Discernment – Navigating The Spiritual Minefield
By Christina Lavers
There is so much spiritual information floating around of varying quality, and for people who are just starting to awaken and connect with the spiritual aspects of life, it can be a challenge to discern the true gems from the trash.
I decided to compile some tips I have pieced together in relation to seeking external information and mentoring along my journey, and share it here today in hopes it helps others on their path to navigate the ‘spiritual minefield’.
Of course there are many fantastic teachers and teachings out there… finding them is all about discernment.
The Proponent of Light
This is someone who focuses on love and light. Their words of love ring true and make us feel warm and fuzzy. Their messages are filled with hope and positivity. They encourage the seeker to repel negativity, and become love and light. Their doctrines, however, dispense a neutered version of spirituality. Their practices can make the seeker feel good, feel like we are participating in something profound, without actually enabling true deep transformation.
The problem is that while some of what they say may be true, they are actually missing half of the picture. Balance is crucial in healthy spiritual development. And while it is great to celebrate the beautiful, light-filled aspects of being, it is also crucial to explore and integrate the dark aspects of ourselves. When the darkness is ignored or pushed away, it remains unresolved and continues to burden us at an unconscious level. Only through integration of our own darkness can we truly become realized beings, reflections of the whole.
You Are Special
There is no doubt that we are all special in our own unique way, and with so much negative programming in our world, making this realization is an essential step on our journey. However, there are different ways this awareness can develop. When information pertaining to our specialness is designed to appeal to the ego it can be problematic. Some teachings on offer make seekers feel as though we are part of a special elite spiritual club. “You are the brave ones; you are special…” The information appeals to the wounded, misunderstood aspect of the personality. When this aspect feels ‘seen’ and celebrated, an inflation occurs… and it feels good.
Instead of feeling like a weird misfit, we begin to feel like a chosen one; rather than the strange one, we become the exceptional one. However, this ‘inflation’ is not real growth because the information allows us to distance our self from the feeling of inferiority by stepping into a feeling of superiority, which is just the other side of the same coin.
True healing and humility occur when there is an acknowledgement and integration of both sides. By owning both our strengths and weaknesses we gain the ability to operate from a solid space of integrity and authenticity.
The Arrogant Teacher
This is a person who makes the seeker feel as though spiritual wisdom is only for the few with the intelligence to grasp the concepts that they espouse. The spirituality they promote is convoluted and has an elitist flavour. These people are masters at defending their position, not because they are right, but because they have highly developed the art of manipulating information for their own benefit. Often these types of teachers lord their knowledge over their followers in an attempt to make us feel inadequate. When we are grappling with our own sense of worth we might be inclined to believe that this teacher holds the secret we require, and strict adherence to their doctrines will eventually reveal it to us.
In reality spirituality is simple, and is accessible to everyone: the answers are all within. A big aspect of the spiritual journey is the process of recognizing where we have given away our power, and taking back our own authority.
One of the common aspects of a spiritually advanced person is that their sense of empathy and compassion is highly developed. This does not mean that they buy into ‘victim scripts’, or try and save anyone. Rather they recognize that everyone is divine and capable of finding their own way, but they also understand the difficulties of the journey, and their hearts are touched by the plight of others. The more advanced they are, the more they can feel their deep connection to everyone and everything.
This is someone who presents themselves as perfect and infallible. These people tend to have a strong focus on self-promotion and relish being in the limelight. They love to showcase their amazing qualities and abilities. When these people make mistakes they do not ‘own’ them; they try to deflect blame, or have some ‘story’ to explain away the error.
Generally these people are not worth listening to because they are coming from an ego perspective. The ego loves to be on a pedestal, at the centre of attention, and despises having weaknesses exposed. The problem is that the messages presented by the person are usually framed in a way where the truth becomes secondary to promoting and maintaining a hero persona.
Our society teaches us to hide our vulnerability. But being able to step into vulnerability is one of the most difficult and important qualities for a seeker to develop. Being able to be vulnerable is a crucial key to being authentic. If one is not able to be vulnerable when appropriate, it becomes a necessity to manipulate the truth to avoid showing any cracks. Someone who is not able to be vulnerable cannot be in their integrity at all times.
