Our pleasure shows us where we are in alignment. It is a natural built in system that shows us what is right for us. However, not all experiences we might label as pleasurable are created equal.
It is helpful to learn to differentiate between different types of pleasure. For example, eating a piece of chocolate cake might feel good in the moment but that does not necessarily mean it is really in alignment with you. To determine whether it is or not you need to pay attention to the entire experience. While you’re eating the chocolate cake, it might actually be a pleasurable experience, but how do you feel after you eat the chocolate cake? Does it continue to be a pleasurable experience?
It is also helpful to pay attention to the quality of the pleasure; is it consistent throughout the layers of the experience? Using the same example of the chocolate cake, it might feel good in your mouth, but not feel good in your body. Maybe it negatively impacts our emotions because it’s more food than we actually need, and we know it and so we feel a little uncomfortable about having eaten it. While I am using the example of chocolate cake, this approach applies to all experiences in our lives. How we feel at work. How we feel in our relationships. As we pay attention, more to our pleasure and learn to really listen to it we strengthen our ability to navigate through life.
Another thing that gets in the way of using pleasure as our guide is having a negative relationship with pleasure. Because of this you can feel badly about something that is actually good for you. Your conditioning distorts the picture of what you are experiencing based on ideas about what you should or should not enjoy. The opposite can also be true. We can learn to feel pleasure associated with things that are not good for us through conditioning as well.
The basic experience gets distorted by misconceptions and misinterpretations of events that take what would be a simple mechanism for determining what is right for us and making it confusing. It would be wonderful if it was as easy as if it is a pleasurable experience, then it is in alignment and you can say yes to it we can welcome more of it into your life. And if it is not a pleasurable experience then you want to redirect and go in a different direction. Once we get past all of the conditioning this is true, but it takes some time to do so.
It may seem as if with all this conditioning it is impossible to trust how you feel about things. However, the trick is not to cast pleasure aside and start trying to figure out what is best through your mind but instead to dive more deeply in and practice paying closer attention.
To use pleasure as a guide, and it is a very useful guide, you can start by paying attention to where you might be filtering or misinterpreting the information that’s coming in about what is pleasurable,. You can then learn about what works for you or does not work for you in any given situation. As you pay attention to all aspects of your experience around an event that you consider pleasurable you become more refined about what is truly pleasurable.
As we become more and more refined, it becomes easier to have that simple relationship with pleasure –if it feels good then it is good. Then you are able to use pleasure to cultivate people, places, things, situations and activities in your life.
As you do so, you will feel so better and better in all aspects of your life because you are creating a life that is in alignment with you. As you cultivate this, it actually raises your overall energy.; your energy starts operating at a higher level, which continues the refinement process of your pleasure. This allows you to hone in on what it is that is working for you and what it is that’s best for you through what feels good.
Then your pleasure becomes this incredibly valuable tool for creating a life that feels really good and is really in alignment with who you are.
To live is to embrace a paradox that affects many areas of our lives, including our relationships with ourselves; we are at once ourselves and unaware of our true nature
Being who we are is quite straightforward in one way and yet so multi-faceted and complex that we spend our whole lives figuring it out.
Rediscovering who we truly are requires watching ourselves in action: what are we drawn to, what lights us up, and what leaves us feeling flat. Our emotions and interests are the best guides to our essential nature.
The process of self-discovery (or rediscovery, depending on how you want to look at it) can be a beautiful and at times challenging process during which we learn both to honor our deeper nature and to accept ALL of who we are. This includes our limited, broken, confused, and less inspired parts.
Self-acceptance is loving it all.
Reclaiming the self can’t happen without self-acceptance. We cannot have a real connection with our essence while disowning parts of who we are. We are again in paradox. Our deeper nature is not riddled with human flaws, but to truly live it, we need to embrace those flaws that do exist.
Self-acceptance does not come easy to most of us. It is not like we go to a workshop and walk out the door with self-acceptance. Instead, it seems to grow steadily and slowly, building imperceptibly under the surface at first and then showing us its strong roots.
We can work at accepting ourselves in a similar way to how we might learn to be more accepting of others. We can try to understand what they are thinking & feeling; walk a mile in their shoes. We can empathize with their challenges & see beauty in the complexity of their way of being. We can strengthen our self-acceptance by choosing ourselves in the present moment and removing the need to fix ourselves or become something else.
