“Success might be measured by the rate with which we compromise our values during time of challenge”
This has been a theme of much consideration for me during the days I have left the ashram where I have held residence for several years. Leaving my spiritual sanctuary as well as leaving the bubble of liberated thinking that I found in Asheville, NC has brought a great number of new challenges, some of which I have felt more than a little frustrated by. Some days I really would like to go back to my little oasis in the safety of the like minded, but I realize that these challenges have worked to truly reveal my own priorities and agendas. When I am not surrounded by a supporting group of individuals, and faced with issues of convenience and solidarity, at what rate did I compromise the values that were so clear to me in the ashram? I struggled, I compromised, I tried to quit…then in surrender I perceived a deep opportunity for growth.
A little history….
I had reached a point where I knew there was more to life, I knew there were people living their dreams and yet I seemed to cycle with the same people and habits, over and over. In this time of my 30th birthday, I knew I had to make a change. I found a heart based, spiritual center with an amazing sage and mentor. The teachings gained here became central to my life, and I joined the small community in ashram style living. We practiced deep karmic meditations, Qi Gong, energy healing and purification. Life was simplified dramatically as we honored traditional cultures and material disciplines. We allowed only a few guests to the center, ate all organically, and met for frequent lectures on esoteric and ancient arts for healing. Some things I abstained from included alcohol, drugs, sex, sugars, and many social affairs. I had already been living mostly organically and vegan, and here I was surrounded by others on the same diet. I came to love the serenity and solitude. I did much inner work and emerged from this place deeply transformed, healed in many way,s and seeing all life with the light of growing spirituality.
The spiritual progress was deeply linked with the physical disciplines, and I came to value these things, not as sacrifices, as it seemed at first, but as a more patient and conscious way of interacting with the world around me. I was no longer being pulled from desire to desire, I was called to think deeply and to decide whether each craving would benefit the greater good when indulged. As I abstained I realized these things that seemed like restrictions were actually deeply liberating to the soul. Instead of being reactive to my compulsions, the energy was freed for deeper activities of compassion and contemplation. I found a deeper gratitude for the simple things that were in front of me, and this filled me with contentment. I felt I should be happy enough to live like this for many days, the stresses of the world melting behind me, and a new light growing within that was more radiant than I could have imagined.
But, the seclusion was a time of rebirth, and like a plant emerging from the soil, I needed less than perfect weather to grow my roots deeply. I was sent on a pilgrimage to my birth state. This is common in our spiritual practice. An homage to the souls entry on this plane, a mission of service, and a re-connection with the destiny of ones unique spiritual path. This has brought an amazing number of blessings and challenges, those two words becoming synonymous as I begin to understand that the strength I am gaining in these tests will never be lost.
I sold the few things I owned and drove south towards Atlanta, GA. I had been away for 8 years, and I had never entertained any thought of living here again. It is not far in time, but it seems so far in thought. Immediately, I was confronted with out-dated yet continually rigid mindsets clinging to fundamentalist religion, racism, anti-vegetarian, and consumer-based lifestyles full of contradictions that seemed so obvious to me. I was astonished at the way this place was so advanced technologically, but ridiculously retarded in social and conscious progression. It seems the two should evolve together, but the chasm has continued due to ruthless clinging to greed based life and media inspired thought control. The pollution, the negative energy…everything seemed like an assault to the natural lifestyle I had pursued. I yelled to my mentor that he sent me into the belly of the beast. Maybe this seems dramatic, but in reality I felt like a new-born rabbit thrown into the 16 lane expressway and expected to thrive. I ended up driving. A lot. I drove until I was insane trying to get my bearings on this massive city and my purpose here, until I finally landed on a small organic farm. But that is another story.
Surrounded by new people, old friends and family, I had come back with spiritual mission and a revolutionary lifestyle. A big part of my life has been to maintain a clean diet. Pure from chemicals, GMO’s and things that weigh heavily in the body or over excite the mind. This is more than diet and nutrition, it is a spiritual harmony with nature and a literal dance with life itself. The good food from Gaia that nourishes, the life force. I was confronted and surrounded by endless amounts of food that normally would never cross my threshold. I was unemployed and money was pretty tight. Eat the food? Knowing the consequences would be that the denser energies could affect my spiritual progress, I mostly abstained. This was truly annoying. I wanted to participate with family and friends, I wanted to get along and not seem too weird. I conceded a few times, only to feel really crappy afterward. I wondered what is the point of this? Why can I not continue to be among the like minded? No judgement to others choices, just purely a desire to live how I choose. I felt very uncomfortable asserting myself in these situations, and to be honest it was surprising to me that there was so little knowledge of the adverse affects of these harmful foods.
Mostly, when I tried to explain my case, it was rejected as too expensive to eat organic. Organic to me is more than just preserving my own health, although I see what others spend on healthcare, and that seems ludicrous for many of these things can be prevented with nutrition. I see it as an investment to the future, to the land and to my children. Pesticides and unethical agriculture destroy the land, pollute the water, and it is just not good for you. I don’t see a choice really…to me it is literally life versus death, health versus disease. Yet, I was seriously challenged to uphold this here. In the end, organic food always seemed to be provided, and I tried to make an education of it to the people around. And whether they were receptive or not, at least there is an example there. and I came to strengthen my own standards as well as become more educated.
Living from my car for some time brought about other challenges as well. Using to-go cups and bags instead of having my own accessible, visiting and sleeping in places that my spiritulized ego found less than pristine. I was humbled greatly during these times. Do I concede to work at a bar or steakhouse, because I know the money will be good? In the end I chose to only take work that seemed guided by spirit. this has caused some monetary lack, but also I have received some amazing blessings. Instead of being ushered into a uniform to repeat robotic menus to spoiled guests, I found myself open to sharing deep insight and gaining authentic relationships with the people around me. I was unable to procure a secluded sanctuary, which pushed me to open to outside assistance, granting me the feeling of deeper interdependence and guiding me into a richer love and feeling of acceptance for myself and others. I suffered poverty complex, and realized it was an old programming, the spirit itself is only ever starved of its connection with the divine.
My biggest concessions have come with the rejections of the faces of these lessons. Like a picky lover, obsessed by superficial appearances, I rejected these opportunities for mastery. These things did not look like my picture of spiritual well-being and perfection. My fantasy of Utopian clarity. I rejected these things and instead of letting them build my resolve, I struggled. I blamed myself and the universe for these atrocities to my idyllic life, I made things worse by trying to manipulate my ideal outcome.
I ran from these masters. Masters disguised as my biggest fears and resistances. I rejected people who were different, and in doing this I rejected the parts of myself that I perceived as weak. I ignored the fact that my own clinging to money and convenience were the true cause of my struggle. As I saw these things with clarity, I surrendered my expectations and complexes around abundance. I can step away from the panic the challenges caused me, and I can see the teachings before me. Accept what is provided, do not concede your values, be an example, bless your mistakes, they are your greatest teachers.
I see that abundance in the flow of the natural world has ebbs and flows like the ocean. When we can coast these flows we are not distracted by having more than what we need, and we do not need to fear the recession because it is clear the wave will return. It is an unbroken flow of the creative energy, and we cannot learn to swim by knowledge alone, we must test the waters and at some point jump in.
So, how do these things make one successful? When challenged at work, we gain the lessons to persevere. When challenged in love learn the difference between the authentic soul longing and simple gratification. See weaknesess through your own resistances and this will bring wisdom. Love the obstacles because they in time set you free from your own limitations. Without limitation we realize the true success of our authentic light being.