Most of my life has been spent seeking answers to life’s greater questions: who are we, where are we going, how will we get there? The eternal truths have always seemed to be embedded within various religions, and I have spent much time learning from the teachings of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews. I even picked up a thing or two from various pagan friends, voodoo witch doctors and Native Americans.
I have chanted, meditated, prayed and sweat in sweat lodges. I have even traveled to far off destinations to engage in some of these activities.
In the midst of all this seeking, I learned something very quickly: before you throw yourself into the pool of sacrifice hoping for an answer, send the Kool Aid off to the lab for testing.
Here are a few ways to tell if the juice you’re drinking isn’t good for you.
1. How much money did you have to pay for this? Anything beyond helping share expenses for the rent or bringing a plate of food is unconscionable. Charging three digits is outrageous, and anything in the thousands is downright criminal. Spirit is free, no matter what cloak it wears.
2. If someone tells you that they know a secret they will share with you they are lying. The sad fact is that there may be guidelines for living right (don’t kill each other, be nice, we know them all by now) but there is no ultimate secret that will provide the keys to the kingdom. Each person has been given the task to unlock their own secret within. Yes, sorry to tell you, this is not a one size fits all sort of thing. Dig down deep and figure out your own secret.
3. As soon as a teacher says you must do something in order to grow, ask why. Because frankly, you do not have to do anything you do not want to do. Yes, there are all sorts of things we must do in order to facilitate our spiritual growth, but we usually know what these things are and they do not involve potential physical harm. I remember being in a workshop once where a teacher told us we all had to sob in order to release toxins or whatever was holding us back in life. We were not allowed to simply cry, that was not enough of a release. Well, I was never very good at following directions, so I guess those toxins are still floating around my system somewhere. Maybe I’ll dig them up, dust them off and ship them right out to the spiritual leaders who are poisoning people.
And finally, here is the most important thing I have to share with you. Because really, this is what it is all about.
4. DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN INDIGENOUS TRADITIONS WITH A NON INDIGENOUS LEADER. It is a violation of a culture for one to learn a tradition, teach it to others and make a profit by doing so. Would you attend a Catholic church if the priest leading the mass was a non-ordained Australian Aborigine? No, you would be offended that there was no priest. Would you allow yourself to be baptized by a Rabbi? So why would anyone attend a sweat lodge run by a non-Native, egotistical, self-proclaimed teacher who charges thousands of dollars? (Refer to #1 for a refresher on the money issue).
Seeking spiritual enlightenment is a way of life for many. But do not allow your questioning nature to open the door for scam artists. Beware of anything that appeals to the ego or is coming from the ego. It takes much patience to discern truth, but in the long run you may just be able to avoid drinking the Kool Aid.