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Posts Tagged ‘self reliance’

mandelbrotThe way of the soul is not without its pitfalls. It renders us vulnerable, not only to misguided avenues of thought, down which we might easily lose ourselves for years, but also to the pathological assumption that it is more likely someone else who can spoon-feed us the answers we are seeking. Indeed it seems preposterous to us that we might ourselves possess the ability to turn up that which we most need, at the time we need it, yet more often than not, I find, we do. As for time spent in misguided avenues of thought, it is never really wasted,  since all experience is potentially instructive.

Books are the main source of recorded thought on all things. From the mysterious Yi Jing of China’s Mythic Prehistory, to the work of latter day Transcendentalists and Romantics, there is a wealth of ideas now recorded for our perusal. The world of books becomes like an ocean for us to sail upon, to feel the tug of its tides and venture wherever we will. Of course books do not have all the answers, indeed I suspect the way of the soul is leading eventually to a wordless revelation of nature, but for our time “in being” books remain one of the pleasures of the solitary path of the soul. If we encounter one we do not engage with, we can always put it down. It may be that the book contains words that are not right for us, or that we are simply not ready to engage with them yet. We set it aside, we move on.

The other source of wisdom, more dangerous and less easy to disengage from, is the charismatic human being. With human beings things are not so simple, for when we gather into groups an uncertainty arises in our interrelationships, due to the fact we do not know what  others are thinking. Mind games commence, the complexity of which multiplies in proportion to the square of the number of beings involved. And amid all this complexity the simple fact remains, it is always the one to whom we surrender authority who will control the game, so we had better be sure in our choices. I was never any good at mind games, nor have I ever been comfortable trusting in the bona fides of others. It’s a misanthropic weakness perhaps but one to which many introverts are prone, and is the reason I walk a solitary path. It’s much easier for me, since the square of one is still one.

I have been following the trade winds of Tai Chi and Qigong for many years now, found myself a small, informal group with whom to practice, under the tutelage of a man who didn’t take himself at all seriously. He was not a guru, nor even a “sifu”, though he was more knowledgeable than many who style themselves as such. We laughed our way through the Chen Laoja, through the Yi Jin Jing, and the Shi Ba Shi – laughed for years. It was not what I had expected of such a group, thinking to find instead something more serene and straight faced, and a teacher more outwardly profound in his demeanour, a teacher I could indeed make into my guru. But it was not to be. Then the Goddess Shiva intervened, bringer of transformation through destruction, and we lost our training venue. The group is now scattered far and wide. I’ve been cast adrift too, searching for a new group to join, because I feel insufficiently self-motivated (translate as bone-idle) to maintain the practice  on my own.

My searches led me to a very beautiful old house on the edge of wild countryside, and to a group of photogenic beings with serene expressions and improbably white teeth, who I thought would suit me very well. It’s a kind of new age spiritual centre where they teach all manner of things, from meditation to organic gardening, and a kind of practical philosophy based upon Platonic discourse – indeed it strikes one as being every bit the contemporary mystery school. It was for a moment as if I had entered a dream and needed to pinch myself, that all was real. This place would suit me very well, I thought – very well indeed!

But before signing up, my intuition insisted I did a bit of background checking, and I began turning up the word “cult”. It seems that far from being a small, self-contained centre of peace and harmony, this little group is part of a much bigger, worldwide group who have been the subject of much controversy and bad press. There are accusations of brainwashing and abuse. This could all be the sour grapes of disgruntled former students of course,  but it makes one pause just long enough to reset one’s bearings. Any group so big it can court any amount of publicity in the national press sounds too big for my own liking. I feel chastened by the experience, that I could have been so entranced by the beguiling beauty of their online literature, while losing sight of my own intent, and purpose.

Without seeming immodest, I probably already know more about Tai Chi and Qigong than this group could ever teach me, yet I assume my knowledge is as nothing compared to what this oasis of the tinkling windchimes might possess. The path then becomes a kind of spiritual materialism, in which nothing satisfies us for very long. We are always looking for the next thing – the next book, the next method, the next guru.

But I am reminded that to seek knowledge of a spiritual nature, we are best guided by the one who knows us most intimately. We all know the voice of “the one”. It comes to us when we establish a uniquely personal relationship with that innate sense of the divine, with the Universe, with whatever name we want to give it. If we need knowledge, then it is right to seek it, either by reading up about a thing, or engaging the services of a teacher. But on the path of the soul we should remain mindful that it is always our own inner voice that guides us to our proper end, and that in the completeness of our being, we are each of us our own most perfect guru.

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