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Slow and Steady Wins the Race
David: Hi, James. Thanks for the email. Regarding the donation, you’re truly welcome, I’d like to give more and I shall very soon. I decided to order the video hard drive from your website, as I really feel it’s time to fully assimilate and internalise the teaching and let it clear away all the old dross that’s kept me from fully realising my nature.
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your work and tell you how incredibly amazing and helpful I’ve found the teachings of Vedanta, which you’ve unfolded in your book, website and seminars with such lucidity and skill – and in a very accessible way, with great humour and a no-nonsense, kick-ass approach that’s so refreshing. I’ve fallen in love Vedanta and have now devoted myself to studying and endeavouring to live the teaching.
I’m 33 now and have been at the “spiritual game” since I was about 16. I was pretty miserable in myself at that age, feeling inadequate, overwhelmed by life and wondering why everyone else seemed so much more confident and sure of themselves. Even back then, I knew on some deep level that there was something more to “me” and to life, something hidden from sight but nevertheless there. I became interested in certain New Age teachings, which seemed to be free of the closed and authoritarian dogmas of traditional Western religions. I practised self-development techniques, became more confident and accepting of myself and wandered from path to path, voraciously consuming whatever morsels of truth I could find.
Most of the spiritual teachings I found seemed to speak of the same underlying truths, but in different ways (maybe the “perennial philosophy” Huxley spoke of?). Looking back, however, some of the stuff I got into was flaky and a little embarrassing now – things like ascension and light bodies and “merkabahs” (still haven’t a clue what the heck a merkabah is). But in time I came to realise that all this was based on the ego striving to be something else, something different, something better and higher, and more mystical and spiritual.
Wanting to connect with our “higher self” is based on the implicit assumption that we’re a just measly, inadequate little “lower self.” A shadow trying to perfect itself into substance, perhaps?
I’m so glad I found a way out of this stuff or else I’d still be trying to become something other than what I am, never realising the full brilliance and wonder of that perfect, ordinary am-ness. Or worse still, I might have convinced myself that I was some ascended being from the 12th dimension or something. YIKES… I saw this happen to some spiritual teachers. It never ends well.
What happened was, around my mid-twenties, I ended up with something called chronic fatigue syndrome which stripped away my old life piece by piece – first I had to leave my job, then as it lingered, leaving me exhausted and unable to play the game of life (samsara, that is), everything else eroded and slipped away, including my long-term relationship, most of my friends and a lot of my old sense of self. But this was really a great gift from Isvara when I look back on it – I became a kind of sannyasi by default! I was trying to heal my physical body, but I came to realise it was really a different type of healing and freedom I was after.
I think Eckhart Tolle and then Adyashanti were my foot in the doorway of non-dual spirituality. I found their stuff very helpful. It opened doors for me, even if it wasn’t enough to take me all the way through. I discovered Nisargadatta and was astounded by I Am That. On a mental level I totally “got it”… and yet I still somehow didn’t GET IT! The knowledge was there, but I wasn’t grounded in it. I spent quite a lot of time attempting to share my journey and spiritual realisations in my blog. Looking over it recently, I think much of it is in more or less in line with Vedanta, almost as though I was stumbling my way towards it.
When I discovered your book last year I knew I had found something hugely important. I knew of Advaita Vedanta, but a lot of my understanding of it had been coloured (if I’m feeling less charitable, I might say tainted) by the Neos. Nothing I’d read before crystallised my understanding and cut through my misperceptions quite as powerfully as your book. It was with huge relief that I realised there were actually TOOLS I could use to help steady and purify my mind to ground the realisation that I was pure awareness. I was already familiar with the jnana yoga side of it, but was missing something that I have now found in karma yoga, bhakti yoga and triguna yoga, missing pieces of the puzzle helping me integrate and assimilate the Truth.
So I really wanted to thank you. It has been such a gift and blessing. I suppose all the rest was necessary groundwork. I’m still learning how to manage the gunas and am experiencing more and more sattva (the first time I had a pure sattva day, five years ago, I didn’t know what was happening; I thought I’d been touched by the hand of Isvara. Now I can put it all into context and actually understand the mechanics of it). I’ve rededicated my commitment to living with an attitude of karma yoga. I’d kind of rooted out many of my old binding vasanas, until some stubborn old ones kicked in recently, but I’m dealing with them. Contrary to what the Neos say, I’m finding it does take consistent and persistent work. It’s still so easy to default to the illusory, limited pseudo-self. I am noticing a gradual shift though. Perhaps when I get to a certain tipping point it will become more effortless?
James: Yes, indeed. Slow and steady wins the race. One day the scales will tip and the effort will be effortless because the doer will have been neutralized by the knowledge. The problem with action is not action itself. We have no choice about it. It is the doer, the resistance in the form of ideas of attainment. One is always looking for the end, but there is no end. There is only the end of ignorance which makes karma a pleasure because the results of action are ceded to Isvara where they belong, so the stress disappears.
David: My physical health has also been gradually improving, which I credit to a great acupuncturist, learning a powerful method of neigong, and perhaps above all, applying Vedanta. Part of me wonders how I will support myself when I venture back into the world, but Isvara will take care of that, right?
James: Yes. If scripture says it, you can bank on it. In any case you are not supporting yourself now. You are the support for David.
David: I would really love to teach Vedanta and share this wisdom with others. I’ve always been good at helping people deal with their problems (mainly by shifting out of the problem mindset) and with the tools of Vedanta, I feel I can help in so many more ways, if they are open to it. I guess I’m just trying to figure out how to apply my svadharma. Possibly it will involve writing, which has always been a great love and something I’m quite good at.
James: I think you would make a good Vedanta teacher. You have a very clear mind and seem to be unafraid to expose yourself to the public. I checked out your website – very nice. Just keep discriminating, applying the knowledge. As you gain confidence, people will ask.
David: Sorry for the long, rambling email. I just wanted to let you know how much Vedanta means to me and how greatly I appreciate all your efforts. I loved the Cape Town webinar, which I feel was a turning point and the reason I ordered the hard drive of your teachings. It’s time to rewire the brain once and for all and fully shift out of identification with the limited jiva, and keep my locus in awareness. I also wanted to say that as I began sitting down to watch your webinar, my mother joined me out of curiosity and although she wasn’t sure at first, she was quickly engrossed. After a day or two she had an amazing grasp of the teaching and has found it incredibly beneficial. She’s now reading your book, and I can tell the knowledge is starting to work on her too. Isn’t it incredible how one spark of fire can light so many candles?
Thank you again!
James: You are welcome, David. The story of your mom is so cool! I will mail the hard drive today. My video guy in Germany accidentally deleted the files, so he asked me to send it. I am in South Africa now and don’t know how long the mails take, probably a couple of weeks, but maybe not. Anyway, I enjoyed your letter very much. I like people’s stories. Keep in touch and if you have any questions feel free to write. I suspect that you won’t need to, you seem to have your head screwed on pretty straight. The key is the steady application of inquiry. And don’t forget to sin a bit.
~ Love, James