The Holistic Path to Happiness and Liberation
October 2, 2012 © Gian Paolo Girardi, All Rights Reserved
"The mountain top path says "seek nothing." Great! but...The market place path says "seek with detachment" Do we live in the mountains?" Gian Girardi
(Also published in this website under the titles
"When a Spiritual Path Is Unhealthy" and "The Seven Games of Life")
This article is based on my own spiritual journey, which taught me a
great lesson through a very painful experience. May you get the
lesson without the pain.
When I was young, about 23, I read a book about Yoga and spirituality that changed my life dramatically. The book was published by an organization that was managed by a fellowship of monastics, with their headquarter in Los Angeles. They were offering a path to Self-realization that was supposed to work for
individuals living in the world.
I thought that the initial excitement was proof that I was on the right path for me. However, little I knew that after years of devoted practice to the teachings, I was not going to get Self-Realization, but rather become sick
physically, mentally and spiritually.
There is a happy end to this story as you will find out, but it took decades of effort to heal the damage that resulted from my eagerness. Of course fundamental
part of this healing was to let go of the teachings and find
a healthier way to attain Awakening.
This painful experience lead me into deep study, introspection and spiritual experimentation, to understand the difference between a healthy
and an unhealthy spiritual path or teaching.
What I will share with you here, in just a few words, is the conclusions and insights that resulted from this long journey -- decades! It is my intention to help the seeker have an easier ride. I hope to save a few or many from becoming
prey to unhealthy spiritual teachings, and most especially, monastic
teachings while living in the world. I know that this knowledge can
be life saving as well as create clarity about how to pursue the
spiritual path safely and effectively.
I paid an enormous price to obtain these insights, you can have them here "for free," providing you are willing to take a moment and read these few pages.
Millions have had already, or will have in the future, the experience of being hurt by spiritual teachings and teachers -- it is part of life. Therefore, when you are about to commit to a spiritual teaching you are truly playing Russian roulette with your life. Your decision can lead to a life of great happiness and Realization or to the greatest disappointment, disease, feeling of betrayal, and eventually, as I have seen around me, premature death. This article is designed to help the sincere seeker discern with objectivity the quality of spiritual teachings.
To fall in love with a spiritual teacher, to believe that he or she is an "Avatar," does not guarantee that the spiritual path that will be presented to you is physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. These initial feelings of excitement, this initial faith and infatuation, is completely insufficient and guarantees nothing, as I realized. You can definitely be the next victim, and you may not even suspect it. The world is full of disillusioned disciples and students that instead of finding Self Realization found physical, mental and spiritual disease. We must educate ourselves about the spiritual path, before choosing our path!
This is very similar to the infatuation with a lover. Such infatuation is obviously not a guarantee that the relationship will work. How many relationships began with such intense feelings of love and ended up in court with the most bitter feelings imaginable? We need to look for a lover or spouse not only with the heart and our hormones but also use the intelligence that Nature gave us to see clearly beyond the appearances. We also need to educate ourself about the couple relationship. Likewise, before committing to a spiritual teacher and his/her teachings we need to educate ourselves about the spiritual path. The decision has to be made not only with the heart, but also with all our intelligence and spiritual discernment.
I hope that this article will also help those that have already committed to a path, but are willing to review their decision. It is very different to let go of an
unhealthy path after five years than after twenty or thirty years. The
depth of the injuries are quite different.
How you evaluate the quality of a spiritual teaching
Spiritual teachings have a strong impact in each and everyone of the "Games of Consciousness." (explained below). The impact can be quite positive, but it can also be negative or extremely negative -- depending on the quality of the teachings.
What are these Games about?
In the physical Universes, Consciousness is playing Seven Games and they are represented in the chakra system, also called "the tree of life." They have some fancy names in different spiritual traditions, but the simplest is to name them according to their location in reference to the physical body.
1- The Game of Survival
In the coccyx center, Consciousness is playing the game of survival. This is a game of cosmic proportions. Everywhere in the cosmos, every being, vegetable, animal, human or alien is playing this game. It is complex and challenging, enough to keep most of us quite busy day after day. In human life in this planet, it has acquired and even greater complexity due to the extraordinary invention we call money. Millions of books, movies, videos, teachings, have been produced just around this basic game.
Survival includes many other factors but possibly the most significant, in addition to making a living, is keeping the body healthy. Animals have developed complex mechanism to take care of their hygiene and health. Humans have done the same, and also have discovered the power of good nutrition, physical exercise, positive thinking and other factors that greatly impact the health of the human body.
