Several years ago around 2005, I was working as a housekeeper at a fancy B&B and I started to develop a sore shoulder from vacuuming too much. Occupational hazard, I guess. 🙂 The dull ache was interfering with my availability for work, so I went to see a healer called Magdalena.
Magdalena introduced me to energy healing and come to think of it, I haven’t had any problems with my shoulder since.
I remember after my visit with Magdalena, she read Louise Hay’s “Self Love Affirmation” to me and I have re-read the words and have thought about what self love looks like many times over the years.
I Love Myself, Therefore…
Deep at the center of my being, there is an infinite well of love. I now allow this love to flow to the surface. It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions and returns to me multiplied. The more love I use and give, the more I have to give. The supply is endless. The use of love makes me feel good, it is an expression of my inner joy. I love myself; therefore, I take loving care of my body. I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages, I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy. I love myself; therefore I provide for myself a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in. I fill the rooms with the vibration of love so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love and be nourished by it. I love myself; therefore I work at a job I truly enjoy doing, one that uses my creative talents and abilities, working with and for people I love and who love me, and earning a good income. I love myself; therefore, I behave and think in a loving way to all people for I know that that which I give out returns to me multiplied. I only attract loving people in my world, for they are a mirror of what I am. I love myself; therefore I forgive and totally release the past and all past experiences and I am free. I love myself; therefore I live totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future is bright and joyous and secure, for I am a beloved child of the Universe and the Universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more. And so it is.
~ Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life
Thank you, Louise Hay. There’s so much around self love to explore including:
being present, and
What would it be like if you were to feel incredibly loving toward yourself?
One day I asked myself this question in my journal and this is the answer I received:
Show up and dance with me!
What if I felt like I AM an empowered woman of the Universe, standing strong and wise, first? What if I presented myself as a whole being, fully and completely loving, trusting, and accepting myself in this grande Universe now?
I’d be smiling. I’d be taking action steps from a place of strength and power. I’d feel lighter. I’d trust myself and my footing, I’d trust the moment, I’d trust my partner, and I’d trust the music that surrounds us and is within us. That would be amazing!
OK. Let’s be amazing!
Maria Koropecky, Ammolite Wellness Coach
Self love is a radical concept!
In my experience, people have been talking about self love for years, but I’d like to put my own spin on it. It’s not enough to know about self love; now’s the time to actually feel it for yourself.
So how do you go about loving yourself and how do you know you love yourself?
I used to find it hard to believe myself when I said to myself, “I love you, Maria.”
I also didn’t acknowledge or even remember all of the things I did that would be considered acts of self love, like
leaving an unhealthy situation, or
writing in my journal, or
paying my bills on time, or
choosing wholesome, organic vegetables over potato chips, or
not putting poison into my body like cigarette smoke or alcohol, or
putting on sunscreen before I walk outside, or
any number of seemingly little things that add up over time.
I couldn’t quite feel the love even though I had been taking pretty good care of myself.
Then something clicked! I realized I wasn’t using my own personal love language!
You’re probably familiar with the book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” (1992) by Gary Chapman.
As a refresher, Gary Chapman’s, 5 Love Languages that help people express and experience love are:
words of affirmation
acts of service, and
How do you like to show your love to the people and animals in your life? Your go-to’s are a clue about how you can show love towards yourself and receive the message loud and clear!
I think revisiting “5 Love Languages” is a good place to start but this time, instead of expressing them to others, try applying them to yourself.
That’s what I did and you know what I figured out? My personal love language doesn’t exactly fit in any of these five categories. (I left a clue in my journal entry above about what my love language is).
Sure, I’m able to give and receive love by giving my time, energy, healing touch, or words of encouragement to myself and others, but what I personally really respond to is music!
I love to sing and dance and I’ve had a soundtrack playing in the background of my life since day one with my mother singing to me.
I especially love it when I hear a song on the radio that speaks to whatever is going on in my life, as if angels were giving me a special message.
I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed singing and dancing until this past Easter when my sister-in-law, Veronica, and I had an impromptu, sing-a-long, karaoke (of sorts) evening together.
She was outside on the deck and I joined her. I started humming a tune and she asked, “What are you singing?”
Then she looked the lyrics up online and before we knew it, we downloaded a 1970’s-80’s playlist and were singing all kinds of songs including, Air Supply’s, “I’m all out of love” and Queen’s, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
We danced and sang at the top of our lungs and I pretended the trees were our audience. Any inhibitions I may have had blew away with the wind!
We didn’t care what the rest of the family was thinking or if the neighbours were bothered. It was truly a liberating and healing experience!
Thanks, Veronica for playing along! I’ll cherish that memory of us singing together for the rest of my life!
These days, music, singing, and dancing are the best ways for me to communicate straight to my own heart and actually feel love towards myself. It’s my way of giving and receiving love and feeling love from the inside out!
