Tuesday, January 19, 2010

THE MYTH OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. PART 1: – SITE CO-HOST: LOUISE STERLING

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From the moment we emerge from the womb, we are programmed with the emphatic instruction that we are a separate individual in a world of separate others. We are labeled “boy” or “girl”, “difficult” or “easy”, “special” and “different”, “chosen”, “angel”, “prince” or “princess”, “brat” or “inconvenience”. As we move through the life stages, the labels continue to be added and adjusted. During the school years, we become “a little Einstein”, “hopeless at math”, “socially competent”, “shy and introverted”, “a trouble maker”, “well-behaved and well-adjusted”. As we enter the world of relationships, we become a “great lover”, “a perfect wife or husband”, “a nagging bitch“ or a “dysfunctional philanderer.” So it goes. Eventually, we acquire some of these labels ourselves; we come to believe them, attach to them, and use them to define our sense of self-identity.

In this society, there is a strong emphasis on self-actualization and personal development. In this schema, the individual stabilizes the labels that are “positive” and “empowering” and toils to overcome and eradicate the labels that are “negative” and “self-limiting”. A popular label currently in New Age circles is “enlightened” – and many seminars and courses are offered to the individual to acquire this “enlightened” and “awakened” state – which is really a pinnacle label.

This is the myth of personal development. Let’s examine a few reasons why this is a myth from the point of view of the Advaitan understanding.

1. All labels – both positive and negative – are false
The Advaitan Teachings return You to Your Source – before the formation of anything that can be perceived in this relative world. Who Are You? The question is rhetorical. Any answer is a description of the false. Yet, the question is repeated again and again, used to throw up and eliminate all identification.

Can You see that ALL labels are false? Can You see that the labels (like “spiritually aware” or “highly evolved”) or practices (like “opening the heart”, “becoming centred”, “connecting to the divine”) that are sought and revered via the personal development movement are dualistic and false? Can You see that Who You Are is beyond all labeling, description conceptualization and differentiation? Can You see that the palliative offerings of the personal development movement are fake pills and not the Ultimate Medicine?

2. There is no separate, self-centred, evolving or suffering, individual
Maharaj says: “You are not who you take yourself to be.” You have been programmed to believe this false story of an individual self. Yet, it is not true. If you observe closely, you will see that the thoughts and ideas you have about yourself are always in flux. Since this sense you have about yourself is created by the binding together of thoughts, and since thoughts are always changing – the sense of self is always changing, always fluctuating, always unstable. Maharaj explains further: “There is no "my self" and "his self". There is the Self, the only Self of all. Misled by the diversity of names and shapes, minds and bodies, you imagine multiple selves. We both are the self.” Or as floyd says with reference to the fears that plague the “suffering individual”: “You never feel scared. You can only witness. The pure consciousness can neither be brave nor afraid, but it can see what false identity thinks there is something to fear. Identify for a time with the energy at the wall plug in your kitchen. Can it be brave? Can it fear? Or it is just there, now, temporarily? Some day, that which houses it will fall and crumble. Your house shall not last forever. At that point, the energy will no longer be manifested there, but it will not end either. In the meantime, it is totally incapable of being afraid or brave, of having or not having. It just is.”

What happens when You drop this erroneous idea that You are a separate, self-centred, evolving or suffering individual? Can You see the absurdity of attempting to develop, enhance and improve this non-existent self?

3. Personal development implies accumulating new beliefs and new roles, whereas Realization involves eliminating all beliefs and all roles
The Advaitan Teaching encourages de-accumulation; the elimination of every role and every belief. The reason is clear. The fictional self is constructed from a matrix of thoughts, beliefs and roles that bind. The task of the Advaitan Teacher is to unravel this false binding; to strip away everything so that nothing remains. Who You Are is revealed in absence, in silence, when the false self is in absentia. Examine some popular examples of false roles and identities thrown up by the personal development movement: “intuitive healer”, “spiritual warrior”, “enlightened teacher” etc. Sheer logic must reveal that these roles are created by a net of beliefs and ideas about the self; and sheer logic must reveal that these roles are additions – added to what is Formless, Limitless, Non-dual. Whatever these roles may SOUND like to the ears of the grasping individual, they are all false.

Can You see why the alluring roles of the personal development movement are glittering trinkets that act as barriers to knowing Who You Are? With this understanding, can You eliminate ALL roles, ALL beliefs, ALL constructions of a self that differentiate?

The flirtation with the personal development movement and the acquiring of new roles typically occurs at the third step in the Seven-Step movement towards Realization. While it is acknowledged on this site that the step must be made, it must also been transitioned -- despite the allure it holds for many seekers.

To be continued.

Please enter the silence of contemplation.

(For extending teaching on the Advaitan Understanding – that guide You from the temporary fluctuating relative stance to abidance as Your Real Nature, see the links on the right hand side of this blog.)

Comments / clarifications may be sent to louise.advaita@gmail.com

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