Mistakes in playing this game effectively lead to disease and eventually premature death. Again, libraries have been written around the subject of health. Western medicine, the health insurance industry and the drug industry working together have become possibly the most powerful economic force in the world to serve or deceive, those who fail at keeping the body in good health through natural methods. Again this game is of cosmic proportions. Every being is engaged, but it reaches its greatest complexity in humans.
At this level of Consciousness, anything shorter than "I am fully entitled to pursue making a living and staying in good health and shape is ignorance." "I am entitled to charge for my time, expertise and service." "I am entitled to pursue optimum health using, clean, healthy food, natural substances and
natural methods of all sort"
2- The Game of Pleasure and Enjoyment
A more sophisticated game is the game of sensory pleasures, including the enjoyment of life through novelty and adventure. This is the second cosmic game of Consciousness and again it manifests in many animals but it attains its greatest expression in the human being. The pleasure of eating, and drinking, listening to music, making love, playing, exploring new activities and places are expression of this drive that is represented in the chakra system by the second center of Consciousness located in the sacrum area.
Here, at this level of Consciousness, anything shorter than "life has for purpose to provide great enjoyment, is ignorance."
3- The Game of Developing a Healthy and Self-Confident Personality
The third cosmic game consist in developing a healthy, likable, balanced, intelligent, self-confident personality. Even animals develop unique personality traits, but this game acquires its highest and most complex expression in humans. The word "persona" comes from the greek and means "mask." The personality is just elaborate mental programs but not a real alive being.
However, it is through the personality that we relate to each other. This magnificent game is likely being played everywhere in the universe wherever there is a complex life form, and it is represented by the third chakra or center of Consciousness in the solar plexus.
The personality is to a great extent the result of our likes and dislikes. Each personality type has a set of values and beliefs that give them unique likes and dislikes. This likes and dislikes are extremely valuable to create a functional civilization. Fortunately we all like different body types otherwise we would all fall for the same woman of the the same man. Fortunately we like different cars, or there would be only one car on earth. Fortunately we all love different activities or we would all be doing the same thing and everything else would be left undone.
Here, anything shorter than "I am a priceless human being" is ignorance (humanistic philosophy teach us that human life is priceless)
4- The Game of Romance, Relationships, and Purification of Love towards Unconditional Love
This cosmic game is represented by the Heart Center of Consciousness in the middle of the chest. It has two distinct expressions -- one human and one Divine. In the human aspect, the game consist in finding romance, and experiencing rich, growth producing, positive relationships. The complexity of the game has generated, countless poetry, novels, self-improvement books, movies, hepic stories, music, songs and art.
There is a divine aspect to this center -- the rapture of unconditional love. The joy experienced as a results of loving unconditionally is unmatched. Except for perhaps very occasional glimpses, this game is not accessible to many. It requires great spiritual development to love unconditionally -- even to love oneself unconditionally is a great challenge.
Here, anything shorter than "I love everything unconditionally is ignorance."
5- The Cosmic Game of Creativity
Creativity is the expression of the soul. Each soul has a unique talent or vocation that it longs to express and perfect. Finding our vocation is a soul challenge not a human one. This is why in general our Western psychology, which is ego or personality based, fails to do a good job at helping people find their true vocation in life.
I obtained a Masters of Art Degree in Psychology, and throughout the whole program, I never had even one hour class, or a ten minute simple discussion on the subject of vocation and its powerful psychological ramifications. I had to educate myself. Thanks to this education, today, UHA's curricula includes serious training on vocational counseling.
The Fifth Center of Consciousness, located at the throat, is powerful and transcendental in nature. When we are immersed in the creative expression we transcend all suffering, and we connect with our divine nature as souls.
In some yogic texts, creativity has been linked to the second center at the sacrum. This is incorrect. Procreativity (reproduction) is a natural function of all animals and humans and it is part of the second center of Consciousness, located at the sacrum. Although the words creativity and procreativity are similar they describe two quite different experiences.
Here, anything shorter than "I am a soul, a creative being destined to create and contribute with unique progress to the world, is ignorance"
6- The Pursue of Wisdom
The Cosmic Game of Finding Who or What We Truly Are
The Sixth Center of Consciousness located in the forehead is the greatest cosmic game ever -- finding who or what we truly are. As Consciousness begins to perceive through astral and later physical bodies, it loses sight of itself. It becomes identified with the instruments, astral and later physical bodies, and for a long time forgets its true nature.
