Confessions of a Spiritual Teacher by Amoda Maa

Book heartConfessions of a Spiritual Teacher
By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment

Even as a spiritual teacher, life is not always easy. There is an idea that after awakening, life just flows along in some kind of fluffy way—that there is nothing we have to do and nothing we want and nothing to work toward—and so we experience only the bliss of ease and happiness. But this is blatantly not true, at least not from the perspective of the human experience.

Yes, it is true from the perspective of the absolute, of no-self; the self as ego is actually not in charge of life, and there is a death of this belief and a cessation of the attempt to control anything. This is the surrender: the recognition that life manifests you; that life really does just happen, and you are responding to this; that you are not the creator but the servant of this intelligence that moves life—this is the deepest realization, and it is ever-present when awakening has fully matured. And of course, there is a great peace in this, a peace that has nothing to do with what happens or does not happen in the external world.

But I can tell you that for me, fifteen years after awakening, there is still a very human experience going on in which the waves of life keep coming. Of course, I could have “gone to sleep” after awakening, become passive, and stayed in my comfort zone; then everything would have been easy. But I hold a passion to grow in ways that are as yet unknown, I hold a dream that is unfolding within me, and I simply cannot ignore this. I’m willing to take risks by jumping into new adventures and walking through new pastures (even though there is discomfort and fear and insecurity)—just because this is the intelligence of life moving through me and I have to obey it. And so there is grit on the road, I am continuously being tested in my capacity to surf the waves, and there is an incessant demand to sacrifice any tendency to “play it small” in order to fulfill my destiny in the world. To be more accurate, it is not “my destiny,” but the destiny of life’s flow.

I hope that you, too, my friend, have the courage to live selflessly by listening to the deepest call within you—before or after awakening, it does not matter. In any case, none of it really matters because when you die, the whole movie comes to an end. What is there to lose, my friend? Only an illusory idea of comfort and security. What is there to gain? Just the deepest fulfillment of following what is true in you.

Embodied EnlightenmentAmoda Maa Jeevan is the author of Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.

Releasing the Spiritual Superego

Eagle flying over misty mountains

By Stephan Bodian, author of Beyond Mindfulness—available now!

As a psychotherapist as well as a spiritual teacher, I’ve had the privilege of sharing in the inner lives of hundreds of meditators and seekers—and what I’ve discovered, not surprisingly, is that we can be incredibly hard on ourselves, even in the seemingly beneficent pursuit of spiritual awakening. Most of us grow up with some version of the belief “I’m not good enough” and spend the rest of our lives attempting to prove ourselves worthy—in our work, our families, our relationships—while judging ourselves harshly if we don’t live up to some predetermined standard.

When we engage in spiritual study and practice, even if we’re counseled to be especially kind to ourselves, we tend to transpose the same perfectionism to our meditation, our contemplation, our self-inquiry. Nothing we do is ever good enough—we exert too much effort, we have too many concepts, our understanding never quite measures up. In fact, spiritual seekers can be even more self-critical than most, because we have the most exalted examples to compare ourselves to—the Buddha, Jesus, the great Zen masters, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj. We forget that awakening to our essential nature has nothing to do with perfection and everything to do with embracing life, including ourselves, just as it is. And we make the classic mistake of “comparing our inner to other people’s outer”—that is, comparing the public image that others project with the excruciating imperfection we constantly encounter in our own minds and hearts—and finding ourselves deficient. With so many different exemplars out there, we can become endlessly preoccupied with trying to imitate one and then the other, even though they express the truth in disparate ways, and end up losing sight of our own authenticity.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, one of my first teachers, once said, “We’re constantly losing our balance against a background of perfect balance.” As human beings, we’re imperfect creatures who stumble our way through life, doing our best and learning as we go—or not. But our essential nature—consciousness, timeless presence, the eternal ground of being, the One without a second—is inherently perfect, pure, and indestructible. None of our mistakes ever touches who we really are, and realizing this inherent perfection and embracing the non-dual paradox that we are both imperfect and perfect—or even more deeply, beyond any such dualities—provides the ultimate resolution to our endless self-criticism. In the words of Ramana, “Just rest as the Self and be as you are.”

<i>Beyond Mindfulness</i> coverStephan Bodian is the author of Beyond Mindfulness: The Direct Approach to Lasting Peace, Happiness, and Love, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.