We can enjoy the quirks and the challenges instead of seeing them as obstacles. Self-acceptance allows us to see who we are clearly —to look ourselves straight in the face and own it—all of it.
Self-acceptance means that we do not push to the side those aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, marginalizing them to such a degree that even while we see so much we do like in ourselves, we have this heavy feeling that we are still unlovable.
Slowly, we love ourselves when and where we feel most unlovable; step by step we heal.
A quick scan of books on the ins-and-outs of “relationships” reveals four primary problem areas: money, time, communication and sex. While your romantic relationships may not suffer at all of these points, they most certainly will be challenged by one of them.
Often times these challenges are not an indicator of something unresolvable. Rather, they are an opportunity to deepen our understanding of ourselves, the other person, and find new perspectives and solutions.
This article covers 4 common relationship challenges and offer ways to re-frame them. Often when we take the time to shift our perspective on what has seemed so difficult in our relationships, we can grow with our significant other and create a stronger partnership.
Challenge #1: Disagreements That Linger
Some of the things we fight about in our relationships don’t ever get resolved. Sometimes this is due to a lack of compatibility, which ultimately leads to the end of the relationship. Sometimes this is the result of poor communication. Yet, other times it’s the outcome of our perspective on the disagreement. Imagine if you always agreed with your partner. This might not be the most interesting. While some people are harmoniously syncopated at all times, for the rest of us, a little conflict goes a long way in keeping the spark in our relationships.
Disagreements can help us grow. They also help us understand our partner more completely. Often, it’s only when we disagree that we ask questions about our partner’s perspective and pay close attention to what they say. What if you saw your disagreements with your partner as an opportunity to get closer to them? Or at the very least, saw them as an occasion for you to get closer to your own truth?
What if it was more important that you learn something about yourself through your disagreements and less important that you and your partner come to resolution?
Challenge #2: Different Sex Drives
People in relationship shy away from admitting that their sex drives or sexual preferences differ from their partners. They just don’t enjoy the same things or share the same level of desire. This undisclosed discrepancy leads people to have sex when they’re not really into it or to meet their needs through an affair. It can also lead to resentment that acerbates the problem.
All too often couples look to their partner to fulfill their sexual needs. But, what if each person considered how they could express themselves as sexually whole person. In truth, a discrepancy in sexual interest is an opportunity to explore sexuality rather than a block to it.
Ask yourself this: How does my partner express his or her sexuality? Who am I as a sexual person outside of my partnership? And, do I feel like I’m able to feel my sexuality as essential to my life? Questions like these help use the circumstance of different sex drives to grow rather than as a block to our fulfillment.
Challenge #3: Getting the Chores Done
In a couple, one person is often cleaner than the other. Or, one person thinks that organized cupboards make a tidy home, while the other feels it’s clean counters. One person feels they “always” have to do a particular chore. This same person may think that no one appreciates their effort to tend to their shared space.
Chances are if you’ve cohabited with your partner, that you’ve probably been rubbed the wrong way by some aspect of how your sweetheart lives in your shared space. Constructive feedback in these situations can be hard to give. No adult wants to hear that the way they’ve been doing something for years is somehow wrong.
Too often we focus our attention on the negative. We see what the other person is not doing. Or we notice how they “did it again.” But, what if we looked at our partner’s frustrating habit as reminder of all the other things they do right? What if we chose to remember all that our partner does to contribute to your standard of living?
You could also re-frame it this way: would you rather have your partner in your life or be free from the problem of how they do – or do not do – a specific chore? The truth is that the dirty laundry on the floor, the dishes scattered around the house, or the foot prints on the floor are a sign that you have a special someone in your life.
Challenge #4: Lack of Time Together
Busy lives and work schedules take us away from the people we love. And while a little time away is supportive of a healthy relationship, a lot of time away can create problems.
In these instances, it’s important to check in with yourself and ask yourself if this lack of time together is an outright avoidance of intimacy or indication of some other problem. If this is not the case, and instead life has conspired to give you a bit of distance from your mate, then take the opportunity to make the distance work for your relationship. Plan special things to do together when your busy schedules allow you two to connect.
Whether you’re separated due to work or other reasons, it’s wonderful to have some time to focus on your own needs and not your partner’s needs. The time apart from your mate could be time that you dedicate to friends, family or studying something that interests you. Regardless of how you use it, take the time and give it to yourself!