The soul consists of Consciousness or Awareness identified with the astral body. The human being is Awareness identified with the human body. Both -- souls and humans -- are plagued with identification issues. The Cosmic Game of the sixth center consists of becoming aware of these identifications and overcome them, so that we identify ourselves again with our true Self -- Consciousness.
The highest purpose of every incarnation is to become aware of these identifications and let them go. Again, this is a game is of cosmic proportions and has given birth to countless religions, spiritual teachings, spiritual books, yoga, zen, the non-duality movement, and also refined art. Attaining wisdom leads eventually to liberation from all suffering -- "the Truth will make you free."
Here, anything shorter than I am Consciousness, the Divine Itself, is ignorance.
Another realization at this level is about the nature of all things. Science tells as that matter is 99.9999999999999% empty space. But, realizing the empty nature of the physical universe is also the goal of this game -- i.e. everything is Consciousness.
7- The Totality -- Final Integration
The seventh Center of Consciousness located in the crown is about attaining complete integration. Here we understand that Consciousness is expressing itself through all the chakra centers, through each and everyone of the seven Games of Life. Each game is being played by the Divine itself and deserves to be integrated in a harmonious whole, instead of being repressed, put down, feared, or seen with contempt.
Here, anything shorter than "Everything is the Divine," is ignorance
The Three Monastic Vows of Renunciation
Most monastic traditions adhere to the three vows of renunciation -- poverty, chastity and obedience. Whoever invented these three vows new exactly what he or she was doing and had clear knowledge of the "Tree of Life" or the Seven Games of Consciousness.
The vow of poverty consist of stepping aside from the game of survival. It is left to the religious organization to take care of the monastic basic needs.
The vow of chastity consist in stepping aside from the game of tactile pleasure in the second center of Consciousness -- no doubt one of the most powerful sensory pleasures. It also implies to step aside from the game of romance at the fourth center.
The wow of obedience is a serious blow to the personality as it implies the renunciation to likes and dislikes. It is left to the direct supervisor to determine what the renunciant has to do whether he/she likes it or not.
This vow is also a serious blow to the creative expression. The monastic cannot follow their natural vocation, and has to surrender to the dictates and needs of the organization. If he or she is by nature an artist, teacher, counselor or farmer at heart, still they may have to do accounting work for decades, and without complaining.
In the monastic life, aside from the three vows of renunciation, participation in the first five games of consciousness is discouraged in many subtle and not so subtle ways.
Pursuing good health in a monastery is quite a challenge. The food offered there is not necessarily healthy food, but the monastic can't do anything about it. This completes the stepping aside from the game of survival.
Having no money, also means no access to many sensory pleasures and natural enjoyments. Any hedonistic indulgence is seen with suspiciousness by superiors and peers. This completes the stepping aside from the game of sensory pleasures and enjoyment.
Any manifestation of preferences, likes, dislikes, frustration for not getting what they want or need, is considered egotistic, and often emotionally chastised. The "sheep personality" is much more welcome. This completes the stepping aside from the game of developing a healthy, self-confident personality.
Close friendships among monastics is looked upon with suspiciousness. The monastic is supposed to be there to befriend God alone. There is also not much space for social life in the monastery so this completes the stepping aside from the human aspect of the fourth game of Consciousness at the heart center.
Expression of creativity is seen by superiors and peers with contempt as egotism and self indulgence. Simple repetitive, boring, pain inflicting activities are seen as an expression of self-denial and devotion to God and the organization. This completes the stepping aside from the game of creativity and expression of the soul at the fifth center in the throat.
Of course there are variations inside this general picture. Some organizations are more rigid and traditional than others. However, make no mistake, the monastic life is a life of great self-denial, and, as we will see, it is easy to explain why the system, for the most part, does not work.
What is Left for the Monastic to Enjoy?
Today, most monastic traditions focus only in the expansion of human love towards unconditional love --the divine aspect of the heart chakra. However, because the vows generate so much self-denial, love for oneself often becomes impossible, and, without love for oneself, loving others and love for the divine are also precluded -- with rare exemptions.
Although rarely, some monastic organizations focus primarily on opening the sixth center of Consciousness. They pursue Awakening -- finding what they really are. However, often, the enormous repression that results for not participating in the first five games of life creates energy blockages and neurosis that preclude the Awakening too. Instead of Awakening, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual disease results.
Neurosis and the Seven Games of Life
It is all too human to develop abundant neurosis in relation to each of the seven games of Consciousness. Why?...
The human personality or "I" is not a real being. It is a fictional character made of programs and ideas about oneself. Trying to play the Games of Life successfully from this false "me" is wishful thinking. The result is that the we develops enormous biases, false assumptions, fear, frustration and imbalances around each one of the Games.
