What do I mean by breaking away from the tribe and what you may mean are two different things. I don’t mean like, Go Away!. I don’t mean that. I mean the capacity to engage in my reality. To pursue truth, on an individual, deeply spiritual path…to really understand that we live in our own subjective worlds. I don’t need to have my inner world match anybody else’s. Now, that’s not true for a lot of people. That’s not true. I have a quiet, mystical experience that shifts the way I understand nature…that tells me nature is a much more conscious place. I don’t report that to people. I don’t have to have people agree with me. I don’t run outside and say “stop chopping trees because they feel it!” I don’t do any of that. Because I don’t need to have the outside world validate what I see on the inside.
DONNA: Is that what you meant by self-esteem? That comfort and confidence in your own subjective reality?
CAROLINE: Yes. And I don’t tell myself “I must be nuts…I know I’m nuts.”
DONNA: Is that what awakening is? What is awakening?
CAROLINE: Yes. When you get to the point where you realize, I can have experiences… When people say “I heard this voice and I thought I was going crazy”… I never thought I was going crazy. I always knew that I was right on target with my life journey. But if someone else says, “I felt this guidance and I thought I was going crazy.” The guidance stops. Because healthy divine guidance is not meant to drive you crazy. And if you are so fragile that the slightest thing that varies from ordinary thought drives you crazy, you are cut off.
DONNA: And it seems that collectively, we have awakened together. I have heard you say that the whole approach to healing was much different 50 years ago, before World War II, than it is now. So, has there been a collective awakening? And how would you characterize that awakening?
CAROLINE: I think there is a collective pause. I wouldn’t call it awakening. Oh my God, look at this world! No, honey, I wouldn’t say awakening. Look at this world… Do you think it’s awakened?
DONNA: And yet, there are more people who are considering the trees to be conscious than there ever were before.
DONNA: There has been change. It’s just that there are too many people, I think. And so, as many people are awakening, there are just as many being born into a kind of collective dark night…
CAROLINE: Yeah. I think what we are seeing is… This is what is true… It’s like, why people don’t heal. Why people don’t awaken. It’s that they come very close to the end of the bridge. To that Rubicon. Why don’t they cross it? Why do they live on the edge? They might run across the bridge to the other side. But then they come back…and here is an example. All of the teachings that are now abundant about how our attitudes have creative force. That energy creates matter. Which means, our thoughts are the engine of what goes on in our life. They are the engine. They are the engine of what is happening in our reality. We should know that by now, but we don’t live there. We don’t live there.
This is my point. So, what is awakening? We don’t apply it. We don’t apply it. Why don’t we apply it to…? When people say, “what’s going on at work?” Or, why don’t they go to work and really apply their consciousness to the field of which they are in every day, as an ordinary exercise? As an ordinary practice? Knowing my thoughts… here is a law. What is in one is in the whole. What I do to every single person, I’m doing to everybody. What I do to myself, I do to everybody. That is a fundamental law of holy mysticism and holy biology. Do we practice it? No. So, all the things that we know… All the things that have been revealed in the last 60, 70, 80 years…it’s the same thing I see with people and their health. When they ask for help, and yet I look at them and before I say anything to you, I want you to tell me ten things that your spirit is telling you that you should be doing…telling you all the time, right now…that you should be doing to make you better, that you’ve been ignoring. Before I say anything, tell me ten ways that you are sabotaging. Your spirit already has been telling you “get off that food product…exercise…” Your own intuitive wisdom has been directing you, but you are not listening to it.
DONNA: How do you know the difference between your intuition and just noise in your head?
CAROLINE: Because you feel bad when you don’t listen to it. Do you feel bad when you don’t listen to noise? No. But guidance…guidance is relentless. And it makes you feel funky when you don’t pay attention because it’s relentless.
DONNA: But the noise in our heads makes us feel funky, too.
CAROLINE: Well, give me an example of noise in your head.
DONNA: Well, for example…we all do it. What we were just saying…it all starts with our head and the thoughts in our head. That’s what gives us the emotions.
CAROLINE: Your head. Give me some noise in your head.
DONNA: Well, it could be what we started out with. A profession. Maybe it’s, I don’t want to go to work today. Or, for instance, people who are in serious binds in life. Should they leave this marriage… Or, should they leave this work? Or, should they move?
CAROLINE: That’s a question. Underneath that is the guidance. Why are they asking the question? Could be rumblings. Some rumblings that are deeper. You don’t ask a question like that, unless there are rumblings going on in you….about you…About the circumstance you are in. And that’s where guidance comes from. And believe me, guidance isn’t about telling you to go or stay. Often times, guidance is about…Look at yourself. You are running away. You are fearful. You bite. You are snapping at people. You are creating distraction. What’s going on inside of you? You need to look at yourself. Guidance isn’t always about, pick up and go! Or, get a new job. It’s not always so pedestrian. It’s very frequently painful. And it’s about the pursuit of self-knowledge. Get to know yourself better. You are missing something here. You are attacking people. Don’t look at them. Why are you always attacking people?
DONNA: Is there a practice that brings us more in touch with that source of guidance? Meditation? Prayer? And if so, can I ask, what is your practice? Or, what would you consider is the most important thing we can do every day?
