- Religion and Philosophy
Spiritual Journey-Four Teachers I Have Met Along the Way
“One is not defined by what one wears, the color of one’s skin, or the image portrayed to the rest of the world. Even one’s behavior does not define him. Rather, it is what is beneath the layers of human behavior-his divinity, which is the true nature of his Being.” Denise Handlon
We are born into this world with all of our divine true nature intact. It is what defines us as spiritual beings, before all of the teachings of parent and culture. Oneness with God and the universe is what we are. We do not know any other state of mind or heart at this time. We cry when we are wet, hungry or in pain, but our sensations beyond that are simple-simply to be.
Absorbed in the bliss of this Oneness, we begin to integrate our environment. In doing so, we connect with our caretaker. Through the development of the mind, the growth of the body, and the maturing of the little human being, we move from internal experience to external-separating us from the inner absorption of just being, and moving our awareness and attention to what is outside of us.
We do not separate ourselves with the intent of one with ulterior motives. Rather, it is a natural process of becoming aware of the caretaker who is handling our needs. After all, we are helpless infants and dependent on the other for survival. If we are fortunate to be in a positive environment we also receive an external love that substitutes, at least temporarily, for the internal bliss we once knew, and left behind. If we are unlucky, those nurturing qualities are excluded and we are left feeling abandoned and neglected.
But, regardless of the initial birth experience, there is a spiritual separation and forgetting that occurs because, as developing human beings, part of this process is the development of the ego.
In many spiritual circles the ego is considered bad or useless-something that needs to be destroyed. Many New Age ‘gurus’ have professed this to followers. However, how does one get rid of something that is a normal part of who she is as a human? She does not-at least not successfully.
All human beings follow this process-the birth from cosmic bliss, the reconnection to life in the form of a human animal, and the separation from their divineness, in order to integrate into the world. The development of the ego is the outcome of this.
What many of us forget, along the way of growing up, is to reclaim this divinity by reconnecting with our spiritual essence-the core of our spiritual being-our true nature. This is done through the development of the soul. Just as our bodies, minds and emotions need maturation as we age, so it is with our souls.
It does not matter what our religious beliefs or practices are if one wants to dissolve the separation from true nature, one must be “like a treasure hunter who will stop at nothing to seek the gem that will set him free”. The problem is, we most often do not know where to look, how to look, or even that we have a ‘gem’ to search for.
In my early years of life, I felt a deep connection with God. Born into an Irish-Italian family to two devout Catholics, my upbringing incorporated all of the teachings of the religious doctrine. I was a very curious child; one who was observant at an early age and sensitive to the hypocrisies that I was aware of. This included the dichotomy between being taught that we are all God’s children while also being told that certain people were not going to go to heaven because they were not Catholic or Christians. How could a loving God, who embraced all of mankind, deny entry through the gates of heaven?
In my mid-twenties I had two young children, a career as a nurse, and a second husband, and my inner longings grew intense. I would awaken in the middle of the night at times, tearfully trying to make sense of the restless calling within my heart. I remember replying, in one of those moments when my husband asked what was wrong, saying, “I just feel as if I am supposed to be doing something more with my life.” It was a stirring of the soul.
“When we engage in activities that take us away from who we really are, we invite suffering into our lives.” Denise Handlon
The quest to know…to find that gem of what is the reality of our truth, the truth of who we are, does not happen to everyone. But, by God’s grace, it did happen to me. Through books, metaphysical teachings, religious facilitators, curiosity, open mindedness, and desire-the desire to have an intimate relationship with the heart of who I am; the yearning to re-establish the divine connection of my true self; I was led on a journey of discovery that has deepened the meaning of my life, and brought a quality of living that goes without definition.
The Concept of God: The 'Gem' within is your True Nature
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Buddhist Proverb
My spiritual journey to discover the ‘gem’ within, began as a young girl. It has brought to me to many places in my path of Truth and to the meetings of many spiritual teachers. Teachers, of course are everywhere, but the teachers I refer to in this hub are spiritual teachers who have studied, trained or received a wisdom that is beyond the walls of the classroom. The parting of knowledge and truth often comes from a source that is in alliance with divine intelligence.
