#2896 - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - Editor: Jerry Katz
#2896 - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - Editor: Jerry KatzThe Nondual Highlights - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlightsOne: Essential Writings on Nonduality. Amazon site: http://nonduality.com/one.htm
Check availability at your local Borders Store: http://www.bordersstores.com/locator/locator.jsp?tt=gnA chapter from Roadsigns On the Spiritual Path, by Philip Goldberg. I like this book very much. It's especially an excellent book for people negotiating paradox and who may find themselves like one side or another of a coin: one moment heads, next moment tails. Roadsigns gets you in touch with the coin and the flipping of the coin. Also, at the end of each chapter is a section called Travel Tips which is a summary and advice section.The Amazon.com link is http://www.amazon.com/Roadsigns-Spiritual-Path-Living-Heart-Paradox/dp/1591810507/ref=sr_1_1/102-5936403-4980917?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186707733&sr=1-1
SHADOW, DO NOT
There is no light without shadow and no psychic
wholeness without imperfection. To round itself out,
life calls not for perfection but for completeness.
Ateacher from the East, amused by Westerners’ obsession
with psychotherapy, shrugged, “If you want to
change your personality, do it now. When you’re enlightened
you won’t care.”
I chose not to care way ahead of schedule. I thought I
could do an end run around my dark side and dash painlessly
to the light. Why bother analyzing the small personal
self when I was trying to awaken to the big
transpersonal Self? Who cares about ego strength when
the point is to make the ego disappear? I stopped sorting
out the trash in my psyche; instead, I would simply empty
it with spiritual practices. My hang-ups, weaknesses, and
internal conflicts, my selfish ambitions, and petty desires—
all these would be made irrelevant, like wispy clouds that
float past the sun without diminishing its light.Unfortunately, the contents of my shadow did not disappear;
they kept washing up on the shores of my life, like
cans tossed into the ocean. Spiritual practices did smooth
out some rough edges, ameliorating pesky attitudes and
behaviors that had been causing me problems—but not always,
not all of them, and not forever. My more intransigent
patterns withstood the flames of practice like iron
bars in a campfire. It took a long time, but eventually I
came to the conclusion that the “cushion model”—by
which one can presumably accomplish all growth and
healing through meditative disciplines—might work for a
few fortunate souls, but in most cases our “stuff” is annoyingly
What are you going to do with your personality,
You can’t bury it, it’s like nuclear waste.
I am not the only one to have engaged in “spiritual
bypassing,” which psychologist John Welwood defines as
“the use of spiritual ideas and practices to shore up a
shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and
developmental tasks in the name of enlightenment.” I
have known countless seekers whose earnest devotion to
spiritual development was admirable and whose inner experiences
bordered on the spectacular, but whose lives
were in disarray. They had neglected aspects of themselves
they considered irrelevant to the higher purpose to which
God had called them. Some struggled with financial woes
and frustrated careers because they had held ordinary ambition
in contempt. Some were profoundly conflicted
about sex and intimacy. In the name of spiritual freedom,some resisted commitments of any kind. Some were emotional
adolescents, as out of touch with their feelings as
any alcoholic, because they used spirituality as a tranquilizer.
Some were perpetually unhealthy. Like supplyside
economists, they assumed that the rising tide of
spiritual unfoldment would lift all their boats. It didn’t
work out that way.
Once you know the peace that surpasses understanding;
once you taste divine bliss or sense the presence
of God; once you glimpse the pure Self that sits in eternal
splendor as a witness to the hubbub of thoughts and feelings;
once you say “yes” to the call of your soul, then your
spiritual destiny is likely to become your highest priority.
The question “What will best serve my spiritual needs?”
takes root as the ordering principle of your life. But while
lifting your gaze to follow the spiritual banner, you can
easily fail to see the potholes. In the name of inner peace,
you might avoid anything that makes you aware of urges
and traits that you consider unworthy. In the name of
transcendence, you might turn away from the challenge of
psychological growth. Ironically, when spirituality becomes
disconnected from other areas of life, spiritual
progress itself can start to drag, for one misaligned wheel
can make it hard to stay on course.
The hope that spiritual discipline will make all your
problems go away is sometimes supported by evidence.