CAROLINE: Well, you shouldn’t be left alone in your head. Much less in your soul. You need a spiritual director. I’ve been with my spiritual director for 18 years. Two hours a week. You don’t go on a soul journey unescorted. Anybody.
DONNA: So, you need a teacher?
CAROLINE: Not a teacher. A director. A spiritual director. You don’t need a teacher, you need someone who examines you. The way I’m bantering with you. You know, you sway this way and I’m putting you that way. You don’t have the right vocabulary. You know, showroom…this is how you ask it, showdown. How do you access the soul, if you don’t have the right words? How do you know, this is what you want to ask? This is how you do it. You don’t need a teacher for the soul; you need a director. You need to be able to reflect on How did I behave today? How did I organize my thoughts today? Why did I organize them that way? Take your eyes off everybody else. And don’t go backwards. There is nothing back there. Your history is in your present moment. Your history is in your behavior. It’s jam packed in who you are today. So, there is no reason to go back there.
DONNA: So are you talking about a spiritual director, or not necessarily… Could it be a life coach or…?
CAROLINE: No. Me. I’m talking about a spiritual director. What do you need a life coach for? If you are going into your spirit, what are you going to do with a life coach? If you want a life coach, go to a life coach. But if you are interested in pursuing the spirit, you need a spiritual director. You need someone who can recognize what a spiritual crisis is. You need someone who really understands what is the darkness of the soul. That’s an archetypal journey that has well marked stages in it. It’s got the “Night of the Senses.” The Night of the Spirit. And they follow each other. And if I’m sitting with one of my directed, I need to be able to recognize where you are. Are you in the “Night of the Senses” or are you in the “Night of the Spirit?” It’s a journey that I need to know…which bench to sit with you on. I need to know exactly what part of your soul is getting cracked in half. And the last thing I would ever say to you is “How unfortunate.” The last thing that I’m going to do is commiserate because The Dark Night is not about that. It is a journey that while it may bring you to your knees, it’s a journey of profound liberation.
DONNA: And is it a necessary part of this path? To go through what Eckhart Tolle says is a “limit situation?” A dark night of the soul…a crisis…a trauma? Does it have to be difficult? Going to the path toward enlightenment, or awakening, if you prefer?
CAROLINE: Well, let me ask you something. Do you find giving up illusions, easy?
DONNA: So that’s the answer. Of course not. We need our illusions. There is a Woody Allen movie where he says, “we need our illusions like we need air.”
CAROLINE: There you go. None of us gives up easy. We don’t go down without a fight. And we will swear to the end that it is not an illusion, but it is.
DONNA: And so, then we come back to truth?
CAROLINE: Bingo. Buddha would say…and I love…even Catherine the Great…I just adore history. History is my thing. And even Catherine the Great knew that everything was illusion. And she always wore lots of jewels. And she was very charismatic and she said, “I don’t do this for myself. I do this for the Russian people because they need this illusion.” And… “I need them to believe this illusion that I am one of the Gods.” She said, “because the moment they don’t believe your illusion, they’ll realize that I’m only a human being…and I can’t let that happen.”
DONNA: You were talking in your TED TALK about the power of choice. And how the choices that we think are big, really aren’t so big. Could you explain that?
CAROLINE: Well, I think we make a mistake in thinking that there are such things as big choices and little choices. They may look big. We may think it’s a big choice to buy a big house and make a big move. Because it costs a lot of money. When in fact, you are choosing one word. A four-letter word…to move. It takes a lot of effort, but it’s really a small choice isn’t it? To move. I think I’m going to move. I’m going to move after this phone call. I’m going to go down stairs and I’m going to move. But in our minds…because there is so much more packing…but it’s still the same decision. To move…I’m just going to move more stuff with me. At the same time, you make think that going into your room at night and deciding—I just have to have a quiet few minutes and be alone—is not a big choice. And yet, in that moment, you might have given yourself enough space and enough quiet to let a realization emerge. And in that realization, you make a choice.
DONNA: And it might be huge.
CAROLINE: And it might be this tiny little choice that says, “I think I am going to go there tomorrow.” And then you go tomorrow and you meet your husband. You don’t know what a big choice is. You don’t!
DONNA: You were also saying that one of the most important things we can do is to lead a life that is integral. And I was wondering if you could expound on that. What does that mean to “live a life that is integral?”
CAROLINE: Integrate. Integrity. Honorable. A life of honor. A life that is Integris. Life, where, when you give your word, you keep it. It means something. That it means something to you. That…when you say “Yes,” you mean…Yes! And when you say, “No,” you mean…No. That…you don’t lie. You don’t say something that is not true.
DONNA: Why aren’t these things taught in our curriculum today? For example, the power of choice. You talk about the power of language and you’ve mentioned it in our time together today…that language matters. Even in terms of being on a journey. Even when we don’t realize we are on a journey, we are somewhere on a journey and the language we use is important. Directing ourselves.
CAROLINE: What could be more important?
Continued in Part III…
Read Part I Here: The Real Heart of a Spiritual Journey Is the Pursuit of ‘What Is Truth?’
“A spiritual teacher does exactly that – teaches. But a Spiritual Director works with a person in a one-to-one relationship with the specific intent to assist in the exploration and examination of that individual’s spiritual life and questions about matters related to spiritual growth.” – Caroline Myss