Archive for November 16th, 2007

What about Intention?

Posted on November 16, 2007. Filed under: Spirituality |

My five-week book group has ended. I feel mostly relief. Of course, I could have left any time I wanted to, but with only a five week commitment, I thought I’d stick it out. Don’t get me wrong, the people were lovely and open-minded. I guess this sort of thing is just not my cup of tea. I mentioned in a previous post on this topic that I would never have joined a group discussing novels. Fiction is a very personal experience for me, and I will not talk about a novel to anyone until I’ve finished it. But, this group was reading a popular “how-to” by a popular author. The author is fine, has a good message, and writes fairly well. So why does it sound like I’m complaining?

The book is a self-help book, one among many thousands. I have enjoyed many such books in the past. I have incorporated the suggestions, ideas, and exercises in some. I have not completely followed the program of any of them 100%, and therefore transformed my life thereby. I used to think that was due to some failing within me: I didn’t follow the program tenaciously enough, or I really didn’t want to change–“Look at me, I’m self-sabotaging”. Or, perhaps, I hadn’t found “THE” book yet.

At this point I feel that if I’m going to completely benefit from such a book, I’ll have to write it myself, and then follow its suggestions! I’m actually quite serious about this, and it becomes my new reason why many of these books do not “work” for me–or I don’t work them. They each were written by a unique individual, and each may have a wonderful program that individual has discovered, made up, or distilled from previous works or teachers.  This program, though, is that of the author’s.  Perhaps a few will find in the method “the” way, and those folks become it’s greatest spokespeople.  But for the majority of the readers, once the inspirational “high” has worn off, they may find there are pieces missing, or too many pieces which don’t fit.  In fact I was reading a review of one such program recently which criticized the work for being merely a compilation of “X, Y, and Z”.

I don’t necessarily see it as a criticism, per se, that “this new guru’s philosophy is ‘merely’ as distillation of Buddhism, Scientology, and Nuclear Physics”, for instance. In a sense, that’s what we’re all doing. Most of us develop our philosophies using ideas from many sources. We use sacred and secular teachings as tools to examine our own point of view. Hopefully we then spend quiet time, meditation, or journaling time to weave those tools and our own ideas into a unique philosophy.

There is great appeal in a “follow the dots” kind of religion or spiritual or psychological practice. We’re told if we connect those dots (“rules”), that at some point the big picture of reality will emerge. If we do it “right” we’ll be rewarded with all the benefits to which the “real rule followers” are entitled.  Our “idol” may be a guru, priest, celebrity, some combination of the previous, or a book: “The” Bible, Koran, or Bhagavad Gita, or “The Latest Self-help Secrets from Well-known person X”.

The only problem with taking this “one-size-fits-all” plan for a dynamic and wonderful life, is that we are individuals. The major religions have denominations, sects, or factions within, some of which believe radically different things. When I became old enough to think for myself (actually, still working on that one!) I realized that none of these philosophies–not one–could possibly hold “THE” truth. If one did, it would be a lot more obvious, surely. So, as I’m choosing to paste together my own philosophy, based on bits and pieces of eastern, western, and, gasp, my own opinions, I can but respect the philosophers who have gone before.

Having said all that, I do have my favorite self-help and spiritual authors.  Of all the dozens I’ve read, a very few stand out as trusted friends and helpers.  This is because they are the ones most closely suited to my particular temperament.  It would take a lot, at this point, to usurp one of these old friends.  But maybe that new book is the one… 😀

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