The Master Limps

Who is the spiritual master? The master limps. The master is not perfect. Like the rest of us, the master is flawed. But unlike most of us, the master is not handicapped by his limping because he knows his limping doesn’t have the power to name who he is. Like everyone else, the master is confused. But unlike us, the master is not confused by her confusion because she knows her confusion doesn’t have the power to name who she is. As is the case with the rest of humanity, the master is afraid of many things, but the master is not frightened by his fear because he knows his fear doesn’t have the power to name who he is.

The above is paraphrased from a talk given by psychologist James Finley. Jim, who is a long time friend, is making a case for the fact that a person need not be without normal feelings to be a spiritual master or guide; that is, one who is anchored in a sense of self that is sacred. Being “handicapped” is a metaphor for what happens when we identify with what inhibits us, thereby limiting our understanding of who we are. We do not have to have overcome our humanness to be spiritually attuned; neither do we have to be without a limp (flaw) to be a person who can help others get in touch with their spiritual depth.

The difference between most of us, and those people who are able to face life’s perplexities without being thrown by them, is that they know they are more than their confusion, fear, insecurity, inadequacy, self-doubt, and the like. Those who are spiritually attuned know that, like an iceberg, there is beneath the surface, a dimension of their being that is solid and sacred. No one is immune from the feelings that come with being human, but all of us are more than those feelings. When we lose touch with this truth, our sense of self becomes trapped at the surface, and we become handicapped by our limping.

All of this begs the question how can we keep from giving power to the tendency to identify with feelings and self-concepts that are limiting? There is no easy answer to this query, but there is a way to respond to it. First, we must accept our feelings, and second we must resist the impulse to identify with them. Acceptance means acknowledging our fear, confusion, etc. Paradoxically, we do not lessen the impact of such feelings by overcoming them; rather, we do so by facing them. Resisting means refusing to buy into the notion that we are what we feel, and affirming over, and over, and over again, that there is more to us than our limp.


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