The Messianic Guru
This is one of the most dangerous teachers and is probably more common than one might suspect. Along the path of spiritual development there is a point when the seeker becomes aware of their own Godliness, and the fact that the whole universe revolves around them. When this profound truth is integrated in a holistic way, the seeker understands that all is about perspective, and appreciates the deep beauty and magic in the fact that we are all expressions of the divine and thus each have the ability to touch that deep point within where we all meet. We are each literally the centre of the universe, from our own unique perspective.
The messianic guru however recognizes his/her divinity but has not yet understood it from the bigger picture perspective. This person believes that they are ‘the one’ and that they have a ‘special’ relationship with God/ the universe. Sometimes this comes through in their teachings in a blatant way, other times it can be more discreet. However, even when a person is secretive about their beliefs, they usually drop enough hints that can be recognized by the discerning observer.
The danger is the underlying agenda is often subtly about supporting the ‘teacher’s’ distorted beliefs, and thus offers little to assist the seeker to uncover their own divinity.
The “They’re Coming To Save Us… Soon” Spokesman
This is someone who claims to be ‘speaking on behalf of’/channelling ‘higher beings’ who are coming to save us. While I have read a lot of excellent channelled material that claims to come from non-human entities, there is also a mountain of dodgy material. A common feature of some of the dodgy material is that it appeals to the victim mentality. “You poor things, life has been so hard, there are horrible beings that are so powerful that you have no hope of removing yourself from their grasp….but don’t worry because we are coming to save you…..soon. Very soon we will swoop down and fix everything so that you will live in a new paradise. Just keep reading our words…just keep believing and trusting in US, we assure you salvation is right around the corner.”
This kind of material is dangerous because it wraps the seeker in a sense of false hope, and does nothing to encourage self-exploration and deep growth. It promotes a sense of helplessness in the seeker, and supports the victim mentality by persuading the seeker to hand their power over to an external force. The focus on the ‘soon’ also functions to keep the seeker focused on the future and not in the NOW moment where our true power lies.
The Gloom and Doom Merchant
This is the teacher who appeals to the inner intensity junkie. These guys are the ones all over the net yelling dire prediction after dire prediction. This kind of information is often called fear-porn because it is a bit like watching a horror movie. It is dangerous and exciting, can be addictive, and most importantly, it is frightening. Too much immersion in this information will see us running for the hills (which might not be a bad thing in itself), wanting to learn a martial art (which might not be a bad thing in itself), and eyeing our neighbours suspiciously (I don’t think this is a good thing).
Fear is the great inhibitor of spiritual development. The more we fear, the more we close ourselves up to growth and transformation. When we focus too much on the fearful aspects of life we become tense and unbalanced, and can forget to nourish the beautiful, magical areas of our life. As more and more of our energy is dedicated to fear, the larger its presence becomes in our reality, and the beauty shrivels up. The seeker can be left with an overwhelming sense of disillusionment and despair. One of the reasons this path is so crippling is that a lot of the fearful situations we are faced with exist beyond our sphere of influence; there is little we can actually do to change the circumstances that are occurring on the global stage.
When we learn to acknowledge the reality occurring in our midst, but make a conscious decision to place our focus away from fear, onto that which we have the ability to affect positively, we encourage real transformation that benefits the whole. While the size of peoples’ sphere of influence varies, we all have access to one of the most potent points of change—ourselves. As we are all connected, healing ourselves has a potent effect on the collective unconscious, and the more light we can bring to this long neglected arena, the more light we will see reflected in our external reality.
Beyond ourselves we all have the ability to positively affect our surroundings. Be it our family, a plant, or our community, there is so much around us that we can nourish with love, and affect with our own unique endowments.
My Way IS The High Way
These are the teachers who believe that they have found, or been shown ‘the true path’. These teachers try to convince the seeker that they, and they alone, hold the key to their salvation. These people’s teachings often include a lot of judgement because of course, if theirs is the right way, then everyone else must be wrong.
In order to follow a teacher like this the seeker is required to sacrifice something. The first thing is usually money for a book or workshop which will reveal ‘part of’ their secret true path. The second and most troubling thing that must be sacrificed is the seekers own power of self-direction.
