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Daily Wisdom: Unique Shadow


By Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

The Unique Self is the Eros, the life impulse that drives us forward. Shadow is Eros turned around against itself. By integrating your shadow, you are liberating the trapped life energy of your Unique Self. Your life energy is not generic. It is your life energy. The portal to your energy is none other than your Unique Self. Your most persistent shadow-structure is also your most abundant wellspring of energy and life. The reclaiming of life energy happens through shadow integration. Thus, the tantric masters of the left-handed path saw shadow integration as a process of revelation by which the previously hidden Unique Self—the secret mystery—manifests as inspiration and Eros.

The top 10 spiritually transmitted diseases


By Mariana Caplan

Note: adapted from Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path (Sounds True, 2009).

It is a jungle out there, and it is no less true about spiritual life than any other aspect of life. Do we really think that just because someone has been meditating for five years, or doing 10 years of yoga practice, that they will be any less neurotic than the next person? At best, perhaps they will be a little bit more aware of it. A little bit. It is for this reason that I spent the last 15 years of my life researching and writing books on cultivating discernment on the spiritual path in all the gritty areas—power, sex, enlightenment, gurus, scandals, psychology, neurosis—as well as earnest, but just plain confused and unconscious, motivations on the path. Along with Marc Gafni and many other people at the Center for World Spirituality, we are developing a new series of books, courses and practices to bring further clarification to these issues.

Several years ago, I spent a summer living and working in South Africa. Upon my arrival I was instantly confronted by the visceral reality that I was in the country with the highest murder rate in the world, where rape was common and a huge portion of the population was HIV-positive—men and women, gays and straights alike. As I have come to know hundreds of spiritual teachers and thousands of spiritual practitioners through my work and travels, I have been struck by the way in which our spiritual views, perspectives, and experiences become similarly “infected” by “conceptual contaminants”—comprising a confused and immature relationship to complex spiritual principles—that are as invisible, yet as insidious, as sexually transmitted disease.

The following 10 categorizations are not intended to be definitive but are offered as a tool for becoming aware of some of the most common spiritually transmitted diseases.

1. Fast-Food Spirituality: Mix spirituality with a culture that celebrates speed, multitasking, and instant gratification and the result is likely to be fast-food spirituality. Fast-food spirituality is a product of the common and understandable fantasy that relief from the suffering of our human condition can be quick and easy. One thing is clear, however: spiritual transformation cannot be had in a quick fix.

2. Faux Spirituality: Faux spirituality is the tendency to talk, dress, and act as we imagine a spiritual person would. It is a kind of imitation spirituality that mimics spiritual realization in the way that leopard-skin fabric imitates the genuine skin of a leopard.

3. Confused Motivations: Although our desire to grow is genuine and pure, it often gets mixed with lesser motivations, including the wish to be loved, the desire to belong, the need to fill our internal emptiness, the belief that the spiritual path will remove our suffering, and spiritual ambition—the wish to be special, to be better than, to be “the one.”

4. Identifying with Spiritual Experiences: In this disease, the ego identifies with our spiritual experience and takes it as its own, and we begin to believe that we are embodying insights that have arisen within us at certain times. In most cases, it does not last indefinitely, although it tends to endure for longer periods of time in those who believe themselves to be enlightened and/or who function as spiritual teachers.

5. The Spiritualized Ego: This disease occurs when the very structure of the egoic personality becomes deeply embedded with spiritual concepts and ideas. The result is an egoic structure that is “bullet-proof.” When the ego becomes spiritualized, we are invulnerable to help, new input, or constructive feedback. We become impenetrable human beings and are stunted in our spiritual growth, all in the name of spirituality.

6. Mass Production of Spiritual Teachers: There are a number of current trendy spiritual traditions that produce people who believe themselves to be at a level of spiritual enlightenment, or mastery, that is far beyond their actual level. This disease functions like a spiritual conveyor belt: put on this glow, get that insight, and–bam! –you’re enlightened and ready to enlighten others in similar fashion. The problem is not that such teachers instruct but that they represent themselves as having achieved spiritual mastery.

7. Spiritual Pride: Spiritual pride arises when the practitioner, through years of labored effort, has actually attained a certain level of wisdom and uses that attainment to justify shutting down to further experience. A feeling of “spiritual superiority” is another symptom of this spiritually transmitted disease. It manifests as a subtle feeling that “I am better, more wise, and above others because I am spiritual.”

8. Group Mind: Also described as groupthink, cultic mentality, or ashram disease, group mind is an insidious virus that contains many elements of traditional codependence. A spiritual group makes subtle and unconscious agreements regarding the correct ways to think, talk, dress, and act. Individuals and groups infected with “group mind” reject individuals, attitudes, and circumstances that do not conform to the often unwritten rules of the group.

