A little over a year ago, while living in California, I had reached a point where I was overwhelmed with influences. As part of a four year journey of self-discovery, I had visited and investigated more spiritual groups than I can count with fingers on two hands.
Existing within various categories—yogic, tantric, taoist, shamanic—these groups were a great education for me about the incredible breadth of the wisdom traditions of the world. I came to understand that there is no one way up the spiritual mountain, but rather a diversity of techniques that will lead a person to greater enlightenment and truth.
While I succeeded in finding many overlaps, feeling that all the great wisdom traditions of the world share a single universal truth, my consciousness was nevertheless split between various sources of information, all competing for my attention. I had consulted a plethora of teachers, some of them gurus, and I didn’t know exactly who to trust.
Which guru knows more? Which guru has lived the greatest number of lifetimes? Which guru is vibrating at the highest frequency? Which guru gives the best energy? Which guru has the personality that is most suited to me? Which guru cares the most about me?
I thought that perhaps one day I would stumble upon a guru and know immediately that this person was for me. But that never happened, not exactly.
A critical moment came when I was speaking to someone I considered a teacher. He said this:
“Brother, you’ve been going all around, trying all these different groups. It’s not about how many groups you visit, it’s about picking one group and sticking with it. It’s about picking one hole, and digging that hole deeper and deeper, rather than digging all sorts of small holes here and there.”
Then he said:
“Maybe this group isn’t for you. I can’t determine that for you. You have to determine that for yourself. You’ve never trusted anyone. You have to learn, at the very least, how to trust yourself.”
These remarks were a critical influence on me. Around this time, I started to wean myself off the influence of various groups and gurus—not because I didn’t trust them, but because I needed to endure a period of learning how to trust myself.
I started to learn how to expect less from other people and hold myself accountable for my own growth. I came to believe that it’s easy to think that other people can do things for you. And other people can do some things for you—to a certain extent.
Other people, especially gurus, can help us navigate the complexities of life.
These days, our world is so complex, and the sheer proliferation of information and mediums—books, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, podcasts, blogs, and social media—only worsens this.
I heard recently that if a person reads one edition of The New York Times, they receive more information in a single hour of reading it than the average 17th-century Englishman encountered in a lifetime.
These days, everyone has their own version of a guru, someone to help them find their way. A helper is helpful. A helper can be a guide. A helper can be an inspiration. A helper can be a catalyst. And a helper is part of the journey.
But helpers can only do so much. A helper can lead you to the water, but only you can drink it.
So I want to propose that you dare to think more deeply than the conventional mass of guru followers. I want to propose that you dare to search for the guru within your very own self.
At a certain point, you have to learn how to help yourself. After that, you have to learn how to help others.
It’s like this:
You start off dependent, then you become independent, and then you become interdependent.
So here’s a couple steps you can follow:
1. Become independent. Here’s how:
A) Trust your gut. Don’t listen to what the news told you or what some book told you if it doesn’t register with your instincts—or better yet, your intuition. See how much you can learn and know through your own direct experience of life. Don’t be a zombie operating at the mercy of advertising and the various Don Drapers of our world.
B) Practice self-reliance. Be able to manage your own emotions. I’m not saying you shouldn’t express your feelings. I’m just saying, don’t wail on other people. Don’t alleviate your own melodrama at the expense of someone else.
C) Do something creative. Learn how to channel energy into productive outlets. There’s no better way to sublimate your depression or anxiety than through art, such as drawing, painting, writing, singing, dancing, and so on. Sublimation is considered the highest among the various defense mechanisms as outlined by Sigmund Freud.
D) Live dangerously. Have the courage to look beyond the ethos of your own particular race, sex, religion, or creed, and seek knowledge that opens your mind to new environments, experiences, and philosophies.
2. Become interdependent. Here’s how:
A) Volunteer your time. And I’m not necessarily talking about going to your local soup kitchen. It could be something as basic as unpacking groceries for someone, taking care of a pet for someone, or driving someone to the airport.
B) Visit a public place. Going out to public places is a great way to meet new people. Try attending an event by yourself, thereby forcing you to interact with people you wouldn’t otherwise.
C) Start something. Form an initiative that brings people together in pursuit of a common goal or ideal. It could be an organization or a business. Make sure your organization or business offers a service that maintains a balance of self-interest (providing for yourself) and collective-interest (providing for others).
D) Meditate. People who meditate regularly alleviate stress in their life, clearing mental clutter, and restoring the mental energy needed in order to serve their communities. People who meditate regularly over long periods of time report glimpses of the transpersonal, having experienced communions beyond the boundaries of the ordinary self.
Author: Henry Bond
Image: Flickr/Jean-Marie Hullot
Editor: Travis May