Many hunger for spiritual connection and balance. Some find this through religious activities; others don't. Additional avenues include attending expensive seminars, reading spiritual books, taking online courses, and seeking advice from others who might seem more spiritually advanced than we are. Often, the training seminars come in packages and "levels" -- intimating that the higher the level, the farther along or more enlightened one is.
In recent years especially, I've questioned this. It seems our longing for spiritual balance can at times get us very UNbalanced.
I'm a veteran of many personal development trainings. My own search for self-understanding, growth, and spiritual communion has led me into all sorts of experiences, including standing atop telephone poles, doing ropes courses, and "bashing" old angers and behavior patterns. Most of this has served me well; especially sweat lodges and vision quests with Native American healers. Their attitudes have always been respectful and compassionate.
Some trainers, however, might borrow traditions from other cultures and -- possibly through misunderstanding their intended focus -- turn them into competitive events. Twisted in this way, the process becomes less about spiritual communion than exhibiting something to others.
Coming out of a sweat lodge "early", for instance, can be judged as a sign of weakness. People can be exhorted to continue despite individual needs for water or fresh air; desire to be part of the group (or to demonstrate stamina) can drive them past their own inner knowing.
Why? What is our need to prove ourselves to others, to have multiple "levels" under our belts, or to be designated "Masters" of this or that spiritual discipline? I'm sure there are many drivers for this, and that my understanding is limited.
Questions have been raised about some very tragic deaths at a recent sweat lodge in Sedona. I wasn't there, but some survivors' comments are alarming. How far do we need to go, in order to grow? To discover peace within? To become more solid, loving people? I'm grateful that Chief Arvol Looking Horse has written to educate those who might not understand the nature of Lakota "inikaga", or "life within" ceremonies. This has been misinterpreted as "sweat lodge," a term which does not encompass the entire [purification] rite. Chief Looking Horse describes the sacred manner in which this is traditionally carried out, differentiating it from the Sedona event.
My heart goes out to those who died, to their families, and all who experienced these events directly. In the tradition of Ho'oponopono, I offer indigo, emerald green, ice blue, and white.
I've always appreciated the fact that there are no "levels" in Ho'oponopono. There are no "better" cleaners, only possibly more consistent ones. There is room -- even encouragment -- to simply be what one is. Early on, I wondered about so-called "Advanced" Ho'oponopono trainings. Framed by my experiences elsewhere, I automatically expected additional trainings beyond "Basic" ones. But there weren't any, which initially seemed confusing.
And then it became a great relief! It meant that, after learning some basics from Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and others, we could simply practice with ourselves -- not requiring a guru in order to develop further.
In fact, the whole Ho'oponopono training process involves connecting with our own inner child and Divinity within. Of course, there are helpful meditations and tools we can learn to use. Basic training seminars are available to share these. Also, long-time practitioners such as Dr. Hew Len, Mabel Katz, and Kamaile Rafaelovich do answer questions when asked. But they repeatedly point us back to ourselves, and Divinity within which inspires us.
I have grown to appreciate this more and more. It's a breath of fresh air amidst trainings that focus on achieving "personal power," or other things. Though we can always learn more, Ho'oponopono is more about consistent practice than additional techniques or knowledge. It helps us rely less on our conscious mind alone, because that part of us is so unaware of the depth and breadth of things. Instead we surrender to our spiritual nature, realizing that Divinity encompasses whole universes more than our human egos or minds ever can.
Ho'oponopono is one way of learning to appreciate who we already are, and to give thanks for all. Well-grounded in this, we are stable and balanced for whatever comes.
Peace begins with me,