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I met with Ram Dass in 2010 in Maui to discuss some of my own resistance to imagining myself in the role of a spiritual teacher or guide.
Since Soulshaping was published, I had been contacted by many readers who imagined me as someone who could help them to negotiate the next step in their journey. I had done my best to hold the space for their process with care, but I have often found the requests uncomfortable. Sometimes, my ego engaged, “I am so cool!” but mostly, I just wanted to run and hide.
I went to see Ram Dass to investigate my discomfort—to bring the struggle into consciousness. Interestingly, I had no trouble imagining him as a teacher guide. If something lived outside my own skin, it was easy to imagine it wise. But if it was me—a wiseguy maybe—but a wise guy?
When the first projections as a teacher came my way, it seemed ridiculously ironic. I had disparaged the Guru-God projection for years, somehow imagining that the moment we characterize another as a knower, we stop growing.
I could imagine turning to another as a reminder, but as a life teacher? It seemed contrary to my core humanism and to my experiential nature—G.U.R.U., my own life as a guru, that sort of thing.
Of course, I forgot my own earlier phases of God projections: Rumi, Maslow, Ram Dass, the homeless woman on a neighborhood street who reminded me to get out of my head whenever she saw me. The ego is such a conveniently forget-full structure.
We investigated. We began with what brought me to write Soulshaping, an egoic motive or a soul-sourced intention? That was easy. Soulshaping was encoded within me, a soul scripture that needed to be opened. Healthy humanifestation. It was the next step in my soul’s march toward wholeness, an expression and honoring of my innate image for this lifetime. If anything, my ego worked against me, undermining my self-belief, hemming me in at every turn.
But the issue wasn’t with me as an author. The issue was with me as a spiritual guide (or was it?)
We took the soulevator down another level. What came up when I imagined myself in this role? Lots of old voices emerged from their hiding places: feelings of shame, fear of public exposure, the internalized remnants of a disparaging family, soul history. Blah, blah, blah. Old news. The impulse was to run, but where?
Too conscious of my own resistance to get away with it, there really was nowhere to run to that my witness observer wouldn’t notice. I had outsmarted my defenses and was left with…what? The moment, with all its perils. I sought momentary refuge in my memories as a seeker. The seeking phases had been wonderfully growthful and, in their own way, self-avoidant. There was so much to learn, and that learning demanded that I live in the question and celebrate the “not knowing.”
But there was also a relief that came with not having to take my place at the table of the knowers. There was always one more workshop, one more experience, one more depth-avoidant behavior to work through before I would be more deeply in the moment: hide and seek. Being a finder, even to a limited extent, can be so much more vulnerable. Here you are, without tricks or distractions, naked and exposed before God, as God. Weird.
We examined my contention that my soul scriptures demanded that I’d only author, and not become a spirit guide. Ram Dass knew better. If my soul hadn’t wanted a public dimension, I would have picked a more anonymous path. Of course, there were no victims here. I created this; there was no one else to blame. But, why did my soul create this? Why had I chosen to cast myself in the karmic role of a guide and knower?
I delved a little deeper and was met with more questions.
If I created this karmic role, why do I resist it? What is in it for me? Which part of me is doing the resisting? Jeff? Jeff’s ego? The God-self? Who is attempting to understand this issue? Who is the interpreter? The interpreted? The Watcher?
Ram Dass encouraged me to see myself as a middleman for God, kind of like Charlie McCarthy speaking for Edgar Bergen. It’s not me who is helping the other; it’s me as a middleman, a channel. Brilliant idea, but it begs the question in my case. I am a workaholic Jewish guy from Toronto with big feet. I don’t imagine myself evolved enough to broker God’s deal.
Some part of the struggle rests on my own difficulties in understanding the relationship between the ego and the soul. In the Western culture, I am encouraged to develop the ego, to validate and empower the self. In other words, I am encouraged to believe in Jeff’s unlimited potential. Through this lens, of course, I can be a knower and a spirit guide. Yet, in certain Eastern traditions, the highest paths involve the dissipation of the ego.
I am only one piece of the universal pie—all one, that sort of thing. I dissipate the ego and merge with the universal soul. My way around this seemingly contradicting concept is to proceed in steps.
First, we develop the ego to the point where it is sturdy and integrated, and then we let it go, surrendering to the waves of unity consciousness. But still, this doesn’t resolve my confusion when the ego and the soul seem to be speaking at the same time.
I left his house unsure. I went to sleep that evening and woke up to a start.
The Maui rain was falling on the rooftop of my consciousness, inviting it to awaken. I went for a late-night walk through rainy Haiku—heaven on earth—and there it was. So obvious, so uncomplicated.
I was taking myself much too seriously. I have been resisting the idea of myself as a knower because I am only partially there. One foot in ego, one foot in soul.
The human predicament. Jeff as a soul has summoned the karmic projection as a knower so he can work through his own obstacles to it. Project God onto someone and that someone will quickly find out how far he lives from God. My resistance to my role is a perfect reminder of the Grist for the Soul Mill that I need to work through before I can more genuinely embody the God-self.
As some wise guy said in Soulshaping (and then forgot), “As it turns out, life really isn’t a dress rehearsal. It’s an undress rehearsal. We come down here, time and time again, to practice shedding our ego armor until we can step on the stage of eternity, naked and exposed before God, as God. Exit, cloud left…”
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