Usually it is the wounded aspect of a seeker that becomes attracted this kind of teacher, the aspect that doesn’t trust in our ability to find our ‘own’ way. But one of the most important aspects of the spiritual journey is discovering and celebrating our own uniqueness and allowing others to do the same. The further the seeker goes down the path the more we are able to shake off the false, socially constructed aspects of our personality and connect with our true, unique, inner-self.
There is no right or wrong on the spiritual path. Different people learn different things at different times in different ways. What works for one person might have no effect on another.
The Keys to Remember:
Anything that tells us that we need to read a certain book, listen to certain music or subscribe to a particular philosophy etc. should probably be discarded. Of course there is great stuff ‘out there’ to help along one’s journey… but while it may help, there is no ‘required’ learning on the spiritual path.
- Anything that tells us that the answer is outside our self is a huge red flag!
- Anything that leaves us with an overwhelming sense of despair is probably best avoided.
- Anything that makes us feel good, but doesn’t encourage deep work is probably a waste of time.
- Anything that encourages idolization of a leader is potentially dangerous to one’s development.
Let’s listen to our hearts.
Taking Responsibility For Our Energy
By Christina Lavers
For some, what I am about to share might seem radical, ridiculous, or even crazy, and for others will appear self-evident. I feel compelled to actively put it out there because I feel in many respects it is a crucial key to shifting our reality; the more people who take it to heart, the better our collective outlook will be.
At an early stage in my journey I became aware of the fact that each human is in fact a fractal of the whole. Deep within the vastness of our being we each contain every essence, every type of energy from the most sublimely divine to the most wickedly depraved. Initially when this realisation came to me it was quite abstract and there was a distance between me and the idea. However, as I explored the deeper regions of my being I found myself coming face to face with aspects that showed me that this was not just some faraway concept, it was a hardcore reality.
The more I explored my inner world the clearer it became that we implicitly contain every energetic expression. I realised that there was nothing that I could see in my outer world that was not in essence a part of me. Initially I was frightened by the understanding that I contained such dark and horrible pieces. Did this mean that I was evil? I didn’t want to be evil. Those guys out there are sociopaths, I am not a sociopath; I would never do those things, perpetrate those acts. On some level I feared that if I allowed myself to accept the dark aspects, I would become them. The only sane, good option it seemed was to leave them unclaimed; to reject them. However, as I explored these uncomfortable parts of myself it eventually occurred to me that it was actually possible to ‘own’ these parts without choosing to enact them. After all I am a sovereign being with the ability to decide what actions I deem worthy of expression. I could claim all my dark, ugly bits, bring them into conscious awareness, and still choose to operate from a space of love.
Casting Out The Dark
As young developing humans most of us learn to reject ‘undesirable’ aspects, to repress them in order to feel comfortable with our selves, and to ensure acceptance in our social group. We select what we are, and what we are not. In order to elucidate I will use the most basic example: I am light, I am not dark. However, if we are truly a reflection of the whole, then we should contain everything, even darkness. In rejecting and ‘disowning’ our dark parts we cast them out. But where do they go? I suspect this energy, cast out of our inner world, manifests in our external reality.
Rejected as part of the whole, thrown away from love, these elements seek to be re-integrated. They show up everywhere in our environment waiting for recognition. We perceive them as threats, and try to fight or ignore them. This doesn’t work; it only exacerbates the problem and reinforces the dualistic state caused by the self-imposed separation. If we recognize that external reality is a reflection of our inner state, it becomes clear that it is important that we take responsibility for our energy. In order stop adding to the problem we need to cease focusing so much on the outside and do some inner housekeeping. By healing our inner world, through acknowledgement of all that we truly are, we take responsibility for our energy and cease contributing to the darkness of our outer collective reality.
In order to illustrate my point I will use an analogy of a gardener. Imagine each of us is a gardener who has been gifted with the responsibility of managing every seed in existence. As this gardener we become aware that there are some seeds that develop into beautiful food and flowers. We value these seeds and carefully plant and nurture them. However, we also believe that some seeds grow into nasty weeds. Fearing the potential of these seeds we don’t want to be associated with them so, like most other gardeners in our world, we toss them away into the wind. ‘This is not me I want nothing to do with these seeds.’ These unclaimed, unmanaged seeds end up everywhere and thrive and threaten to dominate our environment. No one is willing to take responsibility for these plants. ‘No, I would never plant such a seed; this plant has nothing to do with me. It must just be the nature of reality.’