Every challenge we face in a relationship is a portal of opportunity. Sometimes it just takes looking at it from another perspective to see how we can make it work for us rather than against us.
As we move through the bumps, jolts and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself. When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victim-hood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations. Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential. Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion. Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoistic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
Relationships are the one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of our life. There are types of personal development that we are unable to do unless we are in relationship and there are ways that relationships push us to do work that we would not be otherwise motivated to do.
One of the greatest challenges in relationship can be our boundaries – maintaining a connection to our self, being open with another, and caring for the relationship that exists between us. We can run into challenges like losing our self in the relationship, over care taking, shutting down, passive aggressiveness, or saying things that are hurtful and can’t be taken back.
Any of these sound familiar?
In the 1980’s Melody Beattie wrote about co-dependence. This is the pattern of behavior that a person develops when relating to a loved-one who has an addiction. However, Beattie’s writing hit a chord with most people whether they were in a partnership with an addict or not. Chiefly, she focuses on understanding what is ours to deal with and what is another person’s. This level of clarity is essential for other relational skills to develop.
It is impossible to create healthy connectedness if we lack the ability to hold onto our self. Holding onto our self is the ability to stay connected to what we think, feel and want while being in a relationship with another person. This is particularly important when that person is under stress or in a crisis. In intense situations, it is easier to get consumed by another person’s experience. Even sexual intimacy, as positive as it might be, requires not only that we can deeply connect and even merge with another but that we can come back to ourselves as well.
The truth of the matter is, when we do not know or understand something, our ability to be in relationship to it is limited. This means we need to be able to see our self because the less we are aware of ourselves, the harder it is for us to know when something is us and when it is not. So, this is one of the many ways that personal development work serves you. The more that you know the easier it is to navigate relationships.
It is necessary to know our self to be open to a relationship in a healthy way. Being open in a relationship is both about the ability to connect and to disconnect. However, primarily it is about being able to choose when we want to connect and disconnect. This allows us to be consciously open or to consciously choose not put up a boundary when something is not healthy.
What I often hear people struggle with is determining what is healthy or not healthy for them so that they know where to put a boundary in place. Caring for yourself means doing that which is affirming of the entirety of who you are. Determining what is healthy or not healthy is guided by the same concept. Does it affirm or support who you are? If it does then it is healthy for you even if it is difficult. If it is does not, then it is not healthy for you. Your boundaries in relationship should honor what is healthy for you and, as I will get to later, also honor the needs of the relationship.
One of the greatest gifts that we can give in a relationship is our willingness to be as respectful with that other person as we have learned to be with our self. This desire to support another person in honoring and caring for themselves and learning and growing in their capacity to know themselves is a beautiful gift of a relationship that can blossom from our learning to respect our own boundaries.
The relationship, itself, is the third part of the equation. Relationships take care and time to be able to flourish. It is not enough for people to just invest in their own awareness and growth they also need to invest in the relationship. The relationship is another member of the total relationship triad –self, other, relationship- and also requires our attention. What can you give to the relationship? How do you give to the relationship?.
Developmentally, we are not able to give to the relationship until we have learned how to take care of ourselves. We are simply too immature to really be able to give what is required. That is why we need to start by doing our own work and understand what it is that supports us as we go through life. When we have done this work, the act of giving selflessly to a relationship is an additional joy rather than something that creates imbalance.
If you find yourself in a relationship and you are questioning your knowledge of your own needs or understanding of the different aspects of who you are, this is part of the teaching of relationship. We are all in a continual process of growth. As you move forward in your relationship you will be called to focus on different aspects of the relationship: you, the other person, and the relationship itself. There will be a natural tension at time that will challenge you to relate in ways that feel healthy and right to you. This process, if you choose to engage in it will be both challenging and deeply rewarding, ultimately offering you one of the most beautiful experiences that life has to offer.
Whether you are the person who has been hurt or you are the person who has broken trust, you very likely will want to do some repair work. Here are fourteen things that you can do to help rebuild trust with another person once it has been broken.
01 Take Responsibility: Regardless of which role you played in the situation, you are responsible for your own contributions to what has occurred. Take some time to be clear about what you did and what you did not do that may have led to a situation where trust was broken.
