Q: Sometimes we search for so long we reach a point where we don’t even know what it was we were searching. But there is this longing that remains. What now?
What’s needed is a moment of recognition. Something clicks that makes us feel alive and excited.
That’s one of the things that happen when we find an external teacher. We have that sensation of hope that here’s somebody who could take me further down the path. You may not know how far and that doesn’t matter. Because all that matters is that you get to go further down the path.
So, there’s a feeling of huge relief and excitement, and joy. Because once you start seeking, it takes on a life of its own and it doesn’t matter what else is going on in your life. It’s a drumbeat that’s always in the background—that you need to make this connection, and keep this connection, and keep going down the path.
That’s what all seekers have in common—that longing. Whether it comes from social loneliness or religious disappointment or exhaustion from modern expectations, it doesn’t matter what the fire is under the kettle that boils with the need for belonging. The longing is the longing.
Q: So what role is the teacher playing?
One of the things that’s happening in that clicking I mentioned is that we feel excitement that someone actually knows us. That’s profoundly exciting. It might be as close as we get to feeling that we are fully connected with someone else. “You see me. You know who I fully am in a way that doesn’t make me feel embarrassed or ashamed, but rather fully recognized and more whole.”
That’s how you know if you’ve met a positive teacher. They make you feel stronger right away. They don’t make you feel more needy. That’s what happens with many people who wind up in cults or extremist organizations of any kind. That element is universally in play, where the teacher is saying to the student, “You need me and you better not leave me, because if you do, you’ll be lost for the rest of your life.”
Positive external teachers almost never tell you they’re your teacher. You just decide you want to hang out with them and they let you. They don’t send you away, but they also don’t tell you to stay.
Q: Is there a prototype of a spiritual seeker? Can you describe a typical journey?
Well, there really is no typical journey. We all have our own path to follow. But here’s one that’s pretty classic. Being intensely raised in a particular religion and getting to an age of reason and finding fault with the religion. At this point, most seekers either immediately walk away or go more intensely into it to give it one last shot. And then either they get subsumed by it again or walk away for good. Or they come up for air and realize, “I’m on my own but I’m not on my own because I still know something greater exists. I just don’t know what to name it and I don’t know how I know that exists. I just know. So I can’t have a rational scientific philosophical argument with anybody because it’s not based on something I’ve read or on something somebody told me. I just know.” It’s an unshakeable Knowingness.
Many people don’t know how to share that or talk about it or do anything with this. It just kind of sits there, waiting for a light to shine on it so that it can recognize itself. It’s the teacher’s job to help you shine a light on it so you can recognize it.
Q: What role does faith play?
People often misuse the word faith. Often, they have a sense of knowing, which is significantly different. One of the challenges is to be semantically precise and make the distinctions. To let go of attachments to words that misrepresent what we know and can prevent us from making that full connection.
Because faith is still primarily external. It’s still believing that there’s something out there for us rather than knowing it’s all inside. The knowing is internal. Some seekers accept this, but others keep trying to prove that it’s true. And they bite themselves every time they try to prove that it’s true. And because they’ll continually test it, they use physical energy. That gets tiring.
Q: Why are some able to accept?
They’ve come in with that switch on. They are experiencing one of the big gimmes in this life. Everybody comes in with a couple of switches on. I call them Gimmes. They’re what you get for free in this life that will be with you all the way through your life. It could be a special talent, like musicality. It could be an innate ability you take for granted, like athleticism. Think of a gimme as anything that comes easily to you that you can always count on working for you. The big gimme we’re talking about here is being able keep the knowing alive.
Everybody is born with a few Gimmes. But people don’t always recognize what their gimmes are. In large part, this is because the challenges always seem to outweigh the gimmes. That’s just the nature of the modern world, more than anything else.
All of us are born open, and we get shut down by society, dogma, teachers, convention, family structures, tradition, heritage, ancestors and all those things that come pre-packaged and get dumped on us as soon as we’re born. Right down to the name that we’re given. With all that stacked against us, to stay open can seem impossible. For those who do manage to stay open in any significant way, that openness is such a direct connection to the is-ness, that it can’t be shut down.
Q: But what you’re saying is everybody is born with it.
Everybody is born being open. Not everybody is able to stay open, based on their circumstances.
We often forget what our spiritual gimmes are because we’re so busy with our heads down and noses to the grindstone that we don’t pay attention to the signs all around us that help tell us what our gimmes are, that help point the way.