If instead we accepted responsibility for ‘owning’ the whole gamut of seeds, we could cease contributing to the communal problem. As a wise gardener we would not toss the potentially dangerous seeds away, we would do the opposite, aware of their power, we would keep them close by, where they could be kept in check and managed responsibly.
Continuing on with the gardening analogy, when we stop fearing the seeds that we allowed to get out of control through neglect and mismanagement, we might discover that judging them as weeds may have been rash decision triggered by fear and misunderstanding. If instead of pushing away the dark seeds, we chose to look at them more closely, we might discover that they have valuable qualities and attributes that we were previously unaware of. When tended and cultivated consciously, with understanding and awareness, we might find that their growth can actually have benefits for the whole.
“Like colours to an artist, there is no good or bad, the whole spectrum is available for expression. The darker colours are necessary to add depth, and when used appropriately, with awareness of the whole, are vital components of the emerging beauty.” ~ Jump Into the Blue.
Acknowledging The Wholeness
The more of us who assume responsibility of our own darkness, the less truant energy will be available to continue to animate the dark story that has been unfolding on this planet. Are we ready to stop being irresponsible gardeners dominated by unconsciously driven manifestations? Are we ready to stop placing the blame ‘out there’? Are we ready to own all that we truly are and stop denying our accountability? Are we ready to become custodians of our reality, acknowledging the wholeness of our being, so that we can consciously determine which elements we want to cultivate in our external reality? Rather than working to repress, fight, and deny some of what we are, let’s become mindful co-creators, nurturing and guiding a peaceful world based on love and beauty in full awareness of all that we are.
There are many approaches to begin exploring our inner world and integrating our shadow aspects. Carl Jung, a pioneer of shadow work, wrote much on the subject, and there are many great books and healers that teach strategies to facilitate the process. However, the most important attributes of initiating inner healing include being open, and willing to look at oneself as honestly as possible. A lot of my personal work takes place in meditation or in the bath. However, with certain challenging aspects I worked with a soul retrieval practitioner. She held space, and assisted me to connect with, and create an opening in my heart for some of my more stubborn, hidden, or sneaky parts.
The beauty of this work is that, not only does it contribute to healing our collective reality, it also creates powerful shifts on a personal level. When we face and integrate our fears and all our bits that we previously avoided, we find a new level of inner peace, solidity and wholeness.
Heart Aligned Eating: Beyond Dietary Absolutes
By Christina Lavers
There are so many different diets to choose from these days. Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, GAPS, Blood-type, and Raw are some of the more popular. Each one has its own guidelines and logic that dictates what someone who adheres to that particular diet can and can’t eat. Whether it’s for health, or moral reasons, proponents of each diet often promote it as ‘the way’. One of the most centrally focused, and highly debated aspects of these diets is whether they include the consumption of animal products. But is there really a one size fits all dietary approach that meets our complex, individual, and changing needs as humans? I don’t think so.
As a child I grew up on a small hobby farm. We had a couple cows, chickens and very occasionally pigs. All our animals had names, they were cherished and considered part of family; yet sometimes we ate them. On the property next to ours there was a small hippy commune and to the kids that lived there my family was known as ‘the meat-eaters next door’. Being an animal lover I found this difficult and once I was old enough to make my own food decisions I became vegetarian. For years nary a piece of meat crossed my lips.
One of the aspects I found most difficult about being vegetarian was the reaction of family and friends. Many responded as if my choice to not eat meat was merely a statement to highlight and challenge their food choices and a means to be special. In those days there were often not many vegetarian options at restaurants and often I would have to ask for an individual meal created just for me. At family dinners my refusal to partake in the food being served acted to isolate me and dampen the communal vibe.
