Spiritual confidence puts me off.
It’s not that I’m not curious about someone’s inner journey. I’ve taught yoga for close to 15 years. I study and value in-depth conversations about philosophy, knowledge transmission, cultural rituals, and practices attempting to shift mindset and conditioned beliefs.
It’s just not a topic that I lead with.
I’ve seen spiritual conviction be exploited in meditation and yoga hubs like Dharamsala, Ubud, Rishikesh, and Bodh Gaya.
Here, while you are walking down the street, wheelers, dealers, and healers will offer to align your energy centers or give you an unusual form of some much-needed healing.
I’m wary of those who think they have anything figured out. For three main reasons:
1. Everything changes
We all change over time. It’s easy to get hooked on a path or disciple and get swept away by elated sensation and spiritual intoxication.
I am curious to see someone’s insights that are deep and longstanding. I want to know how they’ve learned in a variety of situations over a long period.
Otherwise, they might just have a sense of temporary clarity or a means to pull themselves quickly out of a damaging pattern or addiction.
Wisdom and understanding take time.
For example, if I want to learn more about successful relationships, I’m interested in talking to couples who hold the type of interaction and respectful and liberating dynamics that I would like to enable.
I want to know how someone has learned love and love and love another over years. Not lessons from someone who is experiencing the highs of a one-night stand. Nor someone telling me what a healthy relationship encompasses, without knowing my nature and needs.
2. Humility allows for growth
I appreciate humility. I think understanding not just what you know, but also what you don’t know, leaves you ready and open to continuously grow.
Even the top theoretical physicists working at CERN try to form theories from observations with the knowledge that humans have only observed a mere 5% of the universe. So how can we speak with certainty about these findings?
Quantum physics is still an unknown field, completely void of certainty. Dark matter is a deep rabbit hole of the unknown reality. So why would we use these as an explanation for behaviors and patterns in the universe?
And looking into “ancient texts” isn’t necessarily the answer for clarity. Some of the best Sanskrit and Tibetan translators who I know are the first to admit that one word or phrase can have multiple layers of meaning, not to mention cultural context that can be lost, unknown or easily misunderstood.
If someone speaks with spiritual conviction, I usually want to know:
- How does that person react when things aren’t going well?
- How do they react to discomfort, uncertainty, grief, and quick change?
- Does their approach still work after 10 years? Is that a good thing?
Again this takes time to go through, flesh out nonsense, and garner wisdom.
3. Sharing is different from selling
Even if you have a deep understanding of reality, why are you telling me about it?
What is the agenda behind it? And why are you telling me this before we’ve even had coffee?
From what I’ve seen, people who tend to quickly assert their spiritual conviction will just as quickly offer their time and services for a fixed amount of money. It can feel like a sales pitch.
So, I’m not a fan of self-proclaimed life coaches and intuitive guides.
At the moment, I live on a small island in Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s a small rock in the middle of the ocean, renowned for its diving.
Even though I have been practicing yoga for over a decade, I have little desire to spend time on the closest neighboring island, two hours away by ferry.
In Koh Phangan, I can meet five self-professed, life coaches walking the beach on my way to a cafe.
Adorned with Sanskrit tattoos, feathers fixed in their pink hair, layers of flowing scarves, skirts, and white linen pants, they are more than ready to give you life advice and tell you about their kundalini awakening.
This is all before they’ve had a chance to order a vegan, almond milk, matcha latte.
I’ve never been fashionable. I prefer to avoid trends.
When I go out for a coffee on Koh Tao, my island the next speedboat ride away, I am surrounded by lively and slightly jaded dive instructors, weathered sailors, and quiet fishermen.
Everyone is linked together by their love of the ocean.
We don’t have to talk about what we each do to experience the ocean more deeply.
We all love it in our way, and simply because it’s there.
Conversations on this island revolve around practical matters, like the tide levels, water visibility, and weather.
We all get excited when a whale shark passes in the neighborhood.
Our commonality doesn’t have to be defined or defended or persuaded. And for this reason, the community is rather diverse.
We get into the water because we love it.
And in the coffee shops on this island, coffee will come out one way – hot, dark, and black.
I am all for transformation. For the inner journey. For growth. For the long haul. And consistent and incremental change leads to deep wisdom.
It if is sincere, I would imagine it shines through your personality. You know it because you live it. Others will come to pick up on it. They’ll feel it. And ask you about it. It won’t be something you have to profess.
Even in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, for example, yoga is clearly defined as the channelization of the functioning of the mind.
“In the state of yoga (yoga) your inner perceptual space (citta) is absolutely clear (nirodha).” (Yoga Sutra 1.1)
But what catches my attention more is the sutra slightly following, which encourages enthusiastic self-inquiry:
“If you have truly developed enthusiasm (abhyāsa), then you study systematically and in-depth (satkāra) and you practice consistently (nairantarya) over a long span of time (dīrgha-kāla).” (Yoga Sutra 1.14)
Transformation requires complete sincerity. Over and over again, you are willing to apply some critical inquiry, thought, time, energy, and emotional contemplation to what you are doing.
You dig your well deep. And then drink the water.
So, when people mention they are something special, an intuitive, a healer, a life coach, I’m usually curious about a few things:
- How long have they practiced
- How did they learn to translate their insights for others?
- How have others found their interactions?
- And, is there any money immediately requested?
If someone speaks with a great deal of conviction, as though their ideas surpass any of my thoughts or guiding force, I tend to quietly smile and back away.
Your gut, your inner instincts aren’t meant to be handed over to someone else.
When you ask someone for advice on how you should live, you’ve probably already made a mistake by asking them that question.
Only you can answer that.
No one else can walk your steps for you. Nor breathe your air for you.
You have the capacity more than any other person to get into your inner world and understand what is going on in there. To peel back the nature of reality from within. We are one of the unique life forms on earth who can consciously explore our being on conscious and subconscious levels.
Even if someone has it all figured out, they can only really help you understand your walls from a different point of view. It’s up to you to break them down from the inside out.
So make each interaction a way to inspire your inner inquiry. Perhaps you might consider asking yourself:
- What are you drawn to?
- What revolts you?
- What are you sensitive to?
- What speaks to you?
Ultimately you are your guide. Others can simply describe the path they took to help you know what might be out there.
You have to walk your steps.
I think this is one of the reasons I’m been exploring Rudá Iandê’s body of work lately.
He’s a shaman from Brazil and created The Vessel to share many of his insights into spirituality.
He’s different from many of the intuitives and life coaches I’ve come across in various spiritual communities around the world.
Rudá supports people in charting their own pathway in spirituality. He doesn’t have a formula to offer.
For me, this is a refreshing change from the life coaches and intuitives I’ve been coming across lately.
Rudá just launched a free masterclass sharing his key life lessons in spirituality. It’s called Free Your Mind and he calls it “an invitation to give up on toxic spirituality and meet your true self”.
Moving forward, as I come across the enthusiastic life coaches of Koh Phangan and other places, I’ll always have these guiding questions in mind:
- How easily someone can encourage me to take on a direction that is not true with my own authentic voice?
- How someone can inspire me to foster a stronger sense of my guiding force.
- Are they helping you to cut through illusions of reality?
- Or are you learning how to love reality as it is?
- Are you living amongst enlightened, insightful beings and smooth-talking,emotionally evocative charlatans in it, all the same?
Good luck! And remember, stay true to your inner compass and be careful where you have coffee!