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    Sprinting to Enlightenment

    I was recently asked why I haven’t done much with the Anti-Guru blog lately. My answer was, “I think I’ve said everything… at least twice.” I’m not that interested in beating the same horse, dead or alive, over and over, repeatedly, time and time again, ad nauseum, once more.

    So, it’s a rare occurrence that something pops into my brain and bounces around my cranium loud enough and long enough that I feel the need to write about it.

    This is one of those times, apparently.

    Let me start here: I’m an unusual person.

    I don’t mean that I’m better/worse than others. And I don’t mean it in any “we’re all special” way. I mean it as a statement of fact. I can do a few physical things that a small sub-set of other humans can do. There aren’t a lot of All-American gymnasts or All-American sprinters out there… and an even smaller group that are both. I’m one of them.

    I say this not to toot my own horn (beside, if I could toot my own horn, I’d never leave the house… oh, wait, different joke), but to let you know where I’m coming from when I launch into the following:

    Sprinters are born, not made. Sprinters are different than non-sprinters. Non-sprinters have no clue what real sprinting (running at 23 mph+) is, but sprinters can and do know what long, slow running is like (and we HATE it). Running as fast as you can… if you’re not a sprinter… is NOT sprinting.

    So what? you may ask.

    And what does this have to do with the personal development biz? you may wonder.

    I’m getting there.

    What set me off on today’s diatribe is the straw that broke the sprinter’s back, the umpteenth time some fitness “guru” said, “If you want to be lean and muscular, look at sprinters!” implying that if YOU want to be lean and muscular, all you need to do is the same thing that us sprinters do. Simple.

    And it sounds like it makes sense.

    Until you go back to my “sprinters are born and not made” argument.

    These fitness guys have it backwards. You don’t look like a sprinter because you sprint. You sprint because you’re one of those people who can/does look like a sprinter (and there are those who have the same look who can’t sprint).

    The direction of causation is upside down, or backwards, or inside out, or reversed… it’s WRONG.

    Sprinters look like sprinters, not because they sprint… but because they’re born sprinters (and because they sprint, which brings out the best in their body).

    Oh, the other thing about those buff sprinters — they do a lot of weight lifting. REALLY HEAVY weight-lifting. That’s an even bigger reason they look the way they do. AND, the weight lifting has the muscle-building effect it does, NOT because weights make you lean and buff, but because weights make born-sprinters lean and buff. How big/not-big you get from lifting is also genetically limited.

    By the way, this whole conversation about lean, buff sprinters is really only relevant for sprinters in their 20’s and 30’s.  Go to a masters track meet and look at the sprinters in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond… the number of really lean and buff people plummets (and those that are still packin’ on the muscle are often also packin’ in the “supplements.).

    Okay, what’s the connection between sprinting and spirituality?

    If we can accept that some people are different — sprinters — and that non-sprinters will never achieve what sprinters can do (did I mention that, at 48, I’m still faster than most high-school runners?), then why do we think that it’s any different for other aspects of our lives, like: the ability to meditate, your general outlook on life, whether you’re “grounded” or “ethereal”, how well you function in relationships, your willingness to take risks, whether you’re entrepreneurial… shall I continue? (I won’t, so don’t answer that).

    Why do people believe the classic self-help guru — or guru guru — pitch: “If I can do it, you can too!”

    Why don’t we see those people, and their professed state of whatever, and, assuming they actually do have what they claim (most — maybe all — do not), think “sprinter”?  IF they’ve achieved anything special (and, again, that’s HIGHLY arguable… as I’ve done throughout this blog), then let’s just chalk it up to something other than whatever technique they’re teaching. Perhaps, in fact, the only thing that sets them apart from the rest of the pack, is the ability to convince large groups of people that they’re special… maybe THAT is their version of being a sprinter.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice and enjoy running as fast as you can (meditating, or whatever)… but maybe you’ll cut yourself some slack if you don’t become “enlightened” because you’ve gotten causal direction correct (meditating doesn’t make you enlightened — whatever that is/isn’t — but people with a natural propensity toward that state — whatever it is/isn’t — also tend to meditate).

    Back in another 4-6 months when something else has gotten my goat… perhaps.

