In other posts, I’ve gone a little bit into why I left the Baptist Church when I was 14. I have always been very spiritual, and that thirst for a connection to a higher power never went away, I just channeled it into other things.
For a long time I practiced Wicca, and then just called myself pagan. Mostly I practiced alone, and when I attempted to join in on a coven’s ritual one time, everything went sideways. The women, who should have been supporting me, were instead catty and jealous. The men, for it was a mixed circle, were overtly sexual and while respectful, it made young me very uncomfortable. The whole experience left me feeling bitter, just as the hypocrisy within the church had.
After that, I sought a spiritual connection through shamanism and yoga. Both are very satisfying. I am happy for the time I spent studying under Mara, learning how to journey and be in touch with the earth and spirit guides. I am grateful for my experiences in yoga teacher training, and the path I took to get there. In all ways, I have felt supported in my spiritual ventures.
Throughout my spiritual quests, there has been one common archetype: the (False) Guru. It’s not that I don’t believe in spiritual leaders, I just think that many people pass themselves off as such when really they are in it for egotistical or materialistic reasons. Sometimes I don’t even think they realize it, or if they do, it is years later. Mostly, I believe people are good and approach sharing the knowledge they have learned with good intentions. But things can go very wrong.
Things start to get sticky when money becomes involved in spiritual teachings, for instance. On one hand, the leaders of the community are devoting their time and energy into these events and lessons, and deserve to be compensated for their time. On the other, I fundamentally believe that anyone seeking spiritual knowledge should have access to it, should not be turned away. So where does the line go? Is a women’s retreat weekend worth $1,000? $500? What about an evening in a shared lesson, $25? Should the hat just be passed? If it were do you think people would honestly pay what they believe the lesson to be worth? I do, for the most part. I think those that cannot pay tend to be happy to help volunteer, as well. They just want to be involved.
From what I’ve seen on the San Diego “spiritual scene”, spiritual knowledge can get very pricey. It becomes an exclusive thing, rather than inclusive. When the sharing of knowledge begins to shut people out, I have a problem with it.
Authenticity, honesty, compassion, kindness. When I see these qualities in a real spiritual leader, it brings me joy. Perhaps most important of all is humility. True spiritual leaders can stay in beginner’s mind and approach problems, people, the world, without ego. It’s not that they have no ego, we are only human, but they have learned how to balance, work with, conquer their ego so it does not rule them.
Across the board, I have seen teachers and heroes that I admired falter, show their humanity, fall prey to their egos. It happens, and it is a real problem. Something I see far less of, is people owning their own bullshit. You can’t do better until you know better, but I truly believe that once you know better, you have a duty to act upon that knowledge and really try to do better.
The true spiritual leader spends a lot of time in self-reflection. They listen more than they speak. They are happy to share what they know with whatever student presents themselves. These people, and they do exist, bring me hope. They keep me going in a way that I cannot explain.
In all my searches, the only true goodness I have seen comes from other humans. Unfortunately, the only true evil comes from other humans, as well. In my mind it boils down to each and every person devoting themselves to doing the best they can, serving their fellow humans, and being kind both to themselves and each other. We are the only people that can make this world a better place, and it starts at home in our bodies, our families, our communities, and from there the world.
Do good work. Bring joy. Be joy.