So, if I’m ever feeling low or discouraged, I sing my heart out! Singing songs allows me to feel the love and once again, I know deep down in my heart that I love myself unconditionally.
Once I started singing outloud and dancing like when I was 6 years old, the more I began release some pent up emotions and to love myself on a deeper level.
No matter how you approach it, loving yourself is a powerful source for good! You have to love yourself first before you can truly enjoy the blessings of life.
If you don’t love yourself first from the inside out, you will have trouble creating what you want, and if you do find some success, you will not feel fulfilled.
Don’t settle for a dull, ho hum, or uninspired existence.
Remember to love yourself first!
If you’d like to know the best recipe for an amazing life,
contemplate the idea of self love,
communicate to yourself in your own love language, and
love yourself wholeheartedly!
And on that note, I’d like to add to Louise Hay’s lyrics from above:
I love myself; therefore, I sing and dance to my heart’s content!
How about you? Do you like music as much as I do? Do you have a favourite song that always lifts your spirits? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author
Maria Koropecky is a Wellness Coach and Blogger who specializes in self-care. Maria is currently accepting new wellness coaching clients. If you’d like spiritual guidance on this topic, please make an appointment for a Crystal Mapping session with Maria today!
Bonus Journaling Prompt
We often forget the nice things we do for ourselves each day.
To keep the well of self love topped up and to remind yourself that you’re lovable, worthy, and enough just as you are right now, with or without this, that, or the other, consider exploring the topic of self love in your journal (along with your gratitudes, if you want).
Loving yourself has to come from you, for you – not from anyone outside of you.
Make the decision to know you accept yourself just as you are without looking to anyone else for validation, permission, or approval.
Keeping a journal of your self love journey is a sign of a healthy person. Journalling is not about beating yourself up for making mistakes, or complaining about the people in your life or what’s not working.
Part of loving yourself means building a positive case for yourself. You can start collecting evidence that you’re a wonderful and amazing person by recording all of the lovely things you do each day.
I know there’s something that you’ve done today already that is sweet and generous. The next time you catch yourself doing something kind and loving toward yourself, “Say, I’m going to put that in my journal!”
Each day in your journal, start with, “I love myself for…”
Like: “I love myself for taking the stairs instead of the elevator today.” Or, “I love myself for the witty comment I said at work and everyone burst our laughing.” Or, “I love myself for listening to my intuition.”
It all counts!
Add gratitudes to your list and you’re off to the races! Green lights all the way!
Keep a running list in your journal of positive things about yourself, such as favours you’ve done, positive qualities you have, and things you like about yourself and then you can refer to your list anytime you need a little boost in your self esteem.
The beauty is, eventually, you won’t need to find more reasons to love yourself and you’ll naturally reach a point where you’ll simply say, “I Love Myself.”
by Guest Blogger, Paul Joseph from Health and Fitness Travel
and Maria Koropecky, Wellness Coach
Now a trillion-dollar industry, wellness has become a buzzword and a lifestyle of choice for many. Each day, as countless people are becoming more proactive about their health and wellness, new companies are sprouting up to serve them. With all of the choices out there, sometimes it’s hard to know what to do next to keep things fresh.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with Health and Fitness Travel to write this piece. As avid promotors of healthy living, Health and Fitness Travel, the wellness holiday specialists, explore the famous faces responsible for inspiring us to shift our attitudes towards wellness, self-care, and healthy living. From actors, to musicians, to athletes, here are 7 celebrity self-care quotes to inspire and encourage you on your healing journey.
1) Self-Care Tips From A Friend: Jennifer Aniston
With her sparkling blue eyes and phenomenal figure, you can just tell Jennifer Aniston takes good care of herself. As a long-term yogi and an open advocate for organic nutrition, Jen promotes a wholesome diet, getting your beauty sleep, and applying nourishing skin care products daily to encourage a healthy mind, body, and soul.