02 Show Empathy: When we have hurt someone, it helps for them to see that we understand the pain that they are going through. When we have been hurt, some of us will expect ourselves to get over it quickly and others will tend to hold onto the pain. Either way, empathizing with our own experience is helpful to our process of healing. It is also helpful to show empathy when possible to the person that hurt us. This person usually hurt us because of his or her own pain.
03 Keep Promises & Agreements: If you have betrayed someone’s trust, their whole system is on red alert. More than likely they expect you to continue to hurt them. By only making promises and agreements you can keep – as well as making sure to keep them – you can start to rebuild trust.
04 Be Authentic: People can spot a phony, (and even if they go along, they do not really trust them). So if you have hurt someone, being real is the best way to rebuild trust. If you were the person hurt, being authentic might mean that you are truthful about your emotions and where you are in your healing process.
05 Expect & Support Emotional Reactions: When there has been a breach of trust, everyone wants it to go away. But, expecting it to be cleared with an, “I’m sorry,” is often overly optimistic. Emotions will come and go. The more that you can support the emotional healing of yourself, or the person you hurt, the more likely you are to reestablish trust.
06 Sincerely Apologize: Perhaps, this should be number one. Offering an apology is the first thing that you can do to begin the healing after trust has been broken. Just lip service will not do – you will need to understand how you hurt the other person and truly feel remorse for your actions.
07 Accept & Admit Your Faults: Regardless of which side of the coin you fall on, you have flaws. These flaws, while understandable, likely contributed to the situation at hand. Stating your flaws and saying what you are going to do differently is helpful in regaining trust.
08 Keep Your Head on Your Shoulders: Assess the situation at hand. If you have sincerely shown remorse and the other person is not able to forgive you even after doing your due diligence, (or the person who has hurt you has not altered his or her behavior to be safe), your best choice might be to cut ties. Rebuilding trust is important… but pay attention to when your time is better invested elsewhere.
09 Imagine Different Outcomes: So, you trusted and you got hurt. This does not mean every time that you trust you will get hurt. Learn what you can, and then look to the future. What kind of people do you want to relate to? How would you like them to show up to the relationship?
10 Listen to Your Intuition: Very often when someone betrays us, we had a sense that it was happening or even just a sense that something was not right. The more we hone our intuition the easier it is to make good decisions for ourselves in the future.
11 Forgive Yourself: We all make mistakes. Sometimes, there is a high price tag to pay for the type of mistake that we made – like loss of a relationship, or loss of trust with ourselves. Regardless of what you did or did not do, the best you can do is learn from it and make difference choices in the future.
12 Forgive the Other Person: Building off of forgiving yourself, the person that hurt you also is prone to making mistakes and bad choices. When you are ready, forgiving the person who hurt you can be one of the most liberating actions and can open you up to truly trust again.
13 Try Trusting Again: Seriously, get back on the horse. Perhaps one person broke your trust but how many other people did not? The odds are in your favor. Keep building with the people who have shown themselves to be worthy of your trust.
14 Make Yourself Happy: The happier we are, the healthier we are. The healthier we are the better decisions we make… and the faster we bounce back from our challenges. Taking care of yourself and doing what you love will help you feel courageous enough to trust again.
Ready to get more flow going around the work you love? Do you want to finally receive the abundance that matches the effort you have put into developing work that you love? The following are some beliefs that might be holding you back and what you can do to change them.
People Don’t Get Paid Well For What I Do: If you struggle to engage in your soul inspired work, you may look around and find others who are also struggling to do the very same thing. Does this mean it is impossible to get your work off the ground? No, but what it may mean is that you are looking in the wrong place. Where are the people who are successful, and what have they done to get themselves there?
I Am Not Worthy / Someone Else is Better Than Me: If you see other people being successful at what you love to do, you might be tempted to look at their skills or talents and judge yourself as less than. It is always helpful to objectively look at the skills that are necessary to be successful and learn them when appropriate. However, it might be more helpful to look at what it is that you do offer and how that is of great benefit to those who might want to pay you for your talents.
Money Will Corrupt My Work: Many people who are not successful have the belief that money corrupts. They love their work and have high standards for it but worry that making more money for that expertise will lead to corruption. If you get clear on what your standards are, you will be better equipped to face any potentially corrupting situations that come your way. It also might be helpful to explore the opposite side of things as well. How might being more profitable in your work help you to do that work better?
