The ego, as you know, is clever, very clever. It can utilize everything for its own protection and perpetuation – including spirituality. With the very tools created for its dissolution, it can etch out a new version of itself. And since the old big-bad-ego has got more bad press than Kim Jong-un, it has been reinventing itself across the world in a new avatar: the new-age-ego. Since it is even more deceptive in this crystal-addicted, incense-sniffing guise, GD and me had a sit down to identify this new-age-ego in all its new-age glory. At the end of our hilarious session, we identified its ten most important commandments, which are active below the surface at all times.
Welcome to 2014. Or as the Mayans called it: “Extra Time” 🙂
We didn’t speak as often in 2013 as we would have liked. When we did, we often danced around what was immediate rather than what was important… and it was fun too! But today, I thought I’d write you a letter about that other stuff – the big, unspoken, sometimes scary stuff.
You know, we’ve been reading in the news about hundreds of natural disasters in 2013. But not one newspaper is reporting headlines about the inner cataclysms that are happening on the planet.
People all over the world are sensing earthquake-like shifts in their old values and being swept off secure life-paths. You may have sensed it as a growing disorientation about who you really are and what the hell you are supposed to do. It’s happening quietly, of course, so even you may not have joined the dots. You may have tried to shrug it off as bad luck, or a passing phase or just one of those days/months/years, and I thought it’s important for me to write to you that it’s not. And even more importantly – that you are not alone in this.
What’s really happening, I am told, is that the old structure we defined as ‘me’ –along with its drives, desires and dreams – is dismantling. The visible signs, according to many, many spiritual guides are quite distinct. See if some of them sound like what you have been trying to keep secret from your ‘normal’ friends.
Some lifelong relationships have been feeling fake and outdated. There is a sense of inexplicable inner sadness, sometimes punctuated by episodes of crying. Strange body aches and pains are experienced – and more tiredness than before. You feel lonely, even in the company of others. For some, a sudden change of job or career seems important, for others, there is a loss of passion to do anything. There is restlessness for something new to show up which will make sense of all this. Often, you feel safer staying aloof in a personal storm-shelter (aka bedroom) till clarity appears. (One of the reasons we didn’t meet so often in 2013…so I understand!)
Of course, in reality this shift is not a disaster but a blessing. From what I hear in the words of many spiritual guides, channels and teachers: the world is changing, you are changing, and the new paradigm of consciousness is evolving. Big words, I know, but to put it simply for a Mac-lover like you, you are moving to a new advanced iOS. Your system needs time to slow down, shut down and reboot. And while it may not seem like it right now, but after those little bug fixes, it’s all going to be way cooler and more intuitive. And I can say that with some certainty because I have seen up close the way people like GD function.
What’s worth remembering, he says, is that the disaster-like fallout is only as painful as the attachment to one’s old paradigm. Holding on is the only suffering. And there are simple things you can do to smoothen the path ahead.
For one, honor your changing mind-body system. Befriend your body. Become aware of your changing food preferences: food quantities, timings and even the kinds of food you like will undergo a change. As you become more sensitive to your energy, spend time in nature and ground your energy more often. Catharsis, forgiveness, or meditation – whatever you do to empty your past will only help.
Two, learn the art of honoring the impulse in this moment… and then the next and then the next. Like learning to skate, it just takes a bit of practice to get one’s balance. But once you do, you are guided speedily towards events, circumstances and people for your highest good. The old adage ‘Let Go & Let God’ is the single best piece of advice anyone can give you at this point.
One really strange thing that I must point out is that the old ‘me’ does not get replaced by a new ‘me’ – it just gets gradually melted in the Now. I suppose some day we will come to a point where we live so dissolved in the moment that there is no one to ask ‘am-I-there-yet’.
Until then, be cool, my friend. This is an unsettling period – don’t take it personally. You have not done anything wrong and you are not being punished. You are not weird – okay, you are weird but that’s exactly what’s super-cool about you. In the meantime, it’s a great idea to keep in touch with positive, like-minded, weird people (…like me!). So let’s connect more often in 2014.
Wish you a happy new you.
PS: Enclosing an old cartoon to remind you of this conversation and make you smile whenever you’re feeling a bit down. Keep shining 🙂
The other day my mentor GD mused, “In the past, people worked from 9 to 5, month after month, to buy a fancy car; these days they just try to manifest it using affirmations and visualizations. So things are not that different! We have simply found more clever and subtler means to fulfill our desires. It is not wrong in itself, but is it really spirituality?”
This is a question I have asked myself for many years too. Today, we have a plethora of healing tools and processes on the planet to upgrade our life experience. As a lifelong process junkie, I have explored many of them myself, but I have wondered: is this spirituality?