“Sunday is my spa day. I usually do a little mini facial time where I just give myself a good scrub, use a mask, and then the new Aveeno hydrating facial. I leave it on overnight and when I wake up, I have that dewy, glowing, twinkling skin,” ~ Jennifer Aniston
2) Music For Mental Health: Zayn Malik
A long-time sufferer of anxiety, Zayn Malik, the ex-One Direction singer, has shined a light on the topic of mental health, especially for men. After pulling out of the 2016 Capital Summertime Ball because of his struggles, this defining move opened up the conversation and lead him to the recent #ITSOKAYTOTALK campaign that has raised an alarm to the growing male mental health crisis. With the single biggest killer of men under 45 being suicide, many celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Matthew Lewis, and Harley Bonner are taking part in the campaign to give men the confidence to talk about their mental wellness. Regardless of whether you’re a man or woman, or older or younger than 45, if you’re going through a mental health crisis, please reach out to someone and get help right now. #ITSOKAYTOTALK
“This is for girls who have the tendency to stay up at night listening to music that reminds them of their current situation. Who hide their fears, hurt, pain and tears under the smiles, laughs and giggles on a daily basis. The girls who wear their heart on their sleeve. The girls who pray that things will work out just once and they’ll be satisfied. The girls who scream and cry to their pillows because everyone else fails to listen. The girls who have so many secrets but wont tell a soul. The girls who have mistakes and regrets as a daily moral. The girls that never win. The girls that stay up all night thinking about that one boy and hoping that he’ll notice her one day. The girls who take life as it comes, to the girls who are hoping that it’ll get better somewhere down the road. For the girls who love with all their heart although it always gets broken. To girls who think it’s over. To real girls, to all girls: You’re beautiful,” ~ Zayn Malik
3) Age Is Just A Number: Cameron Diaz
One of Charlie’s Angels is now a vocal advocate for the natural process of aging, stating that beauty is not just about your face… it’s about how you take care of your whole body. Her principles, accompanied by a healthy dose of science, are printed in ‘The Body Book” and “The Longevity Book.” Together, these are revolutionary wellness bibles on how to look and feel well. Her wholesome, holistic, and all-loving approach to aging is truly refreshing, especially these days where women are constantly pressured to keep themselves looking young.
“It is the responsibility of every human, not just dancers, sports stars, kids, and Olympians—to move. To embrace movement. To become movement. To live movement. Because moving can turn a regular Monday into an extraordinary start to your week. It can turn Tuesday into a quest, Wednesday into an adventure, Thursday into a triumph, Friday into a feat. No matter how you spend your days, claiming your right to MOVE is like claiming your FREEDOM,” ~ Cameron Díaz
4) Feeling Fabulous: Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson is incredibly passionate about inspiring others to lead happy and healthy lifestyles. In 2013, she started her own line of athletic wear called, ‘Fabletics’ and it has truly taken off! With her stunning and inspiring Instagram posts of her cardio and Pilates routines, it’s no surprise that Kate has inspired both men and women to ramp-up their fitness while having fun and looking fabulous, too. She’s also been known to emphasize the importance of good skin care, stating that she loves a facial massage and toner to keep her skin looking fresh and rejuvenated.
“The irony is that when we take care of ourselves first, we are in a much stronger place to take care of those we love,” ~ Kate Hudson
5) Meditation For Peace Of Mind: Russell Brand
With Russell Brands’ loud personality and flamboyant wardrobe, it’s hard to imagine him in a moment of serious quietness. After years of struggling with addictions, he realized that to recover, he needed to dig deeper within and confront the side of himself that he’d been trying so hard to cover up. With the help of meditation, the well-known comedian, actor, and activist was able to find peace. A true inspiration within this wellness revolution, he’s also the author of “Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions” and is now helping others by sharing his story and promoting the David Lynch Foundation, which provides transcendental meditation classes to people in at-risk communities.
“You need only allow gentle hope to enter your heart. Exhale and allow hope, and give yourself some time. This is a process of change that requires a good deal of self-compassion, which is neither stagnant nor permissive. We can just start by being a little kinder to ourselves and open to the possibility that life doesn’t have to be bloody awful.” ~ Russell Brand
6) Serving Up The Sun Protection: Maria Sharapova
Playing tennis all day and living in the “Sunshine State” certainly have their perks, but like Maria Sharapova will tell you, you have to remember to take care of your skin health while you’re out there, too. Following sound advice from her mother, the international tennis champion grew up with a great awareness about the effects of the sun on our skin. Inspired by shocking skin cancer statistics, Maria co-founded the sun-cream brand Supergoop to encourage others that no matter how old or young you are, or where you live on our planet, the time to start wearing sun cream is now!
“I still love things that you don’t even need to pay for. Going to the beach and being around five of your friends and having a good time means so much more than going out and spending hundreds of dollars,” ~ Maria Sharapova
7) Queen Of The Green: Beyoncé
After confirmation that Beyoncé would be headlining the much-anticipated Coachella Festival this year, the ‘Single Ladies’ star went vegan. She followed a 22-Day Nutrition meal planner, a program which she co-founded with her husband, Jay Z, and celebrity trainer Marco Borges. The aim of the program was to challenge both themselves and the public to move towards a plant-based lifestyle to benefit not only personal health, but also the health of our planet. She’s a Green Leader through and through! With environmental awareness growing and the love for animals spreading, veganism has been hailed as the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on Earth.
“We have to care about our bodies and what we put in them. Women have to take the time to focus on our mental health — take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish. The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself,” ~ Beyoncé
So, that’s it for now. If you’d like to refresh your wellness and self-care practices with some new ideas, we hope these 7 celebrities have inspired you! Whether you’d like to fuel your body with more nutritious food, or change up your skin care routine, or become a Green Leader in your community, or lengthen your meditations, or spice up your wardrobe, or try a new sport, the important thing is to just go for it starting today!