    14 Responses to “Sprinting to Enlightenment”

    1. Murali Says:

      How would one know if he/she is a born-sprinter or not ?.., unless one tries to sprint. And to try that one has to believe in the possibility of being a sprinter.

      A coach helps you in the skill of sprinting.
      A guru keeps you in the belief of being a sprinter.

      I didn’t want to agree with you.. but seems like I have to.

    2. sashen Says:

      Ah, see that’s another part of the picture… you KNOW you’re a born sprinter because you naturally find yourself sprinting (and being faster than the non-sprinters). Belief isn’t necessary. You simply find, one day, as you’re doing what all humans do (in this case, run), that you do it faster than most.
      A coach *may* help you refine what’s already present. But most coaches THINK they are responsible for an athlete’s success, when they’re really just lucky enough to have attracted gifted athletes who naturally improve on their own. (that’s a whole other story!)

    3. Andrew Jarvis Says:

      Yeah and self-help gurus like Robbins don’t teach people to do the things they did to be successful. He should tell be to grow to 6-8 and master Bullshit.

      Andrew

    4. David Kenward - The Mental Coach Says:

      OK, so someone is a born sprinter. They have the physical structure that allows them to run faster than other people. Proper nutrition, weight lifting, technique improvement, etc. helps them sprint even faster. It takes effort to do all that (and stick with it) and for that, there has to be a benefit/payoff in that person’s mind (of some kind). Fine.

      BUT, there’s also a difference between running for the fun of it (or in practice, when it doesn’t count) and running in competition. That’s when mental blocks show up, which, in my experience, are always based on beliefs. Changing self-limiting beliefs can be easy (i.e. Just Do It) or really difficult (that’s what I do).

      However, sometimes I have to tell people (who contact me) that getting rid of every mental block in the world isn’t going to make an average sprinter into an Olympian if they don’t have the native ability to start with.

      That’s the toughest thing to get across to people – just because you want something really bad doesn’t mean you are going to get it, no matter how much effort or money you put into “manifesting it.”

    5. Paul Stevenson Says:

      Interesting point. It seems to me that many people who have seemingly real “attainments”, such as Tony Parsons, Ramana, Robert Adams, Wren-Lewis, were as surprised as anyone at “attaining” the first level of whatever this awakening thing is. I find that interesting. I wonder how many people have had that first mind-shocking awakening/incident. I happen to like Ed Muzika’s low-key, simple approach to Advaita Self-Enquiry. He and Nisargadatta actually worked (meditated a lot) for what they “attained”/found. (According to what they have written or said, anyways, which seems believable.)

      I was (and may still be) a reader of Tony Parson’s books and attended one of his seminars. Essentially, his message is pretty much the same as UG Krishnamurti’s was. I figure if TP is right (and a nicer guy you will never meet), then he really has no good reason to tell to anyone about it. (I think he’s just a sociable guy who like to travel. There are worse.) Eventually, I just decided, while I await something that may never happen, that, for something to do I’ll just continue meditating using the Advaita “Self-Enquiry” approach.** I happen to enjoy doing it. (Disclaimer: I combine the “Self-Enquiry” technique with the Tibetan Buddhist “Mind-Training”. The two approaches work well together.) I expect my “wanting” whatever this “awakening/enlightenment” thing is will probably be the last thing jettisoned before I have any real progress.

      Cheers.

      Paul

    6. sashen Says:

      The surprising nature of anyone’s “attainment” is the exact point/problem. Why that person and not the one sitting next to them? Why did some “get it” (whatever “it” is) after no work and others after much work? I’m all for doing something entertaining while waiting to see if we might be one of the people to whom a seeming-something occurs… as long as I’m not subtly hoping for any of the imagined benefits of that seeming-something.

      Interestingly, your idea that the elimination of “wanting” might proceed some sort of progress is another of those “why him/her?” phenomenon. That is, some say that once they stopped wanting, something occurred. And others say that they needed the wanting to become all-encompassing before the “something.”

      And then we run into the bigger question: what defines “progress”? 😉

    7. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      Regarding SIPGE (self-improvement, personal growth, enlightenment) there is a possibility that you are not addressing.

