I often read spiritual and self-help books and become inspired. I feel like I have a deep understanding while the book is in front of my eyes; I get momentarily enlightened. I notice however that soon as I put the book down, power and inspiration vanishes like a cloud. The moment I walk away from the book I can’t quite feel as positive and secure as did when enthralled in my readings. So I go back and choose a different book. I feel like I get addicted to the process – “This new book will make me happy”. Something feels real when I’m reading but unreal when I’m away. I read it many times hoping to internalize the teachings, to no avail. I’m not alone on this frustrating routine, so I decided to explore.
I understand teachings intellectually. I am perfectly able to absorb the words and ideas. I understand it so well my mind makes up stuff. I begin to feel as if I’m actually living the teachings, but it is just an image. After a lot of soul searching I realize this problem is caused by something rather simple.
We cannot live the experience of others – we have to learn it ourselves. These experiences are just good stories, or good ideas but they don’t belong to us. We have to earn it in order to make it our own. But there is another problem; how can we even trust the teachings we read are worth anything? Who is the gate keeper?
Teachings are either traditions passed down to generations or experiences lived by teachers or thinkers. But how can we trust our them? Teachings are words, or just thinking; an idea with a potential. The teachings we come across might not even represent what the communicator really feel or knows in his or her heart. He or she might be quoting other teachers or experiences others have had, some time ago, in some distant country. But teachings are only useful if they can affect change in our daily life or our world. Only your heart can decide if a teaching or teacher is real. Your intellect will always make mistakes.
The transmission of a teaching is indeed difficult and challenging because teachings are sort of unspeakable things. We might get it and know it for a moment, other times we might just be repeating what we’ve heard without understanding (more often the later). Often times we are trying to learn teachings that are out of reach.
Complex and life changing teachings are easily available throughout an infinite collection of books and lectures; they might be amazing but out of reach simply because they are too advanced. To fully grasp them requires huge life experience we might not have just yet. But we are ambitious with our spiritual quest. We want to become enlightened quickly, so we fill ourselves with teachings but that only make us more confused.
I became frustrated with acquisition of teachings, frustration lead to depression and depression turned into hopelessness in a vicious circle going around and around. After a while I just gave it all up. All my hopes for fruition were gone. I sat there without nothing to do and wait for. Then I found a little gold nugget.
Ounce I let go of all teachings there was actually more light. It became roomier and spacious in my mind, and it was like the fog had lifted. The room was filled with emptiness; I saw objects I’ve never thought were there. I realized the only teachings worth knowing were the ones within reach, and there were quite a few of them. I continue to visit teachings be I don’t expect anything from them. These little insights were small and simple but they were real and within my grasp.
Maybe just the true knowledge of how meditations have affected my life was one of them. Just a simple realization but truly palpable and useful – powerful. Others begin to emerge. Maybe I’ve only learned two things in the last five years but I’m proud of them because they are real. I didn’t read about them in some book, I actually found them simply realizing their existence. How do I know they are real?
I don’t. life is a work in progress. If I told you I know, or if anyone tells you they know – be suspicious. Teachings are as impermanent and brief as our life. I am only sure of one thing – insights have a clear and consistent quality and appear to be alive. Sometimes they are very clear and obvious, other times more diffuse. Sometimes they just appear to you as a rare bird that lands on your windowsill. Other times you have to work extra hard to even get a glimpse of them. If you see it clearly one day it doesn’t mean you always will. Sometimes I feel like it is when you get rid of everything you start learning. In the end of the day only yourself can decide what’s right or wrong; actually, leave it to your heart for a job well done.
Image credit: flickr.com