by S Alexander Alich
Everyone has a gift, something unique that you bring to share in this world. My teachers saw this as our purpose or our medicine. It may take years to discover this gift in yourself, and it will probably be longer before others recognize it as well. As you bring your gift to your community, you will face many challenges and choices. One choice that I am going to share with you can affect the rest of your life. I offer these insights from my work to help you along your way.
No matter how you practice your spiritual work, who you are or where you live, one day in your work you will face a highly personal crossroads. Your choice is this: will you share your gift with your community and the earth so that all can benefit from it, or will you use your gift to benefit only yourself. Most people I meet will say quickly and without hesitation that of course they want to share what they have brought. In practice this is not as simple as it seems. To do this there is a sacrifice or death of self-purpose that we must undergo so we can fully realize our medicine. Without this death we will try to keep our old ways intact and can end up bending our medicine to personally profit from it.
Death of Self-Purpose
Letting go of the old ways or our childhood view of the world is a form of shamanic death. Not death of the physical body but of the old wounds, beliefs and habits that we hold in our mind and hearts. Letting go of these ways can feel like suicide because all you know is dying away, and you don’t know what will come next – or even if something else will be there. It is into this opening that our medicine can begin to grow and we can find the room to realize who we are becoming. Though this might not sound like much fun, and it isn’t when you are going through it, I assure my students during this time that this is not a mistake. It took them a lot of work to get here, and the best and only thing to do is surrender to the process so they can go on. There is no way to go around this crossroads – the only way is through.
Traps at the Crossroads
“I don’t need a teacher or help.” This is probably the most important time to have a teacher. We are not able to see ourselves clearly at this point in our work. Who we are becoming has not fully emerged, and who we were has not yet died. Having someone who has already gone past this point in his or her work to guide you is very important.
” I think I am done with this process.” This can look like the end of the road, and many have stopped here before they were really done. This looks like the end because for part of us it is. We must let go of our old ways of doing things to move forward, and this can be a frightening task.
“I know enough now.” I have watched many people decide that this must be the time to go out and teach, using their gift to make them money or fame. I have found the universe will sometimes put us in difficult situations to see if we are going to sell ourselves. When we sell our gift at this point, it usually means we are no longer living it and our work stops here.
“I do it all for you.” It is important to know your motivations. Some years of Enneagram studies or psychology can help you become aware of what drives you so you can respond from choice rather than react from habit. Doing things only for others is not a guarantee that you are doing them for the greater good of all.
“I can’t get lost now; I would never go the wrong way.” As a teacher, this sentence tells me something has gone wrong. Even with decades of spiritual practice there are no guarantees of continuing in a good way.
“I can get myself through this.” No one can work without seeing themselves. We can see ourselves only through our daily actions and interactions with friends, family and community. Our minds might be clear about whom we think we are becoming, but our daily actions help us manifest and live that vision.
How a Teacher Can Help
We usually think of teachers for what they can tell us, but this is not the only work of spiritual teachers. Teachers can model what works in our lives and in us and what doesn’t. They can point to what we need to look at in ourselves and show us traps along the way.
How You Can Help Yourself
Renewing your commitment to yourself, to spirit and to your work can help you through this time. Staying with your spiritual practices will also help pull you through – this is when you need them most. In addition, staying in your community will keep you focused and honest with yourself. At this point it can be tempting to leave behind people and situations you have known, but this is usually to your detriment.
A Life of Service Without a Goal
My teachers said that, although there is a benefit to us, there is no reward in this work, and I agree with them. So why do it? We must each answer this question for ourselves. It might help to know that many have traveled this way before you and made it past these crossroads. Some have sacrificed everything to do it. They have left behind a path for us to follow. They have left us hope, love and inspiration.