Having Abundance Means I am Taking From Others: When you are coming from a place of lack, your gain seems to mean another person’s loss. In fact, very often what you are providing is actually helping a person get more of what they want for themselves. Think of abundance in a more generalized way, beyond mere money. What is the other person gaining from the exchange?
If I Have Abundance, I Will Be a Target: This is a fear that people might tear you down if you appear too successful. Perhaps you had a shining experience that led to some negative treatment by others, or maybe you yourself have been judgmental toward people who seem to have more of something you desire than you do. Try supporting others in their success, and see how that changes your perspective.
If I Have Money, I Will Have to Be Responsible: Do you feel more comfortable with the fact that you are limited in your choices because of your lack of abundance? Maybe if you had more, you might need to make difficult decisions around whom to help with it or where to spend it so that it does not have a negative impact. Getting clear on how you want to use your resources can help you make good choices.
If I Take Money In Exchange For My Work, I Will Be Obligated: Some people have had the experience that everything comes at a price, and quite often that price is too high. Maybe you have been given something and then told afterwards that you owe something you did not expect to owe. Being clear up front about any exchange for your work and understanding the reasons for it can help you disengage from inappropriate requests .
Ethics in spiritual work have not changed. The teachings have remained the same for as long as we have been writing them down, and most likely for longer than that. There are not new ethics to discover—we know to be kind and offer understanding as much as possible; we know not to lie, cheat, and steal and instead to be honorable; and we know not to harm others, especially for our own gain. This and so many more ethical stances have been taught to many of us.
“Ethics has nothing to do with external considerations. It is independent of time and space, beyond fashions and civilizations. It is derived from the foundations of the Ancient Wisdom and the essential nature of man. ” — Danielle Audoin
But there is sometimes a great chasm between knowing and doing. We all struggle with this to some degree, but we do have a sense of what is right and wrong, and it is up to us to take appropriate action.
We can, however, easily fall into the trap of contextualizing our ethics: Our lie is OK because that other person would have reacted badly to the truth. Our actions were justifiable because we are only human, after all. That person deserved retaliation because of the way they acted.
Being an ethical person does not mean that we make the same decision in any given ethical dilemma that another person would also make in that situation, but rather that we adhere to our ethical code regardless of the situation. If we do this, we can consider ourselves ethical.
One large problem that we have at this point in time is the number of people who perhaps have attained a certain spiritual knowledge yet have not made an ethical commitment or developed this understanding.
And, then of course, there are people who have neither understanding nor ethical practice. In a world desperate for spiritual connection, the superficial trappings of a wise tradition can be enough to find followers.
If you are a spiritual person, the most important place to focus is on your ethical development. This is not magical power, extensive knowledge, or a large following. Your ability to know and live by your ethical code is what will make the difference in your own life and the impact that you have on others.
“We practice ethical behavior by creating the intention to follow a particular ethical guideline. We do this for the purpose of spiritual awakening, not for the purpose of being “good” or escaping criticism–either internal or external.” –Robert Brumet
Once we have committed ourselves to an ethical code, our job is to live and learn by it.
We will have many chances to grow in our understanding of how to be a good person; as we do this, we will grow in our spiritual depth and move in the direction of enlightenment. Inevitably, many of us will face difficult circumstances that pose an ethical dilemma.
These challenges hold the potential for great spiritual wisdom and are the moments we have trained for in our ethical practice. In each of these moments, large and small, we become a light for others, ultimately fulfilling our mission to be a spiritual being.
It is ethics — not yoga pants, indigenous jewelry or obscure spiritual artifacts — that make a spiritual practitioner and ultimately a spiritual leader.
Many people are taught, starting in their childhood, that someone else knows better than they do. While learning to recognize external authority and to honor alternate perspectives is important to our social development, flat-out believing what you are told because it comes from an “expert” or someone who appears more advanced than you is something that most of us do at least every once in a while—and many of us do it a lot. This does not mean you need to summarily reject it, either—by developing your own inner wisdom, you can strike a balance. Seek out resources that help you honor your innate wisdom.
