In our culture, it’s assumed that if you study something and you can explain it, then you ‘know’ it. But it seems to me that even though I can ‘explain’ many tenants of different spiritual traditions, I’m still a long way from knowing what it all really means.
For instance, reading Be Here Now and it has served to remind me that really, there is only the present moment.
I can make connections how this idea manifests in traditions like Judaism, whose word for G-d is yahove (actually, the name is unspeakable and unpronounceable, so that people won’t just throw it around like any other word. But this is the closest we can come to saying it). In Hebrew, the word for the present is hove, so we can see etymologically the link between what we call God and the Now.
But if I’m truly honest with myself, I see how incredibly infrequently I actually “inhabit” the now. I’m constantly making plans for the future (and worrying about whether this or that outcome will happen). Even in events that I’m happy to attend, I still find myself out of synch with what’s happening.
It reminded me of something I had been feeling these last few weeks, which is that I actually have no right to try and teach. Even though I can talk the talk, I am still such a baby when it comes to truly living the wisdom that I aspire to. I still feel like I have so much to learn, and that I need to let life experience give substance to all these insights I’ve studied.
I remembered that in Judaism, you’re not even allowed to begin studying the Kabbalah until the age of 40. You’ve got to go and learn all the scriptures and raise a family before you’re even permitted to dabble in the mystical side of things.
Same thing in Hinduism: you go through the stages of study, then rearing a family, and then at the end of your life, you go and meditate on who you are behind all the masks.
When I first heard this, I thought it was relics of a bygone age. Maybe more useful during in 16th century Israel or thousands of years ago in India. But we’ve now evolved to a point where we can handle the “good stuff” at a younger age. Of course, this was just lusting after wisdom. I just wanted to ‘get it’ so that I could get on with life knowing that I had understood all there was to be understood.
But of course, it doesn’t work like that. The work of bringing myself in line with these high teachings is much more torturous and difficult than I could have ever imagined. And until I am able to fully incarnate the teachings, what authority do I have to pronounce them? It would just be more posturing, more trying-to-get-something-out-of-spirituality.
I think it’s much better to just be honest about the whole mess, because we’re all in it (except for the few saints among us). And fully recognizing the mess admitting doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything about it: there are still certain concrete things that anyone can do to make the mess less messy. Even if I haven’t been to the Promised Land, I can still take the word of those who have been there, follow the maps they have set out, and perhaps try to show the way for other travelers along the path.
Meditation: Think back to a time when you could give advice to others that you couldn’t follow yourself. What stood in your way of embodying what you knew to be true?
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