Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE MYTH OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. PART 2: – SITE CO-HOST: LOUISE STERLING

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Outside the window is a bed of cannas – with their magnificent deep orange flowers and seriated pale and dark green leaves. Often, I observe these flowers noticing the relative “life stages“ – the new buds, the flowers in their perfect prime, followed by the inevitable withering, desiccation and decay of the blooms. Everything about the cycle of life or the life stages in the relative is revealed here. These life stages can be seen not only by observing the cannas in the garden, but also the troop of baboons that gather on the road at the Cape Point Nature Reserve, or the surging mass of human beings at the local supermarket.

From the vantage point of the impersonal gaze, these life stages are simply witnessed. Within the constantly changing field of consciousness, all life follows this predictable pattern: cycling into manifestation; temporary, manifest “identity”; cycling out of manifestation. The “identity” which may appear fixed and solid is actually temporary, fleeting, always fluctuating. There is nothing that can be perceived as permanent in this changing kaleidoscope of the relative life.
As floyd indicated yesterday, the conscious energy that cycles into and out of manifestation witnesses but cannot emote, grow, develop, evolve, feel fear, be empowered. The conscious energy is impersonal – without attributes.

Let’s examine the personal development movement from this impersonal vantage point. The process of personal development really means improving or developing the person – or persona. In other words, it functions at the level of personality. Essentially most personal development techniques label and identify a “negative” or “limited” persona and replace this with a “positive” and “empowered” persona. So, for example, the persona of the “abandoned child” may be replaced with the persona of the “golden child”. In reality, the net of thoughts that construct a limited persona are deconstructed and edited, and a new net of thoughts are adopted that give life to a new, improved persona. This is the technique used in positive affirmation type work, re-imaging, LGATs and even some types of psychotherapy. Can You see that these personal development techniques could be called: "Redecorating the Egoic Self" or "Plastic Surgery for the Personas"? They are concerned with improving or re-imaging a fictional self-identity.

Can personas be changed? Of course – they can be tweaked and re-shaped and re-tooled with various self-empowerment techniques. The Angry and Controlling Boss can become the Flexible and Visionary Leader; the Unassertive and Shy Employee can become the Employee Who is True to Herself and Speaks Up; the Domineering Parent can become a Good Listener and a Caring Communicator. The predominant personality type cannot be shifted – this is set in place usually by the age of six. However, every personality type has an actualized or empowered range – and the skills to navigate within this range can be learned and acquired. Perhaps on the surface, this appears helpful and useful. However, from the viewpoint of the Advaitan Teachings, the stance that binds one to body-mind-personality identification is a prison. Limited or “improved”, personas are still personality constructs – illusory forms driven by desires and fears. They are still ties that bind.

Yet, for many, the various personal development seminars seem to “work”. For some, there is a temporary rush that comes from resting in the gap between abandoning old patterns and ideas and replacing them with new ones. Instead of seeing that in the gap they are resting in their own true nature, the entranced seekers will assume that the techniques have “done the trick”. The world out there may look and feel different – for a time. However, there is still a fictional and limited self in place – a false identity driven by a net of fears and desires – and sooner or later this sense of being limited, separate, and splintered will re-emerge, and usually the seeker will sign up for the Advanced Course or the new Therapy of the Month – to obtain a fresh injection of temporary relief.

As Maharaj says: “The limited only is perfectible. The unlimited is already perfect. You are perfect, only you don't know it. Learn to know yourself and you will discover wonders.” And:

"The desire to find the self will surely be fulfilled, provided you want nothing else. But you must be honest with yourself and really want nothing else. If in the meantime you want many other things and are engaged in their pursuit, your main purpose may be delayed until you grow wiser and cease being torn between contradictory urges. Go within, without swerving, without ever looking outward."

Is Your gaze turned inwards? Is the final desire to find the True Self what is driving You? Have You abandoned the endless distractions of the personal development and spiritual movements in the outer world?

(Note: For some seekers entranced by personality, the relative effects are such that psychotherapy, counseling and even medication are appropriate and necessary interventions. A degree of stability at the relative level is required for the liberation teachings of Advaita to be understood.)

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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