Looking to go on a Wellness Holiday?
With offices in London, Melbourne, Manila, and Toronto, Paul Joseph is the co-founder of Health & Fitness Travel, the Wellness Holiday Specialists. For advice, guidance, and booking, visit: www.healthandfitnesstravel.com or call 0203 397 8891.
Spiritual Guidance Available
Would you like to have some spiritual guidance on this topic? Consider signing up for a Free Crystal Mapping Session with Spa Therapist and Spiritual Wellness Coach, Maria Koropecky. Subscribe to this Ammolite Wellness Coaching blog and book your free Crystal Mapping Session today.
by Maria Koropecky, Wellness Coach & Spiritual Teacher
On February 13th, I had the joy of attending “The Power of Your Words” presented by Caroline Myss at the University of Victoria.
When I woke up that morning, I had no idea I was going to be at UVic by the end of the day. It was a completely unexpected and welcomed surprise. To me, it was a little miracle how everything came together and interestingly enough, Caroline lightly touched on that idea in her talk.
In essence, she said each day is a new day, a new start, a blank slate, and we get to choose our reality, and what we experience, and it starts with the words we use. We have no idea what the day will bring so why not nudge it in a good direction with our words.
I love that Caroline Myss said, “Words are our Magic Carpet!” I must be choosing some pretty good words these days!
I’m grateful to my best client and friend Linda for gifting me the ticket!
It was a big deal for me to go and I actually wore a dress, heels, and make-up to the event. I also decided to wear my rose quartz heart Christmas tree ornament necklace and rose quartz bracelet because it was the day before Valentine’s Day. More on that later…
Seeing Caroline Myss in person (from the balcony) was significant for me. Her book, Sacred Contracts, which I read around 2002-2004, explained so much to me spiritually and I even made my own set of Archetype cards from her list.
But more than that, I feel like I’ve been on a deep and profound spiritual journey of awakening and for the last year or so, it has been intense. Lots of crying, lots of letting go, lots of shedding my old ways. To help me through this process, I’ve been studying the work of Eckhart Tolle.
I’ve been searching for answers to the big questions of life and it’s been very emotional and some people told me that I was depressed and that I needed to talk to a therapist. Caroline Myss explained that people often confuse depression with spiritual crisis but we don’t have the language to express and articulate what’s going on with us, so the depression gets the attention, but not the spirit or soul. Both depression and spiritual crisis can show up similarly, but if you sense you need to find the meaning and purpose to your life, then that’s a clue that you might be having a spiritual crisis this time.
I thought, yes, that’s what I’ve been going through this past year: a spiritual crisis.
That’s good news!
Here’s my opportunity to push through into a whole new dimension of living life and I’m really excited about this breakthrough!
Instead of letting this spiritual heartbreak be my excuse to keep me unconscious, I’m going to use it to help me awaken into consciousness.
That’s the message that I keep hearing from spiritual teachers. Eckhart Tolle says the most important thing we can do for humanity is to be conscious and present.
And Caroline Myss explained that back in the 1960’s, with the introduction of nuclear weapons that can potentially destroy us, “we unleashed a darkness into the world.” However, around the same time, the world religions were also stepping up their presence. The East and the West were talking to each other and big changes were taking place. There was a counter force to the darkness that was also emerging. It’s like two sides of the same coin, one balances the other. In the midst of this darkness, there is also light.
At this point of the talk, this is where Caroline Myss really lit up! I don’t know if it was the stage lighting or something else, but I saw violet light surrounding her. It was like a purple, misty shadow trailing behind her movements. Violet is the most spiritual colour. It’s associated with the Crown chakra, our connection to the Divine, so I knew she was speaking Spiritual Truth.
That’s what we’re called to do. As generations living in a dark, nuclear age, we’re called to be the light!
This reminds me of Bruce Cockburn’s song, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” where he says, “You’ve got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” We are lovers in a dangerous time — lovers in the sense of bigger picture lovers of humanity, not necessarily romantic couples, as I once thought.
But how do you fight the good fight and shine your light when you’re living in fear and pain?
Caroline says there’s no archetype for people who have been wounded but have somehow moved forward, yet still have remained vulnerable. It’s an interesting mix — wounded, vulnerable, and strong. We’ve all been wounded one way or another, on a personal level and on a global level, and we’re really good at re-telling our victim stories over and over again.
But we can’t wallow in the victim role anymore!
Caroline said “Coddling doesn’t serve anybody.” We’re past the point of coddling each other through the pain. I’ve decided I’m not going to entertain those victim stories, either from myself, or my coaching clients, or my friends, anymore.
The better question is, “what strength is emerging” or “what is the gift?” It’s not about the adversity, or our history, it’s about how we respond from here that counts.