      That doesn’t make your conclusion incorrect, nor would I ever, for a minute, want to ignore the role that innate aptitude plays in SIPGE or any other endeavor.

      But the possibility that your analysis ignores is that the condition of lukewarm, piss-poor, unstable and undependable results in the field is mostly due to the fact that, in spite of the hype, it is a field in it’s infancy and characterized by a very high level of incompetence. A permanent state of partially misguided trial and error would also explain a general condition of hit and miss, impermanent and/or unstable results.

    8. sashen Says:

      It’s true. It could be that despite the thousands of years of “teachings”, nobody has landed on a reliable method. We’ve got reliable techniques for teaching math (that still don’t work for everyone)… *perhaps* there are simple, reproducible, educational technologies for creating consistent psychological changes. Could be.

    9. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      I realized shortly after the last comment that I didn’t want to leave it with a tone that may seem condemning. There is no shame in a field being in its infancy. There is a problem when people feel that knowledge or competency has been established when it has not. So what, c’est la vie.

      I reiterate, your point is not lost on me. Individual differences are important. My point it that it is simply a matter of logic, in relation to any strategy in any field. If it doesn’t work you cannot only consider the conditions (the subject), you must also consider the strategy and its underlying theory.

      Although independent of the above point, there is no point in trying to hide the fact that I believe such incompleteness to be to some degree the problem. Thousands of years don’t impress me much, for you and I both know that thousands of errors have persisted for thousands of years.

      A good example is the “bigger problem.” To define progress we need to have some idea what the problem is. I know of no clear, cogent exposition of the problem to which enlightenment is the solution. The weight of our sins from past lives? That don’t impress me much either. Our evil nature? If you can’t trust yourself you cannot trust yourself not to trust yourself. The horrible experiences we had in childhood? Would not there be someone who managed to escape or avoid this alleged living hell, at least to the point of not being disabled by anxieties for the rest of their lives?

      Oh well, I’m running off at the keyboard. Nice to hear from you on facebook and congratulations on the LA times article.

    10. Carina Says:

      Hi! I love your website and that you criticize the spiritual world.
      There is a lot of charlatans out there.
      One thing I wonder though is why you don’t like religions or different
      spiritual paths? Don’t you think they can help people living a more
      peaceful lives? I mean if I develope more understanding and compassion
      I will be more peaceful and also I will effect people around me.
      Meditation helps the mind to be more still, conscious and peaceful.
      Don’t you find these methods valuable?
      Another question: if you don’t like gurus, how comeback you started
      IAM-course where you almost become a guru? Just curious.

    11. sashen Says:

      Great questions, Carina.

      What I’ve seen in my 40+ years around the “spiritual” world is that most forms of meditation and spiritual practice do not often lead to the kinds of changes you’re describing. At least not in the long-term. In other words, while meditation may, for example, help us calm down in the moment, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a dramatic change in our personality that would make us “more peaceful” let alone more compassionate. One look at the behavior of the people who have “mastered” the practice shows us that — they’re no less prone to human foibles than anyone else, and they’re the ones who are supposed to have transcended them.

      Granted, certain understandings and insights can help in certain circumstances. For example, understanding at a deep level that human beings “can’t be smart when they’re stupid” (e.g. when you’re totally stressed out, you won’t be at your best, and can’t do anything about that IN THE MOMENT), can make you less likely to criticize someone when they’re in that state. Or, recognizing that our thoughts arise and affect us without any deliberation on our part, can make us less likely to take our judgmentalness so seriously.

      But there’s no guarantee that spiritual practice will lead to those realizations. in fact, there are more reliable ways to discover those than through meditation). Plus, whether those understandings are “valuable” is a whole other issue (e.g. knowing that no specific set of imagined conditions in the future will make you happier might lead you to complacency).

      Regarding why I started the I-AM course… well, I put it off for years. Ultimately it was a set of events that seemed interesting to follow: a friend asked me to record the techniques that, until then, were just private musings; that same friend asked me — ad nauseum — to teach a small class; I decided to record the class just in case I wanted to do anything with the teachings; another friend asked to use one of the recordings as a giveaway for a product he sold; 1600+ people got that taste and asked for more; and it seemed interesting (at the time) to find a way to offer the rest to those 1600+ and whomever else discovered the course.

