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Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing...Suddenly Everyone Can Be a Guru!

As a teenager I briefly attended a yoga class. I had read that yoga was a beautiful and ancient art but my experience was that it was anything but beautiful and the only ancient thing about that particular class was the elderly woman who ran it who, in the middle of demonstrating a movement (I forget the name of it but it consisted on kneeling down on all fours and raising one leg like a dog relieving himself at a lamp post!) regaled everyone with long stories of her son's divorce, her neighbour's hysterectomy and how she had healed herself through yoga of all kinds of illnesses that I had never heard of. I gave up on yoga within a couple of weeks.

Some years later I signed up for a Tai Chi class. I should have seen the warning signals when the introduction involved paying the full amount for something like 10 lessons before anything was taught or shown. It took a long time for everyone to sign in and pay all this money, but eventually the couple who were running the class said, "Now we will show you what you will be able to achieve after 10 weeks..." We watched in eager anticipation of something amazing but the woman simply moved her arms and legs in one simple movement that we could all already do. I stayed for the two hour class, listened to a whole load of hogwash, and, having wasted the money, never returned.

Now, of course, I know better: Tai Chi and Yoga are amazing spiritual disciplines and arts coming from ancient traditions of wisdom and truth but they are much misunderstood and abused.

Since I only recently managed to gain access to YouTube, thanks to a new computer, it has opened up a whole new world but also an old world in a new form. There are a zillion 'guided meditation' videos. It seems like everyone is suddenly an expert of the 'law of attraction' on 'meditation' on angels and spiritual truths. Yes, indeed, the truth of each person is to be respected but the number of people 'guiding' others in their own brand of meditation is staggering. Some are highly amusing: the high pitched voice with a jarring accent that says in the tone of a concentration camp commandant, "Now listen only to my voice and relax. Relax. Relax..."; or the numerous soporific voices that drone on and on about breathing deeply...relax, relax, relax...Or there are a few that become quite impassioned about meeting your imaginary lover, or entering mystical caves, or meeting your spirit guide on a beach, or feeling the ocean, seeing angels....Suddenly onto the bandwagon jumps everyone with a little learning and whole load of nothing to say. And in the middle of all of this there are some really true voices: most of them seem to come from India and are people who are clearly have something to say, so they say very little and what they do say is not the anaesthesia or escapism of so much mush. Crikey! After listening to some of the nonsense spouted today, it was utterly refreshing to have a phone call from a dear friend who brought that stuff down to earth with a most earthy statement that, "The cat threw up in the toaster!" I wonder if the cat had been suffering from a surfeit of that saccharine nonsense that some people call meditation.

It seems in every walk of life, 'a little learning is a dangerous thing...' Dangerous only because it is simply an escape. Chakras, energy flow, meditation, recognizing our reality and true spirituality are vital but, no matter how much I have read about them, I am so aware that I know so little about them. People who thoroughly understand these things, shine out on YouTube and in their writings - they are people who have studied deeply, meditated deeply, have been through all kinds of depths of understanding and they have huge lessons to teach us. Yes, the information is accessible now to us all and that is brilliant, but please, any Tom, Dick or Harry who has read one book or spent a few minutes in silence or saying a Mantra, don't suddenly think you have a duty to guide the rest of us. It rather reminds me of some of the TV adverts for shampoo or moisturizer or certain foods where they say something like, "The only product to contain Z-P300!" or "Rich in Glycopsychoglutinousmaximus" and they think people are so stupid that we all suddenly realize that all that has been lacking in our lives is some fictitious chemical!

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