Dis-empowering to the core, this belief leaves the person thinking “why bother?” There are many ways to slice it, but we each have power. First, one dedicated person is often what gets a movement started. Second, in each moment, we are having an impact on many people. This impact can be instrumental in lifting a person up so that they may then choose to do the same for someone else. One of the reasons why people feel discouraged is that they look at the impact they do not have rather than at the positive impact that they do have. Try noticing what good things come from your noble efforts.
While not everyone can have a Maserati, abundance in general and wealth specifically is within your reach. The fact of the matter is that we don’t all want the same thing, especially once we get in touch with what we really want instead of what we think we want. When you do the work to get clear on who you are and what is important to you, you will see the abundance you already have and develop ways to bring in more of what you want—whether that means billions to fight the system or a quiet place to read a book.
“If I am suffering, then I have done something wrong.” Karma is based on the idea that for every action, there is a response. This is not a punishment—it is a teaching. It is a way to fully understand our own actions, heal, and ultimately grow. When we experience adversity in life, it does not necessarily mean that we have inflicted suffering on someone else. Sometimes we have; however, sometimes we have just chosen a difficult experience for our own growth and insight. Looking at our lives though the lens of being punished does not help us become more mature and responsible: it makes us more fearful. Focusing on what you have learned from the challenges in your life yields much better results.
Putting the deeper philosophical debate aside, this is meant to address skirting our responsibility by making the argument that “it is all in your head,” or minimizing our own view because it is, well, “just our own view.” If we all had wildly different conceptions of reality, we would likely find it difficult to interact. We believe that most of the time, if our friend shows up to dinner, our friend also believes that they are at dinner. We share so many of these little truths in our life that to proclaim they are not there when it would be convenient for them not to be seems a bit contrived. However, this trick is used more often than you might guess to get you to doubt your perspective or question the facts. We can honor each person’s unique perception by using each person’s subjective truth to gain a deeper understanding of the total picture and to build connections rather than as a covert tactic to undermine our responsibilities.
Throughout time, wisdom schools have developed during periods of spiritual and cultural transition. Wisdom schools emphasize a deep respect for the diverse experience of the individual and offer teachings to help with the natural spiritual unfolding of each student rather than provide a static doctrine to which one must adhere.
It is time for us to take our spiritual and personal growth back into our own hands, which is not to say that there is nothing to be learned from spiritual traditions and personal development theory. These things are rich storehouses of information that can serve us in many ways, and their traditions deserve to be respected and honored. We can benefit greatly from the wisdom of those who have walked before us.
However, any system that demands exclusive loyalty to itself over our personal truth is a corrupt system that, while it might teach us many things, will ultimately fail us.
Unfortunately, the teachings of personal empowerment that we are so in need of are limited in supply. We are taught through many established educational and religious structures—starting when we are very young—that intelligence and spiritual development is something that is endorsed through people and systems that are external to us. We are indoctrinated into giving up our own personal knowledge by the well-meaning caregivers of our childhood—who have also been damaged by the system.
Developing our own wisdom thus becomes a balance between learning from those who have walked before as well as from our own experience. Since many of us have been conditioned to give up our own truth, we benefit from learning how to engage and honor it. This allows us to have an honest and deep personal relationship with any teachings we encounter.
To connect to our own wisdom, we benefit from applying the intelligence of our senses. Even the most esoteric of teachings and the most abstract of theories can be validated in part by the senses. For example, if you were taught that god is love, you will have, if you pay attention, some sensation in your body of the truth or untruth of this proposition. This is a starting place for our own inner wisdom.
Likewise, we may be told that a spiritual guide feels or acts a certain way, a particular approach is healing, or a particular spiritual development tool works in a certain way. If we connect to it, we will sooner or later know the truth of those proposals.
In this way, we can listen, learn, and experiment with what we are taught by validating those lessons with our firsthand knowledge so that we may “know we know” rather than believing in something external to us.
When our own inner wisdom is combined with theoretical perspective and expansive and honed spiritual traditions, we have the ability to advance our own growth and aid in the transformation of others in a profound way. We can maintain respect for all teachings while simultaneously verifying what is taught through our personal experience. This marriage yields the birth of our spiritual empowerment.
This is extremely important as we learn to open ourselves to higher levels of consciousness. If we do not personally verify the information we receive, we can suffer from doubt that limits our effectiveness, we can more easily fall prey to misinformation and manipulation, and we deprive ourselves of our own true inner knowledge