And this is what I got from Caroline’s talk: It’s time to retire those victim stories and poor word choices and step up in this critical time in history. Crazy world leaders, missile warnings, and natural disasters are the wake up calls!
It’s time we take our head out of the sand, or put down those distracting devices, or resist those numbing addictions, and instead, be present!
If you feel like you’ve been going through a spiritual crises, as I have, and you’ve been called to shine your light in this world and do something really amazing, then do it! The only one who is stopping you is you. You are in charge of your reality and it’s up to you! The words you say to yourself and out loud will create your path. Choose them thoughtfully!
And that’s exactly what I’m doing starting today. Hearing Caroline Myss speak affirmed in my heart that I’d like to join her and Eckhart Tolle and many others and be a spiritual teacher as well. I’m open to working with a mentor, if you know anybody!
And I’d like to put forth a new archetype, that I like to call Green Leaders, that represents people who have been through the trenches but have also emerged as conscious and awakened leaders with heart. Just because you’ve been through it, doesn’t give you the excuse to be miserable, and mean, or to fall back into unconsciousness. Let the adversity be your doorway to enlightenment.
Let’s define the Green Leader archetype together so we can enjoy Mother Earth for many, many thousands more generations to come! What do you think, Caroline Myss?
The title of this post is, “Don’t lose your heart.” That’s my message for today. Although things may seem bleak, remember, we’re still in the game. Don’t lose faith. Prayers are always heard and answered and miracles happen every day. Caroline finished her talk by praying, “May God hover over us.”
As I was leaving the auditorium, I grazed over something with my shoe. I looked behind me and it was my pink quartz heart necklace on the floor. I quickly retrieved it and as I was picking it up, a woman who saw me said, “Don’t lose your heart!” and she was stunned a little by what she said, so she said it again, “Don’t lose your heart!” and I said, “Noooooo!”
Talk about the “power of words!”
I believe this anonymous woman was speaking on behalf of the Universe in that moment. “Don’t lose your heart, Green Leaders!”
Thank you anonymous woman in the auditorium, and thank you Linda for the ticket, and thank you Caroline Myss for coming to Victoria! Come back anytime!
A couple of months ago in April, as I was walking through my neighbourhood on what I call a wellness walk, I was thinking about the next steps of my career. I thought perhaps I’d like to take my wellness coaching to a new level and become a spiritual teacher as well. I got the idea from my 6th grade teacher, Sister Catherine, who appeared to me in a dream.
Funny how things like that happen. I was intrigued by the title, so I got a copy of the book, read it from cover to cover, and then arranged an interview with Scott, the author. We had a fascinating conversation and we covered a lot of ground.
I honestly had no idea that looking for a spiritual teacher was a thing, but it is, and it makes sense because more and more people are waking up and are searching for the answers to life’s big questions. On top of that, there’s so much out there to choose from than ever before in history.
How do we know what spiritual path is best for us personally to follow and
who do we want to walk with on our journey?
I’m grateful that Scott is leading the conversation on this important topic about finding a spiritual teacher because the road is not always straightforward. In fact, there are people out there who would gladly take advantage of unsuspecting seekers and lead them astray, causing great damage.
Scott, the author, genuinely wants to help people with the process of finding a suitable spiritual teacher. As a longtime practitioner of both Judaism and Buddhism, he has been on his own spiritual journey and has studied happily and productively with spiritual teachers for the past four decades. He is a committed proponent of serious spirituality in all forms and traditions and has also served as editor and literary agent for several spiritual teachers.
In his book, Scott gives guidelines on how to navigate these waters and how to work with the legitimate spiritual teachers of the world. Here is an abridged transcript of the first 30 minutes of our interview that took place in June of 2017 over Skype.
MK: I read your book and I really enjoyed it. I found it to be a very easy read – very quick and clean and just really easy to understand – and I appreciated that. What prompted you to write this book?
SE: Several things. The first is, there’s a lot folks out there who call themselves spiritual teachers and some come from within a religious tradition, some stand outside religious traditions. Some are called spiritual coaches, spiritual counsellors, spiritual directors, but whatever they call themselves, they can create a great deal of spiritual intimacy with the people with whom they work and they typically work one to one with folks, very much like a coach of any kind would.
SE: The difference though with a spiritual teacher, or coach, or so on, is, they get to see our vulnerabilities, they get to see our most urgent needs, desires, and wants, and concerns. And so if the [spiritual teacher] you’re working with isn’t very good, they can do a lot of harm. And if they are a predator, or a narcissist, or a sociopath, they can do terrible harm.
SE: The other thing is, it’s not always easy to tell a good spiritual teacher from a not-so-good one. If you were looking for a good car mechanic, all you have to do is see whether they’re good at repairing your car.
