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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10 Responses to “What about Intention?”

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I’ve said this often, on many blogs, but the true secret of spiritual enlightenment is the journey itself. The day you come up with ‘the’ answer, you’ve just gone back to square one.

I can relate so much about what ur are saying….Funny, I am now writing a post in French similar to what ur are saying ”not one holding ”THE” truth”..I am picking a bit here and there and take what suits me the most..There is good and bad in all and there is not just one ”Way” either..But, LOVE in every sense of the word, is the most powerful enlightenment of all, sort of speak..

Anthony, you certainly have. In fact you’ve said it on this very blog! I guess it just takes some of us a while to “get” it. Actually, I’ve known the journey is the destination for some time, just the focus of choosing to live with this book for five weeks set me off! I do like what you said about how finding the answer sends you back to square one. Whew, been there a lot of times. Thank you for the inspiration.

Colourful, that is coincidental. I’m going to have to learn French, because I want to read more of your poetry, and now I’m curious about this post you’re working on! Thanks for the reminder of the word “Love”. It’s a word that means different things to different people. A song sung at a group I’m in is called Love is my Decision, and I like it because whatever “Love” means to each of us, we focus it through that song.

I don’t think it takes time to ‘get it’ – it’s more a matter of my absent-mindedness and forgetting where I’ve said what 🙂
This could be a good thing. If I ever get to the end of the spiritual journey, I’ll forget doing it. Now that’s a good way to escape ‘square one’!

I translated my post into English..I just enjoy doing translation from both languages…

Muse, I think you’ve stumbled on one of the secrets and that is that for anyone honest with themselves, it is highly unlikely that any of us will find that “one book” or source out there that will give us the road map we are looking for. Each of us is an individual, and as such, nothing is ever going to completely resonate with us. We take what does from our experiences, and from the information we gather, and then, in effect, we write our own books in the living of our lives.

Hey, Anthony, I was not complaining that you put this on my blog again! I appreciate the reminder. I cracked up at the thought of you getting to the “end” of your spiritual journey (obviously not gonna happen, brother) and forgetting – hehe. Re: square one–I’m reminded of a book, I think on Zen, I saw once, where every chapter was titled “Chapter One”.

Thanks CV, for translating! I’m glad you enjoy it because I surely do enjoy reading what you write. On my way to do so…

Richard, you’ve put it so very eloquently. I much appreciate your comment and your support.

Muse, enjoyed your post and the conversation here. I’ve been a longtime self-help reader, but it wasn’t til I reached my late 30’s that I realized there wasn’t one “answer” out there (took me long enough, eh? 😉

Just finished a great book by Tai Archbold ,Faces of Sickness, which is a compilation of true life stories fictionalized in a way that helps you gain new perspective on old situations. I find this kind of story telling more appealing as I get older, as I’m kinda tired of the “5 Steps To Nirvana” approach to self-help that’s still (unfortunately) out there in droves…

Hi Barb! Welcome and thanks for finding my blog. I also appreciate the link to the book you provided. It certainly seems like a different approach to all this exploring.
And to find out about the non-usefulness of the one-method-fits-all approach “only” in your thirties–well that sounds young to me!

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