Discernment – Navigating The Spiritual Minefield
By Christina Lavers
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
There is so much spiritual information floating around of varying quality, and for people who are just starting to awaken and connect with the spiritual aspects of life, it can be a challenge to discern the true gems from the trash.
I decided to compile some tips I have pieced together in relation to seeking external information and mentoring along my journey, and share it here today in hopes it helps others on their path to navigate the ‘spiritual minefield’.
Of course there are many fantastic teachers and teachings out there… finding them is all about discernment.
The Proponent of Light
This is someone who focuses on love and light. Their words of love ring true and make us feel warm and fuzzy. Their messages are filled with hope and positivity. They encourage the seeker to repel negativity, and become love and light. Their doctrines, however, dispense a neutered version of spirituality. Their practices can make the seeker feel good, feel like we are participating in something profound, without actually enabling true deep transformation.
The problem is that while some of what they say may be true, they are actually missing half of the picture. Balance is crucial in healthy spiritual development. And while it is great to celebrate the beautiful, light-filled aspects of being, it is also crucial to explore and integrate the dark aspects of ourselves. When the darkness is ignored or pushed away, it remains unresolved and continues to burden us at an unconscious level. Only through integration of our own darkness can we truly become realized beings, reflections of the whole.
You Are Special
There is no doubt that we are all special in our own unique way, and with so much negative programming in our world, making this realization is an essential step on our journey. However, there are different ways this awareness can develop. When information pertaining to our specialness is designed to appeal to the ego it can be problematic. Some teachings on offer make seekers feel as though we are part of a special elite spiritual club. “You are the brave ones; you are special…” The information appeals to the wounded, misunderstood aspect of the personality. When this aspect feels ‘seen’ and celebrated, an inflation occurs… and it feels good.
Instead of feeling like a weird misfit, we begin to feel like a chosen one; rather than the strange one, we become the exceptional one. However, this ‘inflation’ is not real growth because the information allows us to distance our self from the feeling of inferiority by stepping into a feeling of superiority, which is just the other side of the same coin.
True healing and humility occur when there is an acknowledgement and integration of both sides. By owning both our strengths and weaknesses we gain the ability to operate from a solid space of integrity and authenticity.
The Arrogant Teacher
This is a person who makes the seeker feel as though spiritual wisdom is only for the few with the intelligence to grasp the concepts that they espouse. The spirituality they promote is convoluted and has an elitist flavour. These people are masters at defending their position, not because they are right, but because they have highly developed the art of manipulating information for their own benefit. Often these types of teachers lord their knowledge over their followers in an attempt to make us feel inadequate. When we are grappling with our own sense of worth we might be inclined to believe that this teacher holds the secret we require, and strict adherence to their doctrines will eventually reveal it to us.
In reality spirituality is simple, and is accessible to everyone: the answers are all within. A big aspect of the spiritual journey is the process of recognizing where we have given away our power, and taking back our own authority.
One of the common aspects of a spiritually advanced person is that their sense of empathy and compassion is highly developed. This does not mean that they buy into ‘victim scripts’, or try and save anyone. Rather they recognize that everyone is divine and capable of finding their own way, but they also understand the difficulties of the journey, and their hearts are touched by the plight of others. The more advanced they are, the more they can feel their deep connection to everyone and everything.
This is someone who presents themselves as perfect and infallible. These people tend to have a strong focus on self-promotion and relish being in the limelight. They love to showcase their amazing qualities and abilities. When these people make mistakes they do not ‘own’ them; they try to deflect blame, or have some ‘story’ to explain away the error.
Generally these people are not worth listening to because they are coming from an ego perspective. The ego loves to be on a pedestal, at the centre of attention, and despises having weaknesses exposed. The problem is that the messages presented by the person are usually framed in a way where the truth becomes secondary to promoting and maintaining a hero persona.
Our society teaches us to hide our vulnerability. But being able to step into vulnerability is one of the most difficult and important qualities for a seeker to develop. Being able to be vulnerable is a crucial key to being authentic. If one is not able to be vulnerable when appropriate, it becomes a necessity to manipulate the truth to avoid showing any cracks. Someone who is not able to be vulnerable cannot be in their integrity at all times.
The Messianic Guru
This is one of the most dangerous teachers and is probably more common than one might suspect. Along the path of spiritual development there is a point when the seeker becomes aware of their own Godliness, and the fact that the whole universe revolves around them. When this profound truth is integrated in a holistic way, the seeker understands that all is about perspective, and appreciates the deep beauty and magic in the fact that we are all expressions of the divine and thus each have the ability to touch that deep point within where we all meet. We are each literally the centre of the universe, from our own unique perspective.
The messianic guru however recognizes his/her divinity but has not yet understood it from the bigger picture perspective. This person believes that they are ‘the one’ and that they have a ‘special’ relationship with God/ the universe. Sometimes this comes through in their teachings in a blatant way, other times it can be more discreet. However, even when a person is secretive about their beliefs, they usually drop enough hints that can be recognized by the discerning observer.