SE: But someone can be very charismatic, can speak very well, can have a lot of poise, [but] may in fact be a charlatan or a predator, [and] may pass themselves off as a spiritual teacher, so I wanted to help people protect themselves and wanted to help them build their own discernment. I wanted to help them learn to trust themselves and make good choices.
The Possible Ugly Side of Spiritual Teachers
MK: Have you experienced or witnessed anyone being influenced by someone who is a charlatan or a fraud, or anything worse than that? Have you seen that?
SE: Sure. In fact, that’s one of the sad things about the helping professions in general is that they have an unusually high rate of people who are charlatans, frauds, abusers, and so on. And that doesn’t mean that these professions are somehow inherently flawed, it’s because they attract those type of folks.
SE: Now the great majority of people in any helping profession — whether it’s coaches, therapists, counsellors, ministers, or spiritual teachers – the great majority, of course, are on the up and up.
SE: They will range from the wonderful to the terrible, but the fact is, the people who want to be exploitive are naturally going to gravitate to these positions because it provides them with people to exploit. And I’ve seen it over and over.
SE: Sometimes it runs the whole range. Sometimes it’s people who are just making mistakes or people who have (in terms of the spiritual teachers) a higher opinion of themselves than is reasonable, because it does attract egotists, but yes, there’s plenty of abusers out there.
SE: I did a previous book, a kind of prequel to this one. It was called, “Sex and the Spiritual Teacher” about spiritual teachers who go astray and have sex with their students or followers, and so it’s a common problem.
SE: It’s not common as in you should expect it all of the time. It’s common as in you might be left-handed or you might be colour-blind. The issue is that if we are not careful, if we don’t give the same kind of consideration to a potential spiritual teacher as we would with a new doctor, or new therapist, or new coach, or a new dentist, then we set ourselves up.
SE: And so we need to learn to build our own discernment. That’s what both of these books are about. And sure, I know cases where people did it, they lost their way, and I know other people who very deliberately went out of their way and have been, in some cases, exploiting people and lying to people for decades.
Spotting the Red Flags
SE: You’re a coach, you must know some coaches who are not very good and you probably know a couple of coaches who are charlatans.
MK: Reading your book really let me see that because my coaching teacher operated with integrity and I didn’t really realize that until I read your book. I looked at the signs and yes, he did. And then after that, I was introduced to another person who didn’t [establish good boundaries] and who pushed my buttons and asked for – you mentioned this in your book – asked me to follow their authority. [They basically said,] “Don’t think for yourself; I’ll think for you,” – that kind of thing, and they at one point did say that to me, “Obviously, how you’re thinking isn’t working, so you’re going to have to turn that over to me,” and I was dumbfounded by that…
“That is the surest sign of all that something is wrong. When somebody does not want you to be more of who you are but wants you to be less of who you are,” ~Scott Edelstein
SE: That is the surest sign of all that something is wrong. When somebody does not want you to be more of who you are but wants you to be less of who you are.
SE: Or, when they want something from you, whether that’s obedience, or sex, or flattery, or money. I mean obviously, if they’re performing a particular service, like a coach would have a rate for charging for what they do, and that’s perfectly reasonable… but otherwise, they’re trying to get something from you, and they’re looking out for themselves more than they’re looking out for you, [then] something is wrong.
MK: Sometimes it’s not so obvious and you’re caught up in it and those types of statements just wash past you, and you may see it in hindsight, or not. How does someone, if they’re speaking with a spiritual teacher, and they’re being vulnerable, and are expressing ideas and feelings that they haven’t told anyone else, are being authentic, etc.. How do you do that and learn and grow and still keep your wits about you, so you don’t get caught up in someone else’s trap or whatever. How do you do that?
SE: It’s a wonderful question. I’ll answer it in two ways, one of course is to read the book and I don’t say that in a silly way, that’s why I wrote a book. We write books, of course, because there are sometimes longer answers that can be most helpful. That’s why I wrote both “The User’s Guide to Spiritual Teachers” and the book, “Sex & the Spiritual Teacher.”
SE: But as a kind of general guide, I would say, apply the same principles that you would if you were beginning to date a potential partner. In other words, obviously, you would not throw yourself at someone’s feet, on a first date, or a second date, or a third date.
SE: In fact, if during that first date, [you thought] “Oh my God, this person is the one and everything feels perfect, I can’t believe how wonderful it is,” – if you were to ask a friend, “Oh this person just seems fantastic… this person seems perfect… should I throw myself at their feet?” your wise friend would say, “No, be very careful, have a second date.”
SE: So, it’s perfectly fine if you see these yellow flags or even red flags, you either – if it’s a red flag, if something feels wrong, looks wrong, sounds wrong – get away, back away, just as you would if you were on a date with somebody and you went, “I have a really bad feeling about this.” Trust your own body, mind, and gut, and heart. That’s one.
