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Spiritual Washouts?
by Jo Danieli

There is a basic misunderstanding between most spiritual teachers of this world and their modern pupils concerning seminars and workshops that promote methods of "not-thinking" as great spiritual goal. The misunderstanding has to do with what "not-thinking" means. Many people today might feel very attracted by the thought of not having to think any more, especially those who long for spiritual understanding and a way to discover their true inner being. Also those who search for the answer to the meaning of the universe (if they don't accept 42). They would love to learn to just switch off their thoughts that signal "Something is wrong in my life." Such people tend to frequent "Not-thinking-workshops". I know some of that kind.

But to present "thinking" (in the meaning of having to make decisions and having to cope with every day's life's tasks, rules and plights) as evil takes away the basis of any spiritual experience of self. What does that mean? Thinking belongs to a human being like everything else that he is able to do. Like imagining, breathing, longing, sleeping, craving, loving, questioning ... Thinking is there from the very beginning, nobody is inoculated with it, it just develops as it is necessary to make the system "homo sapiens sapiens" work. Why judge it right or wrong, why not accept it? To become empty of thoughts is the wish of people who don't know what to do with their thoughts, who are afraid of them because they haven't found a way to deal with them in a satisfying way. Every spiritual "school" was developed from one person with a special view of the world and himself. Concerning "thinking" in the meaning of consciously producing or becoming aware of what are called "thoughts" some spiritual leaders have found their own thoughts quite painful (compared with what they should have thought by rules of their society or, like Freud would say, their "Superego") and tried to make them remain silent. Their pupils are of the same opinion and contribute to their master's ideas - which still are based on personal views of life. But what a waste of energy and what a mistake to try to eliminate our most valuable tool - our thinking! We can use it for everything we want, we build our world by it. We only have to learn to deal with it properly. To try to avoid thinking is like trying to avoid using the legs when walking. Even to decide not to think takes - thinking. Whatever we intend to do - to keep the intention, which may be, for example, not to think, - we have to keep it within our mind and by that think of it.

There are seminars where people sit in closed rooms without moving for hours and days trying not to think. I met a friend of mine after such a seminar, lately, and he was quite desperate. He said, this time - he had done it before with more success - he had come quite to the edge of what he could stand. Pain everywhere with the rule not to move and hardly ever real quietness inside. He had gone to the seminar to escape his job and his impatience in everyday life. Thousands of thoughts at a "not-thinking" seminar! "I feel I am not the right one to be able to do that," he said, and accused himself of being a spiritual washout. He never would become like his master, he complained, but his life was so tiny and worthless.

Wow, I thought and let him go, as I know from experience with this man that he would take anything somebody else says as an affront against him. His most used sentence is, by the way: "I don't know." Once I dared to say "... but I do." Gosh, what a discussion about me thinking to be Jesus with exaggerated self-esteem, only because I had mentioned something my friend just cannot imagine: that I am sure of myself. Oh, he has tried out a lot of esoteric stuff in his spiritual striving to feel better. And nothing has worked out well enough for him to become happy. He has often told me that he is worthless and nothing - coming out of a deep Catholic family and with a longtime fear of losing his security by losing his job. He doesn't have a girlfriend as he believes sex and feelings would weaken him ... okay, no more details. This man really wants to learn not to think, as there is so much pain that he has to think of all the time. The most painful of all is that he doesn't know how to think to feel better. He is not at all ready to get to know the "Huna" point of view, although he knows about the principles, as he found out that it would take a complete change of thinking. So for him it is better trying not to think instead of giving up the security of the old pain and self image. He would have to start holding "aloha" like a banner and keep looking at it whenever old, unpleasant patterns, that are meant to be eliminated, pop up. (It is not that easy, but in summary, it is like that),

Maybe there are lots of students of esoteric matters who feel like spiritual washouts sometimes if they cannot achieve what their masters show them as optimum. Of course there is always another way to achieve something, but sometimes people are better off taking a different path if the world view of a spiritual master doesn't fit to their own inner being.

Healing, inner cleansing, "kala", has to do with attentive thinking, feeling and deciding, but not with refusal to acknowledge the tasks and abilities of "lono," the directing mind. Only by thinking on it we can make ourselves gain comfort, harmony, health and peace, never by ignoring what we want to achieve. You get what you focus on. If you constantly think of denying your thinking-device you become ... okay. It isn't necessary to go further into this thought. Our bodymind needs the guidance of the thinking, the directing department within the whole system. If we try to stop this from working, we try to stop the whole system of what we are.

There are many forms of meditation that bring inner peace, just looking at a leaf for a while has a calming effect. The thoughts may be allowed to flow, they calm down by themselves or confine themselves to really important issues when we hold out attention on something, maybe on our own breath or the sound of our steps while walking, ocean waves, clouds, cats playing, a piece of wood or the inner image of anything we like. Nobody becomes "empty" of thoughts if he doesn't make his peace with thinking itself because he is accusing his very nature of being wrong. To make peace with one's own thinking means to become aware of what we are thinking and to direct our attention deliberately and intentionally to what we feel is of true importance in a healthy, calming, positive way.

Thinking brings us from one second of our life to the next, we can't help thinking, it belongs to our survival-system. True inner satisfaction doesn't come from ignoring parts of our being but from accepting all aspects of ourselves and trying to understand them and use them in the best possible way - instead of trying to ignore what makes us worry. We ought to like what we are, we can and we want. Whatever tools we have, they are right for us. Nature doesn't produce senseless things in her creatures.

Millions of people who belong to a certain religious practice may not dare to admit that they don't feel really fine with what they think they have to believe in. So the solution for this dilemma is not to stop thinking, but to stop believing what doesn't feel right, and there is a big difference between those two! Millions of people just don't understand what others are able to understand - as their inner nature doesn't allow it. Their belief-system just holds a different pattern than that which would be necessary to feel comfortable with what they learn. They can establish new patterns any time, consciously, but if they don't discover this ability, who will show them? So they keep on digging old pits even deeper until they can't get out of them any more without help.

The great religions have a strict dogmatic network, but the modern spiritual trends don't, and all depends on the master. If unhappy spiritual pupils would think once of the fact, that their master for sure doesn't understand everything that is of value in their view of the world, they might feel much better. Beliefs are highly individual stuff, no matter which source they come from. No two people in this world have the same view of Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or anything else. Why not? Because not two people in this world have lived the same life and have thought the same thoughts that led to them what they are now, trying to obey religious rules. Many conflicts result between the spiritual rules created by spiritual masters which the pupils are not able to consider being right and sensible and the pupil's wish to obey to them. Many spiritual misunderstandings are due to the fact that masters and students don't talk the same language.

The example of "not thinking" shows that people can have a totally different view of what that means. My friend's Zen-master for sure didn't mean to tell or "order" what my friend understood. It may be nice to dwell in foreign spirituality, but it makes no sense if you don't know anything of the underyling culture. My friend isn't able to tell me anything about Zen. To participate in rituals without knowing what they are for, is like listening to expressions without knowing how the people of the foreign country where the spiritual system originated use those expressions.

My special friend told me that after two years of regularly going to Zen-meditations, he had found out now, that Zen was not a religion. I asked myself if the teacher hadn't taken any efforts to make himself understood among his students or if this student was already too deep in his pit, so much captivated in his opinions and view of the world that he just was not able to understand what other people say, as he interprets everything in his way so that it supports his points of view. This man will probably keep on suffering from the feeling of being a spiritual washout. He told me recently, that he would do the not-thinking-week-long workshop again. "But this time," he said, "I will sit and not think, even if my bones break and my brain starts boiling." I answered "Aloha," and I really meant it.

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