The idea is to help people start practicing and waking up those abilities again, and reconnecting trust and knowing. The first item of business is learning to develop trust. First comes trust, which is actually an illusion. It means you don’t know. You think you know. You want to know. So you trust. It’s kind of like faith. Faith and trust go in the same basket, in my mind. But trust can float you until you are at a place where you can know. Because the knowing starts out so ephemeral. So intangible.
In the modern mind, if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, never mind if I can’t hear it or touch it, and so on. So it’s getting people over that hump of letting go of that mindset. To say you know way more than you know. That’s basically what teaching people how to find their own inner teacher is– helping them remember how to know.
The challenge is that so much of that knowing goes against how people have set up their lives. To stay open to knowing, you can’t keep doing the same old thing. You can’t keep living the same life.
So, great, now you have made a connection to your own inner teacher. What are you going to use it for?
Are you going to get yourself a fancy car or your next big job where you can make more money? Is it going to go back into the materialistic, consumeristic nature of the world? Or are you going to take it to the next level?
So that’s another unconscious hold-back for everybody on this path. They know that at a certain point, they’ve either got to give it up because they’re playing at it. Or they’ve got to let go of what is and move on to the life that they’re meant to live.
Q: So at some point, people need to decide what they’re doing with this?
Yes, is it just a parlor game? Or are you going to go all the way? If it’s a parlor game, no harm, no foul. You can still benefit. But you’re not going to get the full experience of the full connection.
It’s important to try to remove judgment. To not be judgmental of others and to not place judgment on ourselves. Not everybody is meant to go the whole way. At least not in this lifetime.
Q: Doesn’t everyone think at the beginning that they want to go the whole way?
It’s all good because however far they go, it will leave them in a better place than where they started.
Something I learned a long time ago as a teacher; I would say things that I knew were going to have an impact and that I was never going to be around to see when that seed grew, when that thought would become an action for that person. But I knew it would. I often get letters from people saying “You said I would do this or change this way. And I have and I couldn’t see it then but just wanted you to know.” I’ve learned to say what needs to be said and not look back. That’s important to remember when you’re reaching out to help someone on the path. Don’t look for results. Don’t set expectations. Just share and move on.
But I also know from my own journey that it’s not a straight line. This is a path that has fits and starts all along the way. So why would I judge somebody else who goes as far as they can?
If everybody can get just far enough so that the awareness and importance of connection really take hold in them so that they begin seeing the interrelatedness of everything, then they’ll automatically start making different choices. They’ll become more ecologically responsible. They’ll become more caring about nature. They’ll grow into better people in relationships, better spouses, better parents.
So if an external teacher can just get people to that point, even that would be huge. Even better if that external teacher shows them how to connect to their own inner teacher and sets them free.
That’s what’s hard about our society. We measure everything. We grade everything. We order everything. All that places intimidation on the learning process. Because the question always becomes, How am I doing? Did I pass?
And that’s an inhibitor to passing. Because you’re looking for checkpoints. And there are checkpoints, but not the way people think there are.
Another profound difference between connecting with your own inner teacher and being part of an external—I don’t know what the word is—let’s say group, is that all teachers start off by saying: Welcome my children. In effect saying, Enter the House of God. Enter the All-That-Is. Come on the journey. And it’s said with love. And then you get in and some of those teachers slam the doors behind, and it’s fire and Brimstone, and you’re gonna burn in hell, and you can’t talk to God yourself. Who do you think you are? All these things that separate and punish and put down and evoke fear. All of these things have to do with scarcity and a zero-sum game.
The inner teacher doesn’t/can’t participate in that because the inner teacher knows the truth.
That’s also one of the ways you can tell whether an external teacher is somebody you should stick around for or whether you need to be moving on.
But as herd animals, we like our groups. And everybody wants a leader to take responsibility for them, which is one thing the inner teacher won’t do. It won’t take responsibility.
And the question is why won’t the inner teacher take responsibility?
Q: Because we have to take responsibility.
Because there is no responsibility. That’s a human-made concept. When you work from an inner place of spiritual connection, there is no external motivation that pushes you to do anything. It’s not guilt, responsibility, or appreciation. It is “this is the right thing to do. I can’t do anything else. There is no other option.”
When it is internalized, who needs responsibility? All of this is hugely threatening to most societal structures. But that’s a subject for another day. For now, place the practice on connecting with your own inner teacher, discovering your gimmes, and moving yourself further along the spiritual path.