Building Trust with your Spiritual Teacher
Let’s imagine they’re all saying, “yes, yes, yes, yes.” Of course you wouldn’t then just run away. But you also wouldn’t necessarily run forward. The wise thing to do would be “OK, this feels really good, this feels really right,” so that bears having a second date. Having that good sense about a spiritual teacher, proceed very slowly, look at the other people who are around them, their students, or followers, congregants, or whoever it might be.
If things feel right, and the person is looking out for your best interest, things will continue to feel right, and then slowly the trust will build. There’s really no hurry about it, after all.
So, just as you would say, go out on a second date, go out on a third date, and slowly you’ll come to understand who this person really is and how you’re able to work with them.
But When Things Go South…
SE: But if something starts out feeling bad at first, that’s easy, you get away. If it feels good at first and the person is a predator or a narcissist, sociopath, or what not, by the time you’re on your third or fourth encounter, it will no longer feel so great. You’ll notice that something is wrong. It’s just a matter of exercising a reasonable amount of caution, not just with the other person, but with yourself.
MK: Interesting. Yes, and so, would that apply to a one-on-one relationship, like with a coach, and being in a group, like going to a Buddhist center? Would you say it’s pretty fair that they’re both an equal approach?
SE: I’d say, all of the above. And I would say that, too, for anyone who is in any kind of coaching role or any kind of spiritual role, including a Minister, or Priest, or Imam, or Rabbi, down the street. It’s just that when you’re simply sitting in a congregation, there’s not going to be as much intimacy, and there’s less vulnerability, less opportunity for exploitation, and so on.
Are they a Spiritual Teacher or a Spiritual Leader?
The answer is they could be both, could be more one than the other. The important thing has to do with finding your discernment, recognizing that vulnerability, and learning to trust yourself (just as you did) as opposed to letting someone else take over.
Practicing Discernment & the Vagus Nerve
MK: You’ve used this word “discernment” a few times and this word is new to me within the last year. I didn’t really know this word but I’ve heard it many times lately and it’s on my radar now. So what do you mean by discernment?
SE: That’s a wonderful question. First, let me answer it in terms of the body because the body knows. It doesn’t know everything but it knows a lot. If we pay attention to our body, it will tell us, not necessarily every time, but most of the time, if something is amiss. It will be tight or it will give us some kind of warning sign.
SE: Now, I’ve only recently learned there is an actual physical structure in the body doing that called the “Vagus Nerve.” That’s when our stomach tightens, we feel our heart in our throat, where we feel love, hate, dread. A lot of these emotions are actually a physical structure that we call, “Vagus Nerve.” So, it’s paying attention to that.
SE: And it’s not letting yourself be thrown to the winds, either by an idea or by the thinking brain. I’m not saying, “don’t think” by any means. I’m saying, “do think.” Discernment is also learning when to override the body with the brain. Just as you wouldn’t go out on a date and the person is really, clearly being obnoxious and nasty and your body might be going, “yeah, but they are so good-looking” and the brain is going to say, “doesn’t matter, get out.” The person is sort of striking their hand with their fist, saying, “I’m going to beat up anyone who gets in my way,” well, it’s time to get out no matter how good looking the person is.
SE: The other thing is developing your own ability to sniff out bullshit, whether it’s from a spiritual teacher or anyone else. To a certain degree, as we get older, that just gets better and better. I mean, there are things that might have fooled you at age 20, would never fool you at the age you’re at now. Some of that comes naturally, but a lot of it, especially for people who have never worked with a spiritual teacher before, they don’t have the experience to be able to make that kind of judgement. Especially if they’re new to the tradition, if the person is from another country, sort of thing.
SE: And so rather than trying to come up with a simple process, it’s a matter of just keeping yourself safe while you learn, while your own experiences teach you.
Are We in a Spiritual Age?
MK: Are you finding that more and more people are seeking out spiritual teachers and are entering this world of awareness and awakening?
SE: Good question. These things are cyclical. They go back to ancient Greece, there were spiritual teachers on the street corners, essentially selling themselves, [saying] “Here’s what I think, here’s what I believe, here’s what I can teach you.” Some of them were teachers in general who had spiritual components, some of them focused on what could be called spirituality today, and so there was a big market place of ideas at the time.
SE: [It’s called] an “Axial Age,” when [that type of thing is] happening. I pick out Ancient Greece, but arguably, it was happening in India, at roughly the same time, as well, and I don’t know if it’s a higher percentage of people than in the past that are actually building these relationships, that are looking for spiritual teachers, but I would say that, for instance, I’m in my sixties now and when I was young, the whole relationship that people had to the clergy and groups was much more limited in general – you joined a group, some kind of a congregation, went to services, you might have, (if you were very devout, or concerned, or what not), you might have received some counselling from the minister.
