Spiritual Highlanders and Lowlanders

Mt Abu

Where Do You Dwell?

I remember one chilly evening spent on a mountain top in India with a 119-year-old master. We’d become very fond of each other over our many visits. This particular night, we were gazing out from the top of Mt Abu looking over the vast plains of Rajasthan below and I was lamenting that he had it easier on his mountaintop. He only had one job as a guru and that was to live a spiritual life with few distractions. As someone who lived down on those plains, I complained, I had to wear too many hats that often challenged my spiritual life.

He started guffawing and his rail-thin body shook with laughter. Since one of his favorite pastimes was to make fun of me, I thought for sure he was going to tell me that was one of the best excuses he’d ever heard. And that I should stop feeling sorry and “get myself over.” He had a penchant for American slang that often got rearranged.

After he finished wiping the tears of laughter from his cheeks, he said, “You found me out! I do have it easier! It’s much harder being a plains dweller.”

While he spent the rest of the evening talking about “mountain dwellers” and “plains dwellers” (his Hindi words actually translated more closely to highlanders and lowlanders, but as some may take offense to those words, I’ve changed them to mountain and plains dwellers) he wasn’t delineating one as better than the other, as in higher or lower, just that one was more naturally supportive of a spiritual way of life than the other.

If you’d been one of the monkeys in the trees eavesdropping on that conversation, you would have heard him explain that you and I came into this life as plains dwellers. What that means is we came in with the purpose to fully remember who we are?—?to wake up?—?while being fully distracted by the masses of humanity. Living on the “plains” is living among the many.

A mountain dweller is a spiritual person, such as a guru, who gets to live in a cave on a mountaintop. In many eastern traditions, everybody accepts that it’s the guru’s job to be a spiritual being. That doesn’t mean the guru is necessarily free of struggle, but that everybody protects and supports that this is that person’s only job, which makes it exponentially easier to stay present and awake.

As plains dwellers, we’re in the middle of the battlefield with bombs going off everywhere, as we shout to ourselves, “Okay, I’m going to remember. I remember, I remember!” While the guru sits up on the mountain, looking down at us, smiling and thinking, “she says she remembers. Hahahaha.”

To understand the concept of mountain dwellers and plains dwellers is to realize that we seem to have picked the hard way because that’s what plains dwellers often do. We often pick the path that requires that our legs run as fast and long as they can. We appear to need extreme pain to wake up.

We don’t actually, but it can sure seem like we do. That’s because while it’s more common for people who are struggling to pursue the path of the seeker, to move toward awakening, it’s not the only way.

You don’t have to be depressed or suffering to have an awakening experience. It’s just that pain and depression are pretty strong motivators that push us to want to experience something different, to be somewhere different, to be somebody different.

A content/happy person is usually not as strongly motivated. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enter the path of awakening through happiness. It has more to do with letting go of stories and making shifts, which we’ll get into more deeply as we go on.

The emotional state just determines how strongly motivated someone is but does not determine the awakening experience itself. The thing is, despite who we are and how we get set up, once we get it, we get it. And then it becomes about how we share it with other plains dwellers. When we see another who is seeking, we feel compelled to ask, How can I help you to remember?

Let’s not kid ourselves, though. It’s often a lonely journey we plains dwellers are on. We can be perceived as outliers. Not normal. Weird. Out there. And while we know we’re not crazy, the majority rules. It’s important to remember to take a breath and realize that our path is our path, and their path is their path. And that’s okay. Because there are many different paths.

In the beginning, at least, it almost doesn’t matter which path we’re on. Just getting on a path, just starting out, is all that matters.

Yes, it’s true, some paths can get us there quicker than other paths. And there are those paths that will have us saying, “this is it,” only to be eventually exposed as another illusion. It’s all part of the uncovering, discovering, and remembering.

As you continue on, you’ll find that many paths drop away, and only a few are left. Until you’re so far along that you find the way has narrowed and there is only one path left to the end.

Where Do You Walk?

So, you’re standing there with all the different paths laid out before you. How do you choose?

How many times have you thought, “There has to be something more than this? This can’t be it.” But feeling clueless about the “what, where, and how” of finding the answers.

The good news is that these questions are signaling that you’re starting to remember what it is you’ve forgotten. There may not be any clarity in the remembering because the remembering at this stage isn’t specific. It’s a feeling. You may just remember that something is not right. You may only know that things should be different from what they are. You may be living with a dis-ease, an anxiety, a restlessness. But part of you, enough of you, knows.

The way many people try to wrap their arms around this stage is to try to figure out what their purpose is. To try to figure out what the meaning of life is. If they can do that, maybe the remembering will begin. That’s because we’re conditioned to think everyone is here for a purpose.

We are. But not the kind of external, goal-oriented purpose most people think of.

Our purpose is to remember. Once we begin to remember, the meaning of life becomes self-evident.

And, once there is a consciousness of “I need to remember something,” there’s additional help to access that remembering. Through the inner teacher. The inner teacher is the part of us that has never been shut down. It is the part of us that is connected to the All-That-Is.

The role of the inner teacher is to connect/reconnect the full remembering, the full awareness, with the all-access pass to information that the conscious mind simply doesn’t have.

To learn more about the Inner Teacher, visit the Articles page.

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