You have the weight of the world on your shoulders, so
you pray or meditate or otherwise connect to the Divine,
and voila! your burden grows lighter. This often occurs
dramatically in the early stages of the journey, when your
most pressing concerns begin to dissipate. You assume
that the trend will continue.
communities because the members want it to be true,
and the teachers, looking down from their lofty perches,
say that it is. What lurks in the shadows is either ignored
or hurled overboard like flotsam, the better to sail more
smoothly toward God.
One teacher, for example, would frequently say things
like this: “In the presence of pure bliss, all of your complaints
will vanish. Life is a game, not to be taken too seriously.”
His ardent followers were thrilled to hear this.
They did precisely what the master prescribed, and lo and
behold, their complaintsdid vanish. Not because their
problems went away, but because it was unseemly to complain
when your teacher said you’d have nothing to complain
about. When one of them admitted that she was
chronically depressed and was seeing a therapist, she received
this email from another devotee: “You have two
choices: You can analyze the depression, find out what
caused it, and get ‘treated’—then end up more depressed.
Or you can eliminate the depression with yogic practice,
and not get depressed in the future.”
Except that the person he was addressing had been engaged
in a repertoire of yogic practices for nine years and,
to cover her bases, prayed in church every Sunday. When
the beast of depression roared, she would meditate more,
pray more, or go on another retreat. When turmoil
erupted, she rationalized it as a sign of growth. Eventually,
she realized that spiritual practices were not going to
turn the blues into bliss. Thanks to psychotherapy and
herbal medicine, the depression eventually lifted. In the
bargain, her meditative practices had a newfound clarity
and silence—a bonus she had not anticipated.
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
Life does tend to get better when you’re on a spiritual
path. But progress doesn’t always take the shape of a
soaring profit line, upward and to the right. Typically, the
graph shows choppy ups and downs. When least expected,
some buried part of your personality rises up with
a roar. This might not matter to monks and nuns. It might
be irrelevant in a simple culture with strong communal
bonds. But the rest of us have to deal with tendencies we
consider ugly or frightening. This is not always pleasant,
and it can be hard work. But there are three excellent reasons
why shying away from the shadow is not a good
1.What you resist persists. By now it sounds like a
New Age cliché, but it’s nonetheless true: You can run
from the unwanted parts of your psyche, but you can’t
hide. The more you suppress the beasts, the more likely
you will be unprepared when they bite you. Left unexamined,
they can’t be controlled or tamed.
2.You imprison the good stuff, too. It’s not just
harmful, undesirable traits that we hide in the shadows
but also some of our gifts: our passions, drives, and
unique talents; our exuberance, our creativity, our capacity
for ecstasy, and other earthy qualities that complete
the human package. We keep some of our treasures
buried because their power is awesome, and we fear
they’ll take control—or because we were taught that our
passions will lead us to hell. That they can, when handledwisely, take us to God is the best-kept secret of the
3.It can obstruct spiritual development. It’s not easy
to locate inner peace when your mind roils with anxiety.
It’s not easy to open up to divine love when you hate
yourself. It’s not easy to taste the rapture of holiness if
you’re depressed or emotionally blocked. It’s not easy to
make consistent spiritual progress when frustration, sadness,
and worry are your constant companions. And it’s
not easy to achieve wholeness when you’re suppressing
vital parts of yourself.
We all want to move toward the light. Unfortunately,
we think that means keeping our backs turned to the
darkness. We are better served, spiritually, if we look into
our shadows with unabashed honesty and usher what we
find into the light. Once it is visible we can see it for what
it is—not shameful or fearsome, but a part of ourselves we
can learn from, dance with, and harness for spiritual
growth and human expression.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them
at the door laughing, and invite them in.
In the early days of psychology, its major proponents
were as hostile toward spirituality as Marxists were.
When meditative practices burst on the scene a generation
ago, some psychologists denounced them as forms of escape,
infantile regression, or even “self-induced catatonia.”
For their part, some spiritual leaders derided
psychotherapy as a waste of time, or even as harmful.
They assumed that the locomotive of Spirit would pull allother aspects of the self behind it at uniform speed. It
seems, however, that every aspect of the self—mind, body,
emotional intelligence, social skills, etc.—moves on its
own developmental track. But they are also intimately
connected, so it is essential to make sure no part of the self
lags too far behind, or the whole train will slow down.