9. The Chosen-People Complex: Unfortunately, the chosen people complex is not limited to Jews. It is the belief that “Our group is more spiritually evolved, powerful, enlightened and, simply put, better than any other group.” There is an important distinction between the recognition that one has found the right path, teacher, or community for themselves, and having found The One.

10. The Deadly Virus: “I Have Arrived” This disease is so potent that it has the capacity to be terminal and deadly to our spiritual evolution. This is the belief that “I have arrived” at the final goal of the spiritual path. Our spiritual progress ends at the point where this belief becomes crystallized in our psyche, for the moment we begin to believe that we have reached the end of the path, further growth ceases.

“The essence of love is perception,” according to the teachings of Marc Gafni, “therefore the essence of self love is self perception. You can only fall in love with someone you can see clearly—including yourself. To love is to have eyes to see. It is only when you see yourself clearly that you can begin to love yourself.”

It is in the spirit of Marc’s teaching that I believe that a critical part of learning discernment on the spiritual path is discovering the pervasive illnesses of ego and self-deception that are in all of us. That is when we need a sense of humor and the support of real spiritual friends. As we face our obstacles to spiritual growth, there are times when it is easy to fall into a sense of despair and self-diminishment and lose our confidence on the path. We must keep the faith, in ourselves and in others, in order to really make a difference in this world.

Photo Credit: AJC1

On the three different types of tears


By Joe Perez

Soulfulness includes the ability to express deep and often sorrowful feeling. In tears, aspects of the soul are released from the body, flowing erotically from one soul beyond itself. Marc Gafni in The Dance of Tears (forthcoming, Integral Publishers) has even categorized three major types of tears:

All roads of life lead to death. Death, before its imminent arrival and in its aftermath is measured and defined in large part by the nature of tears it elicits.

Two kinds of tears from two different sources dance together here…. Although [the] tears [of the person who is about to pass over into the next realm] seem to be uniform and universal their true nature really depends on where in the soul they emerge from.

Those tears could be pre-personal, personal, or transpersonal.

Pre-personal tears are a function of the instinctive drive to survive in one’s most readily known form bodily existence which feels threatened by the encounter with death.

Personal tears well up from one’s unique life story, relationships, regrets, hopes, failures, loves, losses and lived dreams.

Transpersonal tears: the moment of death itself can for those who prepare, and sometimes even for those who did not, afford a moment of enlightenment where one’s true divine nature is profoundly and powerfully realized.

Photo Credit: mysza831

Giving a long, loving, relaxed stare is a learnable skill

Beautiful Eyes

By Joe Perez

A man writes to an online advice giver, saying that his girlfriend doesn’t think his eye contact is romantic enough. He writes:

Dear Sexes: I’ve never really felt comfortable with eye contact, and have picked up a little thing where I’ll duck my eyes off every 3 seconds or so. This is normally not too much of a problem, but now I have a new girl in my life and I feel like it’s having an affect on things. Any tips to help me perform those loving stares?

One columnist, a female, instructs him to focus on building his listening skills and to look into ways in which his psychological baggage may be making him uncomfortable with intimacy. She writes:

We’re all different and have different ways of communicating and showing love. Hopefully your girlfriend gets that. This eye-gazing thing might just not be your thing. However, it is a social norm to keep eye contact, and that contact shows confidence, respect, honesty and connection. Not a stare, but a meaningful and relaxed gaze….

So while the romantic gaze may be what you think you need, it could be this engaged listening that’s even more important to her.
As far as not darting your eyes away… I think that’s mostly about being relaxed and looking at the old story that originally made you do the eye-dart. What was that story? Remind yourself of the source of it, then remind yourself regularly that that story is done, and that you have a whole new narrative about yourself and the world. Not “rah-rah” self-talk, just simple observations like, “I’m a grown man with a good life and a girlfriend.”

A male columnist adds that developing a habit of looking at the nose bridge may be a gateway to correcting the man’s issue:

I still think this is an issue you should ultimately tackle head on (or eye to eye), but the bridge of the nose isn’t that far off. Think of it as a gateway to intimacy.

To these two advice givers, I add that learning to give long, loving, relaxed gazes is a learnable skill for appreciating the uniqueness of another person. The eye-to-eye contact is a potential opening from one Unique Self to another Unique Self, creating a lounge-chair-easy spaciousness of causal attraction.

And it can also bring up a person’s Unique Shadow by triggering specific contractions in the body-mind, reactions which can be gradually healed through even greater levels of practicing love.

Photo Credit: by girish_suryawanshi