Somewhere along the line I read that Buddha told his followers, wandering nuns and monks who relied on the kindness of others for their food, never to turn their nose up to an offering, even if it contained meat. Of course when Buddha was alive there were no factory farms and all food was ‘clean’ in terms of chemicals, yet still this idea resonated with me. I tweaked my staunch approach so that, while I would not buy meat of my own accord, when a guest at someone’s home I would partake in whatever I was offered.
Then, after more than a decade of eating mainly vegetarian, I found myself with some serious health issues. I am not suggesting that being vegetarian compromised my health, but, only when I reintroduced small amounts of meat, bone-broths and fermented vegetables, did I start seeing improvement in my overall wellbeing.
Initially the decision to stop being vegetarian was a difficult one to make. I realized that part of my identity was constructed around my position on food, and abandoning this position brought a lot of personal issues to the fore. I didn’t want to be ‘a meat-eater’. However the more I explored myself and my relationship to food the more it dawned on me that I was happy to be free of a label that dictated what I consumed. I wanted to be able to eat whatever felt right in the moment. I wanted to pay more attention to my body, to learn to listen to its needs, and to have flexibility to respond to changing internal and external conditions. I also wanted to consider the wellbeing of what I was eating as well as the planet that sustains us all. That is when the initial concept of ‘heart aligned’ eating began to crystallise in my mind.
Just because I was going to introduce some meat into my diet didn’t mean I had to reject the values that I was comfortable with. I would not support the disgrace that we call factory farms. I do not want to contribute to the suffering of any life form. Nor do I want to put the energy of distress and anguish into my body. When I examine issues like this I find it useful to ask myself how I would feel in the role. Personally I would be ok with a short life as an animal, as long as I had a decent existence. Of course this is a very personal question and depending on our nature and beliefs we will have different answers.
In what I call ‘heart aligned eating’ there are no rules, or restrictions, except that dietary decisions are based on love; there is room for flow and change from moment to moment. For me the guiding principal is conscious consideration of all the aspects included in the act of consumption: the food, the planet, my body, the people I am with. Heart aligned eating is highly personal and involves no judgement of other people’s food choices.
In a group situation, though I am not always excited about it, I usually choose to partake in whatever food is being shared. In most cases this feels right for me and the overall energy feels better than if I shunned the food that someone lovingly prepared. However, in our own home we don’t purchase factory farmed produce. Our family buys meat that we know has been as ethically raised as possible, preferably from local farmers. If available we will choose organic because it is better for our bodies, and the planet. Obviously these considerations make for a more expensive option, but by choosing to eat less meat, and rarely eating out, we can afford to make this sacrifice. It’s all about priorities and for us our food is more of a priority than material objects and convenience. With vegetables we also buy as much local and organically grown as possible.
The further I have gone down this path the more I have learned to listen to the needs of my body. This has not been easy because living in a society that teaches that high levels of sugar and processed foods is normal, internal signals and cravings have been distorted and the journey towards realignment has been challenging. Food diaries, short term elimination diets, and meditation can be helpful to re-establish a connection with the true requirements of our bodies. We are each incredibly unique creatures, with our own personal nutritional requirements that can change depending on our circumstances. What works for one person may affect another adversely. Heart aligned eating allows each person to establish an individual dietary routine that comes from within rather than from an externally oriented source.
In a perfect world there would be no factory farms, toxic pesticides, or low quality processed food. In the past, in many tribal societies, an awareness that inextricably connected the individual to all aspects of the wider world was an innate part existence. Community shamans were in tune with the natural balance of life and were guided by a level of respect towards everything in their environment. Unfortunately this is a perspective that we, convinced of our superiority, long ago disregarded for the sake of convenience and efficiency. We consider ourselves to be more evolved than our ancestors, and scoff at their animistic beliefs, however science is now coming full circle and gradually it is becoming less absurd to believe that all life forms have a spiritual essence. For example we now know that plants communicate and are as motivated toward self-preservation as any other life form (while they can’t run away, they release certain chemicals when threatened).
Ultimately all is energy and in this world one life form survives by consuming another. But when we shift to a heart focused perspective we cease operating from disconnection and instead adopt a loving approach in our interaction with ourselves and our environment; one that reflects and honours our intimate connection with all that is.
