One of the most essential things to understand about deep spiritual work is that it cannot be accomplished through conformity. There is a point earlier on during your spiritual journey when it is necessary to learn things, – and if you trust the source, to conform to them.
Conformity in the early stages of the path helps us make the dramatic shift into a spiritual life, but beyond the phase of initiation, conformity becomes a limitation to spiritual growth.
There are spiritual principles that are universally true, but they can only be vaguely understood using the intellectual capacity of our mind. Words are not refined enough to capture the subtle, almost invisible, reality of universal truth. That deeper reality can only be known through direct experience.
We are all different and we need to find our own unique access point to the reality of the divine. General principles are like GPS guidance; they will get you to the stadium, but they can’t find your seat for you. Once you get in the stadium, you must find your exact seat on your own.
Engaging in spiritual practice together creates a powerfully supportive atmosphere for revelation, but no one, and no group, can do your practice for you. At some point on the path, you must leave the security of consensus and find your own way.
Even though conformity must be avoided, alignment among spiritual groups is essential. The power of spiritual practice is amplified tremendously when it is done with a group of individuals, but only if those individuals are aligned around certain fundamental assumptions.
In the work that I do, I believe it is essential that we align around the conviction that our being has a mysterious source beyond comprehension and that living from that source is the purpose of spiritual life. When we circle around this shared perspective we create a sense of solidarity and trust that makes deep spiritual work possible.
Of course, the exact meaning of “a mysterious source beyond comprehension” and what it means to “live from it” must be left for everyone to discover on their own. No one can tell you what it is, or how to do it, except in broad terms, and even if the broad terms are true, we each must interpret and apply them for ourselves, – including what I'm sharing in this essay.
It is natural for us to want to be told what is true. At some level we don’t trust ourselves to accept the validity of our own understanding unless it is confirmed by someone or something outside. We are trained to want objective validation.
However, if we want to discover the mysteries of the universe, we must learn to trust ourselves. That is the big hurdle that must be crossed. We must look deeply at the incomprehensible reality within, find the meaning that is there, the one that we cannot fully express or even understand, and trust it unequivocally and completely. (In future essays I intend to explain why I see this level of self-trust as the essential nature of enlightenment.)
This doesn't mean that teachers aren't helpful, they can be very helpful. Someone who has come to that deep inner conviction within themselves can inspire others to discover their own truth. I believe that to be useful, a teacher must dance along a delicate line by demonstrating unshakeable conviction in their own realization without encouraging conformity.
Every one of us has a unique karma. No one can know exactly where another is on the path. No one can know what your destiny is. There are general principles that can be shared, and these can be very helpful, but there must also be room, in a sense infinite room, for everyone to find their own way home.
This is my conviction and I invite you to align with it where it feels appropriate to do so. But remember the invitation is to a place beyond certainty, beyond right and wrong, beyond anything I say — a place that each of us can experience, but none of us can know.