There are four living spiritual teachers whose presence I have had the privilege to meet and sit with as they spoke. For traditional followers of Catholicism it would be similar to having an audience with the Pope. For Judaism, a similarity might be of being in the presence of the most revered Rabbi.
These meetings did not occur simultaneously, but over a period of ten years. It was part of my spiritual journey and development. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to sit with each of these teachers.
I first met Gangaji while living in Fairbanks, Alaska via video. Later, I traveled to California for Satsang. Satsang is Sanskrit for ‘true company’. In spiritual circles here in the United States, people who follow a teacher will assemble in a meeting to hear the message.
Gangaji follows the Advaita Vedanta tradition that she studied from her spiritual teacher: Sri H.W.L. Poonja, or ‘Papaji’, a devotee of Ramana Maharshi. She offers a quiet message to remind us to examine the activities of the mind-ego. She speaks of non-duality. It is always a blissful experience, but temporary. During the time I followed Gangaji, I knew that there was a missing piece.
Born in 1962 as Steven Gray, Adyashanti studied Zen from teacher Arvis Joen Justi for fourteen years. Frequently she would send him off to study at one of the local Zen monasteries for intense work. He eventually experienced a series of transformative awakenings and was invited by his teacher to hold Satsang. In 1996, he founded Open Gate Sangha, and travels locally and internationally to offer his words to an eager audience of seekers.
Adya, as his followers refer to him, is a gentle, soft spoken man who travels nationally, and internationally to hold Satsang. His message is clear and also focused on non-duality.
‘Amma’ or ‘Ammachi’ was born in Kerala, India, as Sudhamani Idamannel. Her formal name is Mata Amritanandannayi. As a young girl she was keenly aware of the love that she felt for all things and it is said, she began to compose songs of joyful devotion at age five.
Growing up, she was always sensitive to the suffering of others and would give clothes, food and hugs of comfort to those in poverty. She refused all suitors, offering instead her services to others. Eventually her believers began to camp out on her parents’ land in hopes to receive this love that emitted from her.
Amma has devoted her life to humanity through education, medical training, and other acts of service and in 2002 received the Ghandi-King Award for Non-violence.
Traveling throughout the world to offer her presence and hugs to those who seek an audience with her. They wait in long lines to receive from her a blessing and a hug. I have sat with Amma on more than one occasion and it is an experience like no other. There is no denying the presence of love, not only in the packed room, but flowing from this teacher’s embrace.
www.amma.org if interested in finding more information about her work and tour schedule.
Hameed Ali, was born in Kuwait in 1944 and moved to Berkeley, California at age 18 to study at the University of California. While working on his PhD in physics, Hameed’s focus turned to psychology and the spiritual aspects of human nature.
Hameed is the founder of the ‘Diamond Approach’, a spiritual path of soul development and realization. It incorporates a unique type of inquiry that leads to a transformation, unfolding the creativity of which we are as spiritual Beings, and combines tools of psychology with spiritual teachings. This was the 'missing piece' I was searching for.
Hameed writes of his personal journey under the name of A.H. Almaas. He offers teachings through the Ridhwan School and through ordained teachers. Periodically, he will offer workshops to the general public throughout the United States and abroad.
Hameed is by far the most brilliant person I have had the opportunity to listen to. It is always a pleasure to hear him speak via his videos, audio tapes or in person. When I am with him I am aware of a Presence that defies words. Go to www.ahalmaas.com for additional information.
Find your own path to follow
There are many paths that lead to the same place. If you are a seeker, you must find the path that best suits you to bring about the spiritual wisdom and freedom that is innate in each of us. I am sharing with you part of my journey and four of the spiritual teachers that I have met. I wish all who are on their own quest a safe and loving journey.