Spirituality, in its purest sense, is the quest to find your true nature: who am I?
However, in Eastern tradition also, the scope of spirituality was not limited to sitting meditation and self-enquiry. It embraced physical mastery like yoga, tantra and t’ai chi. But the goal was always to transcend body, sexuality and the world. It wasn’t in order to get ‘killer buns’ or ‘a bodacious booty’. And an attempt to manifest a new chariot would probably have come under the realm of sorcery.
The quest for happiness is innate in beings. And the attempt to find it through persons, objects and experiences is natural. The difference is that in its original definition, ‘spirituality’ begins where this search ends. As the outer begins to be questioned, the inner becomes relevant. Today, perfection of the outer often becomes the goal. The focus – instead of being on the question ‘who am I’ – is on ‘what I want’ and ‘what I need’. And tools for ‘abundance’ are never used to attract an abundance of awareness or emptiness.
The tricky part, which took me years to understand, is that dismissing these tools of manifestation and mastery would be throwing out the baby with the bath water. We are fortunate to live in a time when more powerful energetic tools for healing and transformation are available than ever before. I would recommend anyone who is unfamiliar with this treasure chest to explore it and transform their life – there is no glory in living a stressful, conflict-ridden lifestyle. But time and again, do pause and question: are the dreams you are seeking to fulfill through these spiritual tools really yours or just advertising-fuelled consumerism?
Don’t justify a quest for material abundance as an affirmation and celebration of Life. Celebrating the world is not clinging to the world; just as owning a forest has nothing to do with enjoying a forest. And I’m not suggesting real spirituality needs renunciation. You don’t need to become a monk and sell your Ferrari – just keep in your garage, not in your heart.
The mind is always searching for that one practice, insight, technique which will give it control, security and happiness-without-sadness. And whether it is getting a new job or a new-age practice, neither seems to finally deliver it. This, to me, is the awareness that is at the heart of true spirituality. Fulfilling personal desires is not wrong, but whether the tools come from Harvard Business Review or Higher Entities, I see that they are amazing, but question if they are spirituality.
At some point, the focus must shift from polishing the persona to transcending the persona. Healing and bodywork must go beyond the vain pursuit of a perfect body. And even meditation must evolve beyond seeking repetition of a higher octave of pleasant experiences. That is the real miracle worth manifesting.
Last week, on a whim, I met up with two former colleagues for coffee. When we had first met a decade ago, we were charging full-speed ahead in our corporate careers. Today, all three of us are at very different places, but answering the same call.
One of them had been the patron saint of the macho hedonistic life. Today, as he bit into his salad, he said he had given up drinking and smoking. He now volunteers as a sports coach at St Catherine’s Orphanage every weekend. Once a collector of $200 Diesel jeans, he said he hadn’t bought new clothes for six months. His face looked radiant as he spoke, his eyes clearer than I ever remember them when he spoke: “I go home from work at 5:00 pm these days. My old dreams of success are still around. If they work out it will be great – but they don’t define me anymore.”
The other colleague at the table was a former marketing head honcho. He recently founded a company to innovatively use media and technology for education. His first project would reach a million poor children soon. “I pay myself much less than what I could have earned as an MBA at the age of 34,” he said to us, “but I feel good at the end of the day. I have everything in life – a house, food, clothes, dog, car, computer – and a beautiful woman to spend it with. I could have had a bigger car and a bigger house and two more Plasma TVs but I feel good about my life right now.”
When I look at my Facebook timeline, I see that more and more friends around the world, young and old, are waking up to something. My 70something dad has begun a water conservation campaign that has saved 5.5m litres of water and a pretty 20something hypnotherapist I know has begun an NGO for slum children. Not everyone is quitting & serving society – some are just beginning yoga, some are reconnecting with creativity, some are finding themselves drawn to spirituality or alternative healing, some are beginning to question whether their lifestyle is worth it and some are simply forwarding positivity daily. Old beliefs, thought patterns, persons, things and situations are exiting – sometimes creating temporary chaos and confusion as people grapple with ‘what-next?’
Psychics, channels and spiritual teachers say these are all effects of the rigid patriarchal Old Energy making way for a free-flowing New Energy: effects that we will see more clearly in hindsight decades from now. Whether you believe in this spiritual perspective (like I do) or have never heard of it (like my two friends), it doesn’t seem to matter. The change is happening anyway.
Much as I dislike most advertising, especially cola advertising, they do capture the zeitgeist. The recent global Coke ‘Crazy For Good’ campaign features random acts of kindness from London, Cape Town & Buenos Aires. “People call me ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’ and ‘strange,’” the young do-gooder in the Coke commercial says. “But it’s cool. I like it.” Right message, wrong spokesperson.