Can You Hear the Whispers of Love
2nd June 2016
By Christina Lavers
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ Carl Jung
Have you noticed something mysterious, electrifying, but slightly daunting stirring within? Something that just doesn’t quite fit with the way we have been taught to see the world? If you have you are not alone. After eons of near silence our hearts are calling out, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore their whispering truths.
Those of us who have chosen to pull our attention away from the seduction of the external theatrics, to respond to the gentle urgings emanating from our core, find ourselves opening up to profound transformation. Suddenly jobs, friends, entertainment, and for some, whole lifestyles that used to seem like a good fit, now feel uncomfortable and unsatisfying; so many of the ‘things’ in our surrounds that we once deemed essential to bolster our sense of identify no longer feel meaningful; and concepts like integrity, compassion, authenticity, and love that were once just distant ideals abruptly take centre stage and demand to be acknowledged.
To illustrate the situation I will use a simple analogy. Imagine if we had grown up listening to a radio that didn’t work properly. Every station had some form of distorted noise coming through that we had come to regard as normal music. We had our favourite distorted tunes that, though they didn’t really sound amazing, had a certain familiarity and appeal. Then one day everything changes. As we flick through the many channels we hear extremely faint, yet discernibly pure music seeping out. We can make out a melody, a harmony, and a beat that not only sounds, but feels, sublime. As we get better at attuning to that particular frequency we begin to hear the music with increasing clarity. The more we listen, the less appealing the old distorted channels we grew up listening to feel, until we eventually find ourselves satisfied by nothing less than the depth and radiance that is embodied in that new frequency bandwidth.
Some of us have been following this mysterious call for a long time. Drawn towards long forgotten and undiscovered terrain we have abandoned the shallow, busy, fast-paced mainstream highway and worked to carve out a unique path that we know is ultimately leading back to alignment with our hearts. For others of us this calling is new, and though compelling, is also somewhat perplexing in the way it contrasts with everything we have accepted to be true. The good news is that numbers are growing exponentially – there are many of us who are succeeding in pulling our attention away from all the external distraction long enough to allow the faint whispers to come alive within us, to expand through our being, and to spread outward, subtly affecting everything we touch. And as the numbers swell and more people choose to move against the grain of mass consensus, the momentum gradually increases, and the journey becomes a little smoother, a little less treacherous, and a lot more evident.
“One love, one heart, one destiny.” ~ Bob Marley
One of the beautiful aspects of this process is that though each person’s journey is completely unique and perfectly aligned to our individual needs, because we are each connecting to the frequency of heart source, a space where we all meet as one, there is a sense of cohesion, of coherency, and interconnection to all that unfolds from that divine point.
However, as the impetus increases, the misaligned distortion of the old reality we are moving away from will continue to threaten, thrash and buck. Trying to command our attention and scare us, or seduce us back into its sway, it will attempt to escalate the intensity of its spectacle. However, the more we learn not to buy into the old drama, not to feed it with the energy of our focus, the less power it will ultimately have, and the more swiftly it will fade into oblivion.
The real challenge is just to be true. We are so used to hiding our flaws, our vulnerabilities, and even our light, but the path of the heart requires emotional bravery. It requires us to step out of the comfort of normality, to stand in our truth and to honour all that we are. As we make this shift inside we need to be prepared to learn to accept our perceived weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and to experience awkward and uncomfortable situations. This is just part of the process. As we get used to operating from the loving space of our deeper self, the more we will be able to move through the world with ease and grace. And the more we align with this change, the safer we will feel to expand out to far reaches of our beings and re-member all that we truly are.
Personally, as this shift occurs within I have felt myself drawn to a more natural, simple, creative lifestyle. As I release social programming the need for external validation lessens and I find myself discovering what really makes my heart sing. I am learning to weave love into every aspect of my life, through the light and the shadows, and the more I am able to do this, the more I feel myself participating in a profound magical dance that is at once an expression of my unique soul, and a reconnection to a beautiful collective harmony. As more and more of us choose to realign with our hearts and discover our true natures, I believe we will see that we are capable of creating a new world that instead of being driven by fear, greed, exploitation and competition, is based on love, acceptance, compassion and cooperation.
“Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.” ~ Michael Jackson