What do spiritual teachers and leaders do when no one is looking?
Out in public they lead, worship, support and teach. But what are they up to when home and alone?
Over the decades I have hosted and met many of them. From experience I know that they all do the same thing. Away from their audiences, their students and congregations, they take quiet time to connect more deeply with their spiritual source.
It does not matter what their tradition is — mainstream religion, pagan, shaman, healing, yoga, meditation, dance — they take time day by day to deepen their spiritual connection. Without exception this is done quietly and humbly, with an appreciation of how small they are in the context of the cosmos.
Yes of course, after the outbreath of public service, they need to regenerate and fuel themselves. And Yes their legitimacy as a spiritual leader comes from the authenticity of their own spiritual practice. But this is not their primary motivation for ongoing spiritual practice.
Their primary motivation is their own inner calling. The core of their spiritual lives is not public outreach, though being of service is crucial. The core is their private and internal vocation — to greater connection with all that is, more love and compassion, expanded consciousness.
Think of any spiritual teacher you like and contemplate their life at home.
Be realistic. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Amma, the hugging saint, is not hugging everything in sight but is quietly allowing herself to be hugged by spirit. The shaman is not continually transported by plant medicines and trance-dancing but sits quietly in landscape. The Dalai Lama spends hours in meditation. The Pope is not ceremonially processing around his apartment in robes and mitre but is in contemplation and prayer.
This was always their real calling. Release all the teaching and leadership. They are solid in their spiritual practice.
Some of their ambitious followers and students may seek to be like them, also leading and teaching. But they may be missing the point, the essence. All the different spiritual paths and styles lead to the same thing — the individual’s personal spiritual calling and practice. Repeating myself now, that essence is:
— Deeper connection with all that is
— More compassion and love
— Expanded consciousness
Spiritual growth may sometimes happen serendipitously or with a wave of grace. In reality it requires dedication and daily perseverance, a rhythm of quiet opening and connection.
So I wonder if for some of us there has been a silver lining in this Covid crisis. It has provided a time and focus for spiritual practice. We do the same then as all the teachers and leaders. We are called to an ever-deeper relationship with the wonder and energy, with the awe and mystery of all that is.