Speaking of wrong spokespersons, last February, even the arch-icon of ‘80s excess, Gordon Gekko, has a new mantra. In a new FBI ad, Michael Douglas denounced corporate greed and says his Gordon Gekko character was wrong — greed is not good after all.
If you can smell it all around, it has become cool to be good again.
So you’ve amplified your little bathroom epiphany into a full-blown enlightenment orgasm, you’ve created an indecipherable teaching and convinced a few blokes that you are the Real Shree Sri McCoy-ji. You’ve painstakingly followed all the instructions in The Foolproof Guide To Becoming A Guru – Part I, and you think it’s finally time to have your aching feet washed in rose-water… But wait! The critical phase is about to begin. Here’s the insider’s guide by GD and me to Livin’ La Vida Guru Loka!
1) Destroy the Competition:
Constantly discourse that all other teachings are superficial and all other teachers are caught in various degrees of self-deception. (Note: Dead teachers should be praised freely). Also, any student who leaves or wants to explore something else is an idiot.
In short, present yourself as the only broker for enlightenment on this planet. You are the only socket to plug them to the Source. You are the only real-true-capable master… the rest are all frauds, thieves and delusional monkeys!
2) Disciple of The Week Award:
Let your disciples compete for your attention and affection. Create situations where disciples compete for intangibles like a place in front of the podium or leftovers from your plate. Public reward and punishment is key to this. Remind students that he who has the microphone and the big flowing beard is always right! Keep them well-behaved by never letting them know exactly where they stand and how much they have evolved. And for your own job perks, remind every attractive student that “a true disciple never says no”.
3) ‘For Your Own Good’:
Let this phrase be the chorus line of all your songs. I am making you work for free… for your own good. I am taking all your money… for your own good. I am publicly humiliating you… for your own good. I am exploring tantric poses with your girlfriend… for your own good. And one day you will thank me for it! (Repeat 2x.) A superb variation of this strategy is: “This is what your soul is asking for.” Try arguing your way out of that!
4) Elevate the Sheep:
Reward the disciples who become more and more like sheep, or mindless robots – whichever comes first. If they show symptoms of independent thought, deal with it firmly because that obviously comes from their ego. But be a little devious about it: Tell disciples to trust their inner voice — but only after you translate it for them!
5) Spiritualize All Your Desires:
You may have a pertinent question here: how to maintain your specialness even after disciples see you blundering day after day? Here’s how this simple, fool-proof technique goes: “Since you are pure consciousness, everything you do is blameless. And since they are not yet awakened, everything they do comes from ego!”
There, now you have a license to be rude, angry, jealous, greedy, insecure and screw around while still being awakened. Enlightenment means never having to say you’re sorry… or wrong, or confused, or depressed, or horny!
6) Glamorize Suffering:
In time, some followers will get really stressed in their quest to appease your impossible standards. Some may begin to suspect their constant unhappiness is a sign that they are not on the right track. So do not – we repeat – do not make happiness or love or peace the yardsticks to measure progress! Instead, keep telling them that the more they suffer, the more they are evolving! Reframe all their dullness and depression as ‘dark night of the soul’ or ‘part of the ascension process’. Tell them stories of how much people in the past have suffered and cried for enlightenment, and keep them addicted to the struggle.
7) Be a “Non-Guru” Guru:
See, here’s a tricky point. If you run a business, you need to show results. So how do you keep people hooked for decades onto an enlightenment carrot with no proof of success? Simple — don’t ever call yourself a Guru! Demand respect and obedience like a guru, but insist that you are just a normal guy. Tell them: “You are my real gurus.” (Not too often, else they may start believing you.) Emphasize repeatedly that you don’t really want to be a guru – and that a true master suffers the power, worship, dollars and threesomes only for his devotees’ sake!
The Bottom Line:
One, make sure the students constantly realise they are spiritually inferior to you. Use large doses of judgement, criticism and complaint. Keep ‘em small, keep ‘em seeking, keep ‘em hooked.
Two, keep them scared for their future outside of your safe little chalk circle; in the name of freedom, teach them a new kind of bondage.
Three, anyone who leaves should instantly be demoted to the status of ‘lost soul trapped once again by worldly desires’.
So there, with a little help, becoming a guru can be as easy as one-two-three. And if all your disciples escape in any case, then announce with deep sadness: “Nobody wants the real thing. People are not ready for the truth.” With this simple declaration, you can still continue to be right… and superior to the rest of the human race. Then you can move to another country and start again from Step 1.
In the meantime, just be careful that you don’t bump into a real master – one who may be lovingly and insightfully using some devices just like these to transform people’s lives.