Money is no more than a tool -- a practical one, not good nor bad. However, think how much neurosis we humans develop just around the issue of money, in the first center. Poverty consciousness, greed, contempt towards money, fear of economic success, obsessive search for the golden calf, gambling, terror of poverty, dishonesty, selling weapons and destructive drugs, commercializing dangerous medications, lawsuits, wars, and on and on. All this suffering, all this neurosis is produced by just one of this games.
Let us look at the second Game of Consciousness. Sensory pleasures is a wonderful thing and it enhances and beautify life. However, think of how much neurosis we develop around this simple game. Lack of moderation to full blown addictions to, alcohol, drugs, sex and food create so many illnesses in the human body, brain and mind. Humanity has always been plagued by addictions and it will continue to be so. On the other hand, fear, repression, and contempt for the sensory experience is also a source of suffering.
All this neurosis is not because these games are not interesting and valid, but because we are playing them from the perspective of "here is 'me' -- a non-existent vulnerable being -- playing these games." These games quite honestly are not for the ego, they are "the games of the gods."
It is true that some egos eventually learn to play some of these games skillfully, but it is extremely rare that the individual will not develop serious imbalances in one, two, three or all of them. For example, it is quite something to see an individual developing great abilities to make money and as a result, he or she becomes imbalanced in several other areas of his /her life. Their romantic life becomes a disaster, or they become addicted to destructive substances, or they develop a narcissistic personality and fail at connecting with others, etc. Finding an ego that is clearly a success at all these games is extremely rare. However, there is a way to do this...
If you find out "who or what you really are," you will be able to play these games from a powerful identity -- I am Consciousness, I am the Divine playing the games of Life. This shift in identity will give you wisdom and strength to succeed at, and enjoy more, all the games of Life
The most intelligent way to play these games is to focus seriously at opening the sixth center, and from that opening improve your life at all levels. Simultaneously, of course, it is necessary to give balanced attention to each and everyone one of the games of life.
The teachings that work for living in the world, also called Market Place Teachings are the teachings of "AND:"
"this, AND this, AND this, AND this, ... AND that too."
The monastic teachings, also called Mountain Top Teachings are the teachings of "negation"
"not this not this, not this... just this"
Mountain top teachings "may" work in the monastery. However, they are often poison for the lay person living in the world. Unfortunately, most monastics do not understand this issue and they teach monastic ideas to people living in the world.
The founder of the yoga organization I entered when I was young was managed by monastics. The core of the teachings was a set of 180 lessons that were sent by mail to people living a normal life all over the world. These lessons contained information about how to live life in every respect.
The information was of course mostly about the monastic view and approach to life. in fact, the organization did not bother to create a set of lessons for lay people and another one for monastics -- it was the same set of lessons for both, with the same approach to life.
The result was disastrous. Marriages broken because of couples trying hard to practice celibacy. Many of my friends, although living in the world, they never married or never had any contact with the other sex. Many never bothered to find their vocation in life -- as this was also seen as an illusion. They worked and made a living doing little jobs for decades or their whole life time. Quite a few developed weird personalities, withdrawn and neurotic. They looked at the pleasures of life with contempt and suspiciousness. They kept themselves in poverty for no reason. They failed to connect properly with others. Their bodies became sick and their minds unstable. And I never met one of this individuals that really awakened to their true Self.
Ironically, in a book written by a nun called Jnana Mata (mother of Wisdom), who was considered one of the most advanced disciple, she writes:
"what is poison for the monastic is honey for those living in the world, and what is poison for the individual living in the world is honey for the monastic."
However, the organization never bothered to create two separate set of lessons. Everyone got, for the most part, monastic teachings. Additionally, every talk, every service, every class, every retreat, was presented by a monastic. Every book and every CD and DVD was also information coming form monastics. The monastic learns to live life from the monastic paradigm and does not know how to live life in the "market place." Therefore, again, everyone got monastic teachings through talks, services, classes, retreats as well as tapes and books.
When I realized the magnitude of the mistake I spoke about this issue with some of the monastics running the organization, but, although I found some receptivity there was no way that this situation could be modified. The monks and nuns in this organization still make a living selling monastic information to lay people. Casualties, or collateral damage happens also in spirituality.
Personally I experienced all the above mentioned neurosis, for about twenty years. Luckily in my thirties I began to study psychology and this gave me a new perspective that informed me on, first, how strong was the monastic influence in the teachings, and second, how unhealthy it was to apply monastic teachings while living in the world.