Like trees leaning toward the sun, our nature propels
us toward greater happiness, peace, love, and wholeness.
When we miss the mark, we try to correct our course by
diminishing certain traits and cultivating others. Even
when we try to stop trying—to relinquish all striving for
improvement and accept ourselves as we are—we arestill
trying to grow, only in a different way. And one way we
can easily go wrong is to deny, in the name of spirituality,
parts of ourselves that need attention. In declaring ourselves
to be Spirit, therefore, we have to be wary of refuting
TRAV E L T I P S
1.Explore the terrain. Through introspection and, if needed,
the help of a therapist or spiritual advisor, shine the light of
awareness on your unconscious. Examine honestly what’s been
stuffed away and place it in one of these categories:
Toxic waste. This material is holding you back or is causing
harm to you or others. It has to be processed with the aim of
eliminating it, bringing it under control, or reshaping it.
Comic relief. Some aspects of the shadow are fixed traits that
help shape your uniqueness. They may get in the way at times,
but they are relatively harmless. Work toward accepting these
traits and, perhaps, observing them with a sense of humor, as if
they were characters in a sitcom.
Buried treasure. These untamed aspects of the psyche hold
the potential for adventure, passion, joy, and creative expression.
Take a walk on the wild side. Explore parts of yourself
that have scared you. Expose yourself to experiences that make
you feel powerful feelings. But be careful not to go so far that
you lose control of the reins. The boundaries that separate enjoyment
from over-indulgence and use from abuse differ for
each individual. Push the limits of your comfort zone, but make
sure you can find your way back.
2.Don’t aim for perfection. Perfection exists only in the realm
of the eternal Self; if you try too hard to perfect the everchanging
individual self, you’ll nag yourself to the grave. Can
you accept that you are as ridiculous as you are sublime? Can
you appreciate the perfection of your imperfection?
3.Don’t lose focus. While exploring the darkness, don’t lose
sight of the light. You are not just a collection of “stuff.” You
are, in your essence, a spark of the Divine. So, as you work on
your all-too-human flaws, try to use every problem and every
issue as a spiritual practice.
4.Is it a breakdown or a breakthrough? History is filled with
spiritual heavyweights who psychologists would probably clas-sify as pathological. We are blessed with the writings of St. Teresa,
for instance, because the medieval church made her record her experiences
to determine whether she was intoxicated by divine ecstasy
or possessed by demons. With examples like that, it is no
wonder that some seekers have called their psychological tumult
a spiritual breakthrough—only to regret not seeking professional
help. Others, however, have dashed to therapists when what they
were going through was more of an emergence than an emergency.
Some have been incorrectly diagnosed as mentally ill. Get
a second opinion, and maybe a third and a fourth.
5.Choose the right shrink. To find a spiritually fluent therapist,
ask friends and colleagues for referrals. See if your spiritual
community includes licensed mental health professionals. Other
places to look include yoga studios, New Age bookstores, and
professional organizations such as the Association for Transpersonal
6.Medication in moderation. Can antidepressants be a spiritual
boon, or are they a detriment to true awakening? Are they tools
for correcting biochemical imbalances, akin to mineral supplements
and herbal tonics, or temporary relief with unwanted side
effects? These are controversial issues, and you will find convincing
proponents of each position. Clearly, it is safer to meditate
than to medicate. But, for people with chronic depression,
medicine that is properly prescribed and monitored often relieves
debilitating symptoms and paves the way for working
more effectively on the emotional and spiritual levels.
7.Don’t trivialize spiritual practices. It’s all well and good to
use yoga to reduce stress, or to pray for success or chant for
healing. But when you use spiritual practicesonly for therapeutic
reasons, you fail to harness their full transformational
power. They are intended for Self-realization, not just self-improvement.
8. Contemplate this statement from the 20th-century Jewish
philosopher Martin Buber: “The face of the holy is not turned
away from but toward the profane. It does not want to hover
over the profane but to take it up into itself.”
Roadsigns On the Spiritual Path, by Philip Goldberg.The Amazon.com link is http://www.amazon.com/Roadsigns-Spiritual-Path-Living-Heart-Paradox/dp/1591810507/ref=sr_1_1/102-5936403-4980917?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186707733&sr=1-1Reprinted with permission of the publisher.