The danger is the underlying agenda is often subtly about supporting the ‘teacher’s’ distorted beliefs, and thus offers little to assist the seeker to uncover their own divinity.
The “They’re Coming To Save Us… Soon” Spokesman
This is someone who claims to be ‘speaking on behalf of’/channelling ‘higher beings’ who are coming to save us. While I have read a lot of excellent channelled material that claims to come from non-human entities, there is also a mountain of dodgy material. A common feature of some of the dodgy material is that it appeals to the victim mentality. “You poor things, life has been so hard, there are horrible beings that are so powerful that you have no hope of removing yourself from their grasp….but don’t worry because we are coming to save you…..soon. Very soon we will swoop down and fix everything so that you will live in a new paradise. Just keep reading our words…just keep believing and trusting in US, we assure you salvation is right around the corner.”
This kind of material is dangerous because it wraps the seeker in a sense of false hope, and does nothing to encourage self-exploration and deep growth. It promotes a sense of helplessness in the seeker, and supports the victim mentality by persuading the seeker to hand their power over to an external force. The focus on the ‘soon’ also functions to keep the seeker focused on the future and not in the NOW moment where our true power lies.
The Gloom and Doom Merchant
This is the teacher who appeals to the inner intensity junkie. These guys are the ones all over the net yelling dire prediction after dire prediction. This kind of information is often called fear-porn because it is a bit like watching a horror movie. It is dangerous and exciting, can be addictive, and most importantly, it is frightening. Too much immersion in this information will see us running for the hills (which might not be a bad thing in itself), wanting to learn a martial art (which might not be a bad thing in itself), and eyeing our neighbours suspiciously (I don’t think this is a good thing).
Fear is the great inhibitor of spiritual development. The more we fear, the more we close ourselves up to growth and transformation. When we focus too much on the fearful aspects of life we become tense and unbalanced, and can forget to nourish the beautiful, magical areas of our life. As more and more of our energy is dedicated to fear, the larger its presence becomes in our reality, and the beauty shrivels up. The seeker can be left with an overwhelming sense of disillusionment and despair. One of the reasons this path is so crippling is that a lot of the fearful situations we are faced with exist beyond our sphere of influence; there is little we can actually do to change the circumstances that are occurring on the global stage.
When we learn to acknowledge the reality occurring in our midst, but make a conscious decision to place our focus away from fear, onto that which we have the ability to affect positively, we encourage real transformation that benefits the whole. While the size of peoples’ sphere of influence varies, we all have access to one of the most potent points of change—ourselves. As we are all connected, healing ourselves has a potent effect on the collective unconscious, and the more light we can bring to this long neglected arena, the more light we will see reflected in our external reality.
Beyond ourselves we all have the ability to positively affect our surroundings. Be it our family, a plant, or our community, there is so much around us that we can nourish with love, and affect with our own unique endowments.
My Way IS The High Way
These are the teachers who believe that they have found, or been shown ‘the true path’. These teachers try to convince the seeker that they, and they alone, hold the key to their salvation. These people’s teachings often include a lot of judgement because of course, if theirs is the right way, then everyone else must be wrong.
In order to follow a teacher like this the seeker is required to sacrifice something. The first thing is usually money for a book or workshop which will reveal ‘part of’ their secret true path. The second and most troubling thing that must be sacrificed is the seekers own power of self-direction.
Usually it is the wounded aspect of a seeker that becomes attracted this kind of teacher, the aspect that doesn’t trust in our ability to find our ‘own’ way. But one of the most important aspects of the spiritual journey is discovering and celebrating our own uniqueness and allowing others to do the same. The further the seeker goes down the path the more we are able to shake off the false, socially constructed aspects of our personality and connect with our true, unique, inner-self.
There is no right or wrong on the spiritual path. Different people learn different things at different times in different ways. What works for one person might have no effect on another.
The Keys to Remember:
- Anything that tells us that we need to read a certain book, listen to certain music or subscribe to a particular philosophy etc. should probably be discarded. Of course there is great stuff ‘out there’ to help along one’s journey… but while it may help, there is no ‘required’ learning on the spiritual path.
- Anything that tells us that the answer is outside our self is a huge red flag!
- Anything that leaves us with an overwhelming sense of despair is probably best avoided.
- Anything that makes us feel good, but doesn’t encourage deep work is probably a waste of time.
- Anything that encourages idolization of a leader is potentially dangerous to one’s development.
Let’s listen to our hearts.
About the Author:
Christina Lavers is a writer, an artist, a creative enthusiast, and an inner world explorer. Born in Montreal Quebec Canada, she now lives with her life partner and son in a rainforest pocket in the hills behind Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia. She spends her time playing, creating, growing and sharing. As well as teaching and running private classes and workshops, Christina has developed and implemented many projects for local organizations.
“My journey has been about personal alchemy… exploring the mysteries of my soul and my environment, and learning to bring all aspects, the light and the dark, together with the transcending ingredient… love. The more I uncover and nurture the wounded aspects of my being, the more whole and grounded I feel and the more my outer world reflects the love, wonder and magic I have discovered inside”.
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