Gradually through a long period of time I became free of all monastic ideas and learned to live life in a healthy way. I became interested on the path of Non-Duality which focusses exclusively in helping the seeker to succeed at the sixth center by finding "what we are really." I decided to live every other aspect of my life according to healthy scientific, psychological and spiritual information and my life soon flourished.
Opening the Sixth Center - Finding What You Really Are
Still remains true that the ego is ineffective to play the Games of Life. Therefore, the first and most logical step is to find who or what you really are. Once this is accomplished, the shift in identity from "I am so an so" to I am Consciousness will help in two distinct ways:
1- To play the five basic games in a much more effective way.
2- To play them with detachment -- to keep in mind that they are only "games" and that what you really are is never touched or damaged by either succeeding, or, completely failing in these games.
How to Realize What You Are
Awakening to your true nature is easy, and anyone can do it. Adyashanti says, "even a donkey can wake up."
I have been offering one on one sessions to trigger the Awakened state for some time. It is a long session of three hours, however, it is not rare to find individuals that wake up in the first twenty minutes! Then, the rest of the session is used to clarify small doubts and consolidate the gain -- a wonderful gain indeed!
Once the Awakening has been attained the individual begins to play the Games of Life from the Awakened state -- from their new found identity. This deeply changes the ability to play these games, and creates a healthy detachment so that the games are seen for what they are -- games! They cannot touch your true nature. Success or failure will never define you again. You are what you are and nothing can change that one iota.
The Holistic Path Taught at BOI
BOHI basically offers three 10-Month Certifications. The first certification is about learning to keep body, brain and mind in good conditions, and heal previous imbalances using the science of nutrition -- diet and supplements.
The second certification is about keeping the mind in a healthy state by developing effective coping mechanisms and positive, objective thinking.
The third certification is about how to succeed spiritually, by finding what you really are, and having insight into the ultimate reality behind creation.
These courses are capable of producing a profound impact in the life of the student, as many of our graduate students have found out. They conform truly a holistic, market place path, that helps to succeed at each and everyone of the
Seven Games of Life.
BOHI presents these courses in a strictly academic setting,
free of spiritual manipulations and paraphernalia.
You will never find here ocre robes, gurus, devotees, followers, exploitation of volunteers, controlling spiritual leaders of any kind, or contempt for the world and the fascinating games that Consciousness is playing in the physical universe.
Turning a Lemon into Lemonade
It is often possible to turn a lemon into lemonade and fortunately this was the case here -- Gian's karma was bad, but not so bad. :) When I entered the spiritual path I knew little about what makes a spiritual teaching healthy or unhealthy. In fact most people don't know, so I was just as ignorant as the great majority.
The experience made me think deeply about the issue, for years! Eventually it all came into place, and today, it is easy to discern when spiritual teachings are healthy or unhealthy, contaminated with monastic ideas, or any other weird ideas.
This model of reality, this holistic path that you just have read about, is a direct result of this journey through the shadows and the dark. For anyone that sees its beauty and depth it can be liberating as it has been here.
How to Discern if a Particular Spiritual Path is Healthy or Unhealthy for You.
If you have read this article, you already have all the information you need. A truly healthy spiritual path should teach you how to integrate in your life, and succeed at each and everyone of the Seven Games of Consciousness. Foremost it should give you efficient tools to realize, in a short period of time, that you are not [your name here], that you are not the person you thought you were, that the "I' is a fictional character based on imagination, and that you are Pure Awareness.
If you notice that the teachings communicate contempt towards money, contempt or fear towards sensory pleasures, especially sex, contempt or an adversarial attitude towards the ego and the personality, contempt or fear towards the romantic aspect of life, contempt or neglect towards finding your true vocation in life, it is likely that the teachings have monastic influence, or simply put, are fully monastic teachings. If you want to become a monk or a nun and live in the monastery -- which often leads to a disaster, but a few still benefit -- those teachings may be for you. If you are not planning to live this lifetime in a monastery, and you are aiming for the highest path -- the holistic path of complete integration -- you better stay completely away from such teachings. You will get badly hurt and disappointed.
Make sure you also choose your teachers carefully. If you follow the teachings of a monastic organization, it is very likely that you will become influenced by their beliefs. It is not possible to believe in something and preach something else -- to begin with it is inauthentic.
You may listen to what some monastic have to say -- especially some Buddhist monks and nuns are contributing with valuable ideas -- but filter carefully what you swallow. Leave all thoughts of contempt towards the world for the monastics alone. They rejected the world; may you choose to love the world (with detachment).
John 3:16 "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son..."
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