethering the camel. My fellow travelers on the path of awakening resonate with bliss and meditation. Within that predilection that each side holds and worships, lies the allergic reaction to the other polarity. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear the metaphysical crowd demonize the corporate camel tetherers as the Darth Vader’s of spiritual progression.

Many well-grounded business types can’t help but to marginalize the spiritual crowd as “woo woo” or singing “kumbaya.”

But we all know that the world is made up of polarities that are permanently a piece of each other. In fact, they are not two but one. While we see the polarities as separate, it is often said they are as opposite sides of the coin. And yet, knowing that does not seem to yield the wisdom to heal this illusionary split.

The Spiritual/Material Split

Now, this article is in a journal dedicated to the spiritual side. So please excuse me while I pick on those of us who spend time reading this type of content.

I challenge you to peruse the very pages of this journal and find the omnipresent and consistent putdowns of the corporate and material world. In fact, you may find exhortations advising us to completely cease our activity in all worldly matters.

For it is obvious to anyone with a spiritual bent that such activities simply are beneath the nobility of a divine personage we must assume ourselves to be.

You will also find major corporations tarred and feathered as though somehow they are not made up of body-minds just like ours with hearts and heads.

But I can assure you that every day as I walk through the halls of corporate America, I find seekers who were as passionately desiring as any of us favored with access, to the kind of content we read everyday.

When I was asked to be a regular contributor to elephant journal’s work and money section, I immediately knew that I had an opportunity to do the same thing in the world of kumbaya that I was doing in Darth Vader’s boardroom.

Since the majority of my writing is delivered into the corporate world in an attempt to heal the spiritual/material split—but from the other side—I now have that same opportunity to deliver exactly the same message but to the opposite audience.

A Twofold Remedy

In the main, we cannot help but see that the general state of the spiritual audience is that of difficulty with material abundance. The complementary general state of the corporate audience is that of difficulty with expansive consciousness. So what do we do to remedy this obvious situation? My suggestion is twofold:

The first thing that I would suggest, is the disciplined watching of our own assumptions about any part of the world that we deem as “not ours”. For it is in the constant watching of our own assumptive state and our assignment from that state of separation, that we have the opportunity to heal ourselves and enter into oneness.

The second thing that I would recommend, is the shameless stealing of what the other side embraces without hesitation. For it is in the structure of material life that we find the nest for spirituality to seamlessly reside. And it is in the ethers of the formlessness of consciousness that structure finds its purpose.

Walking “The Razor’s Edge”

In my long and arduous awakening journey I have often been exposed to the concept of Buddha that we often refer to as” the razor’s edge.” It is upon this edge that this image implies one would walk with great difficulty. But that razor’s edge expands as each of us becomes aware of our own rejection of the side that we least favor.

For it is in that awareness that we begin to see that we can embrace both structure and formlessness which together yields a wide path for our own manifestation.

Why is this razor dance so difficult for the consciousness seeker? We have been taught to doubt everything as a part of our spiritual journey.

And that is a wonderful device to sort out what we assume about manifestation but might not see. But we extend this doubt to anything that remotely represents the structure that we imagine foisted our old conditioning upon us.

So, now is a time to see that the path of awakening includes a movement in maturity. What concept have you ever accepted that you couldn’t immediately toss overboard?

My suggestion—to be willing to embrace the very structure we may have labeled as the “bad guy”—is the same as trying on a new pair of jeans. Wear them for a while. If you don’t like them, just go back to the old pair that are working so well.

But, you may find that your judgement about your old conditioning being your kryptonite, just isn’t there any longer. The awareness that has arisen in you has stolen your old conditioning’s power. In that new awareness, your embrace of your camel tethering skills will reside in the full light of day.

Now, I invite you to comment to your hearts desire on how you see that one side or the other is really at fault. But in so doing, I ask that you watch yourself and honestly determine whether your point of view in some way feels out of balance.

Are corporate types really evil and spiritual types basically aimless?


Editor: Andrea B.

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Alan Shelton

Alan E. Shelton is a leadership coach, seminar leader, speaker, blogger, and author. His groundbreaking book, Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery (May 2012), integrates the corporate leadership and spiritual worlds through his message that awakening is the felt sense that your actions seamlessly reside in who you really are and move in a perfect flow. Learn more about Alan at www.AlanShelton.com.

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anonymous Jun 6, 2012 9:30am

[…] this new combination. We should pay attention to two things that are found in an old adage. “Follow your bliss but don’t forget to tether your camel.” Well I was put to the test on that one. I am now teaching in the beautiful woods of North […]

anonymous May 16, 2012 5:10am

[…] your bliss, but don’t forget to tether the camel.” For many years I toiled at the task of tethering camels. I was a merger/acquisition specialist as well as an executive manager of many companies. I learned […]

anonymous Apr 25, 2012 1:24pm

[…] your bliss, but don’t forget to tether the camel”. For many years I toiled at the task of tethering camels. I was a merger/acquisition specialist as well as an executive manager of many companies. I learned […]

anonymous Apr 7, 2012 1:39pm

I think that when people take a long hard look at what is happening to the raw materials of the planet then the question is not about a spiritual vs corporate perspective. Our planet is losing its resources and ability to sustain all humans due to the commodification of its abundance. This is something the corporate world does very well. The vast majority of corporations do not address this problem – rather they continue to profit in a world of dwindling resources, greater and greater toxic burden to people and the natural world, and the loss of culture and health of indigenous people and the undeveloped world. In fact, this attitude of entitlement and legitimization/normalization in the Western world of prosperity coming those that have learned how to channel wealth towards their own goals is highly un-spiritual. Unless a corporation addresses this imbalance, gives abundance back in an ethically responsible way, and contributes in some way to the health and well-being of ALL people in society, then its effect on the larger whole is negative. I don't think corporations are inherently evil, but the premise of wealth and prosperity at the expense of the natural world and people – is. This attitude is not sustainable. When the natural systems of the world fail, we all lose. At this point, no amount of spirituality will save us from our own lack of forethought and responsibility.

anonymous Apr 4, 2012 4:16pm

[…] often are we empowered to demonstrate integrity at work? Conflicted between what we know is the “right” thing to do on a human level but […]

anonymous Apr 4, 2012 10:31am

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

Valerie Carruthers
Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

anonymous Apr 4, 2012 12:23am

Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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