SE: And so, that was how the relationship tended to be defined. Whereas now we have a big marketplace of ideas, and opinions, and relationships because the Internet has made it possible for anyone really with a phone or computer to be able to access writings, videos, and sometimes face-to-face conversations.
SE: So, I don’t know if human beings have changed, but the ability to access these kinds of people and these kinds of relationships has changed.
Enter the Age of Spiritual Mashups
MK: And there’s so much more to choose from, like when you go to the grocery store, you have foods from all over the world that you could pick, whereas before, it was like, this is it. You can pick and choose and you don’t have to stay where you started. You have access to all kinds of things – there seems to be some overlap. People will start with one tradition and then kind of pick and choose from others and then create their own.
SE: That is part of the time we’re in and also, I would argue, that there’s something in particular, in North America, where we like to do these mashups. Partly, it’s because North America, for the past really 400 years, it’s full of immigrants, and we’ve always been taking in immigrants, and that’s what we do in North America, we mash things up.
SE: And so, we’re an ideal place for many different traditions to appear, to come together, to be re-made, and to intertwine. And that is what happens, of course, that’s naturally what happens, but we do it arguably more and faster, and with more wild abandon, 🙂 than most cultures throughout history!
MK: It’s accelerating!
“That’s what we do in North America, we mash things up. We’re an ideal place for many different traditions to appear, to come together, to be re-made, and to intertwine,” ~Scott Edelstein
SE: Yeah. Think of all of the places where you can get…what did I just see?… I saw Mexican Egg Rolls on a menu recently. I didn’t try them, but there you go. That’s a classic thing and we do it with spirituality, too.
SE: But that isn’t new. If you look at what we call “Tibetan Buddhism,” for example, we call it Buddhism, but it’s clearly a mashup. The historical roots are very clear. It’s a mashup of Buddhism that came North from India and what was the native religion of Tibet at the time – which was called, “Bon,” [spelled] B-O-N, and those two came together and created this new form of Buddhism, called “Tibetan Buddhism,” and that’s true with all religions.
SE: There are variances of Protestantism here in the United States where I live, where you would not find anywhere else in the entire world, and in Judaism, there’s an old rubric, an old metaphor, that says, “Judaism is like wine being poured into different coloured bottles. It’s the same wine, but it’s going to look different depending on the colour of the bottle that it’s in,” – and the colour, of course, is the culture.
MK: Oh, neat. Very interesting. I think there’s so much wisdom in the classics and if they didn’t have that inherent wisdom, they wouldn’t be here today. I wonder, do you think there’s a universal truth that all, or most religions keep up at the top of their list… is there one thing that makes them all kind of the same?
The Perennial Philosophy
SE: The answer I would have to give is “yes” and “no.” Let me give you both. There is something often called the “perennial philosophy.” Those words were, I think by Aldous Huxley who wrote “Brave New World” and a bunch of books back maybe about 80 years ago, 70 years ago. I hope I’ve got the reference right, I believe it was Huxley, and that does refer to that group of principles, ideas, relationships that permeate most world religions, and there are things that you would reasonably expect about love, concern, cooperation, the need for meaning, the need for belonging, those sorts of things.
SE: So yes, but… it’s a little bit like asking the question, can you trust a police officer? And the answer is, they are in a position of trust, and overall, we would do better to trust them than to distrust them all. But you still have to make your case by case judgement.
SE: Same as spiritual teachers and with religions is that for every religion that would say, “you can go to Christianity, you can go to Buddhism, you can go to Islam, you can go to anyone you want, Zoroastrianism,” and there will be lots and lots of people who say, “Oh yes, the perennial philosophy is, of course, the core of what we do,” and then you will find some other folks within that tradition who will say, “Absolutely not, the other religions are all wrong, the other versions of this religion are wrong.”
SE: That’s true with every religion. So yes, there is this perennial philosophy and then there are always these outliers who are denying the perennial philosophy in the name of that religion.
MK: I’m right and you’re wrong.
SE: Yes. Period.
MK: I’m wondering if that could be another way for someone who was looking for a spiritual teacher, to see how closely they embrace that perennial philosophy?
SE: That is a wonderful idea! If you don’t mind, I’d like to put, if there’s ever another edition of this book, I’d love to put that in. Yes. I think that’s great to add on top of the discernment. Yes, to be looking at how closely it comes to that. That’s wonderful.”
Well, readers, that was just the first half hour of my conversation with Scott Edelstein! As we explored this topic about spiritual teachers, I must admit, I felt a little like Oprah on SuperSoul Sunday.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking to find a decent spiritual teacher to work with, remember to:
1) Practice discernment, (listening to your body as you tune into your thoughts and feelings),
2) Notice how closely the people you are working with adhere to the Perennial Philosophy, and
3) Of course read Scott’s book, The User’s Guide to Spiritual Teachers: A Trusted Resource For Finding The Right Guide For Your Spiritual Journey, for yourself.