[Coming Sometime Soon: The Foolproof Guide to Being A Fake Disciple – How to suck up to your spiritual teacher, dump all responsibility for your life on him and blame him when everything goes wrong!]
Becoming a spiritual Guru is a tricky business. One wrong move, and you could end up actually having to work for a living. But with a few time-tested tricks from GD and me, you can have a spiritual empire which spans far beyond your dog and driver. So here’s the hilarious first-class pass for all those on a guru-trip!
[Disclaimer: No real gurus were harmed during the writing of this article.]
1) Invent The Big Bang:
The first thing you must create is that truly cosmos-shattering enlightenment anecdote aka The Big Bang. This is important. But what is even more important is that your enlightenment story must always be preceded by a disclaimer like, “I don’t really like to talk about this…” or “I only share this for your understanding.” And then share it as freely as a visiting card. Next, dismiss everything pre-enlightenment as a meaningless dream and choose your grandiloquent new name. Again, insist your disciples conferred it upon you out of love and respect!
2) Create ‘The Chosen Ones’:
To convert potential disciples, you need to privately say this to each one: “You have such great spiritual potential.” It does two things: one, it supports the poor bugger’s secret belief that he is a highly evolved soul. More importantly, it shows him that only you have the penetrating insight to see this, and guide him to his glorious destiny!
3) The Mystical Touch:
Tell your students what you want to give them cannot be contained in words. To add that special kundalini mystique, every once in a while during deep meditation, flap your arms like an albatross and channel moaning sounds from a galaxy far, far away. If you can’t burp up holy ash, at least wear enough crystal jewelry to make Elizabeth Taylor look like a nun.
4) Copyright Your Own Technique:
Next, copyright any ordinary technique in your name by adding the word ‘quantum’ to it. For example ‘quantum relationship yoga’, or ‘quantum argle-bargle technique’ or ‘quantum of solace method’. Explain it by randomly combining words like “fifth dimensional attunement”, “pure being” and “Archangel Zigzagel”. Finally, create a pseudo-Sanskrit Ritual Mantra ‘Oppa Ganga-namah Stile-Om’ (Translation: Oppa Gangnam Style)
5) Spread The Good Word:
Like every brand, you need a strong marketing & PR team, except you will call them ‘gullible-disciples-willing-to-work-for-free’. Virtual followers on social media are more important than real followers these days so give up-to-the-minute updates of your gloriously happy, perfect life. Since everything is part of one consciousness, feel free to recycle others’ ideas as your own (but remember to copyright your words and sell them for $13.95 in paperback).
6) Answer Every Question With ‘Absolute’ Confidence:
So what if your attempts at discourses are as shallow as monsoon puddles? Just paraphrase everything by saying things like “Don’t pay attention to my words. Listen to the silence between my words.” Remind students that even Lao Tzu admitted that the Truth cannot be spoken.
A few tips on dealing with smart-ass questioners. If you don’t know how to answer a difficult question, the first option is to shoot back: “Who is asking this question? Who wants to know?” If that doesn’t work, dive straight into the Absolute (as in the state of Being, not the Vodka). Remember this: “Pure Consciousness” is the correct answer for every question ever asked! For example:
Q: Master, my wife has left me, and I am about to shoot myself. What should I do?
A: Everything is happening in Pure Consciousness. Nothing happens outside Pure Consciousness. Pure Consciousness is all there is.
Q: Oh thank you, Master! I didn’t see that perspective! I am so small and petty.
A: Yes, you are.
If someone persists, then say with a deep sigh: “I am ready to give you enlightenment right now, but are you ready to receive it?” (If he persists in saying ‘yes’ that’s obviously ego speaking.) And if all else fails, dismiss the student as ‘too intellectual’. And recommend a month of kitchen duty to cure him of this disease.
7) Set Impossible Standards:
If anyone demands to know where they are heading, reply ‘the day you are able to surrender FULLY, you will be enlightened’. The trick is to use words like ‘completely’, ‘totally’ or ‘fully’. Because hey! What ‘fully’ actually looks like is so totally in your hands! So keep the herd running after goals like trusting fully, loving fully, serving fully and you can keep them busy for a decade at least.
If you do have occasional pangs of conscience, remember that sheep need a shepherd. If it’s gonna be somebody, might as well be you! And if the CEO of Goldman Sachs can get paid millions, why shouldn’t you? Chances are, you might actually help someone!
These tips should get your little spiritual movement off the ground. But the difficult part is yet to come – how to keep your new flock from bleating too loudly, grazing on greener pastures or jumping the fence completely. More about resolving these issues in: The Foolproof Guide To Becoming A Guru – Part 2.