      That I’m putting ZERO effort into promoting the course should say something about how important it is for people to hear what I have to say ;-). Actually, I’ve thought quite a bit about removing it from the Internet.

      But your point about “becoming a guru” is a great one. You may notice that I do a lot to “de-guru-ize” myself during the course… both with the language I use and the stories I tell, my availability, and the way I talk to people. I avoid platitudes and “prescriptions for living” and I make no promises about attainments. I do everything I can to dismantle any positive projection I think I hear from people involved with the course. And, one of the reasons I’ve thought of removing the whole thing is how easily people guru-ize a teacher (in this case, me) who teaches about non-guru-nes 😉

      Ultimately, I find the human mind fascinating. I find these techniques engaging. That they produce the results they do is compelling to me. That they’re so different than what’s been taught seems an intriguing conversation. I’ll probably continue until none of those things feel true to me any longer.

    12. Carina Says:

      Hi Steven! Thank you for your answer! I find your opinions interesting and I like your blog. Little about me: I am involved in a so called practice. I meditate a little, pray sometimes, try to see things clearly in my everyday life and I reflect a lot. I am trying to see the “big picture” instead of my narrow little view. I suffer less when I see things in a wider perspective. I have read a lot of different books on spiritual subjetct mostly in the bigger religions. I have been involved in Buddhism for a while but I don´t like the guru thing there and also I don´t like when someone explain how it is or isn´t on a metaphysical level. I don´t like when buddhism says there is no God but also I don´t like religions explaining God in a separate way. So I guess I just want to believe in the mysticism. I don´t like dogmatism in religions.
      ************************
      “What I’ve seen in my 40+ years around the “spiritual” world is that most forms of meditation and spiritual practice do not often lead to the kinds of changes you’re describing. At least not in the long-term. In other words, while meditation may, for example, help us calm down in the moment, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a dramatic change in our personality that would make us “more peaceful” let alone more compassionate. One look at the behavior of the people who have “mastered” the practice shows us that — they’re no less prone to human foibles than anyone else, and they’re the ones who are supposed to have transcended them.”

      ****
      Interesting answer. In one way I can agree with you that some people just stays the same regardless of what they practice. But I don´t think it is like that for everybody. I feel that spiritual practice can give you a deeper meaning in your life. That´s why a lot of people becomes religious. I think I learn a lot about myself when I practice to be more aware of my thoughts and feelings. It is easier to let go or to stop think in a destructive way when I become more aware about it. I can see more clearly how I create my own suffering with my thoughts. But I don´t say I am so free or anything. Everything is just more clear. But I don´t believe in a suddenly radical change.
      ****************************
      Granted, certain understandings and insights can help in certain circumstances. For example, understanding at a deep level that human beings “can’t be smart when they’re stupid” (e.g. when you’re totally stressed out, you won’t be at your best, and can’t do anything about that IN THE MOMENT), can make you less likely to criticize someone when they’re in that state. Or, recognizing that our thoughts arise and affect us without any deliberation on our part, can make us less likely to take our judgmentalness so seriously.
      ****
      I agree.
      I think a lot of compassion developes when we can recognize our own suffering in others.

      ***************************
      Ultimately, I find the human mind fascinating. I find these techniques engaging. That they produce the results they do is compelling to me. That they’re so different than what’s been taught seems an intriguing conversation. I’ll probably continue until none of those things feel true to me any longer.
      *****
      So you do get results from methods? I thought you didn’t think that any methods can give you inner peace…I mean you use IAM. So what is the difference between your practice and other spiritual practices?

    13. sashen Says:

      Hi again Carina, and thanks for your response.

      When I say than no method leads to “inner peace” I mean:

      a) There is nothing that has been shown that creates a PERMANENT state of peace, equanimity, clarity, etc. (the promise of most paths)

      b) There is nothing that can reliably and consistently shift us from stressful to peaceful IN THE MOMENT we’re most stressed. Some techniques will work some times, but no technique works all the time (and the reason is what I call “You can’t be smart when you’re stupid”, which means that when we’re at our most stressed, the part of our brain we need to use to find peace is, essentially, off-line).

      That said, there are some techniques that seem to be better than others at reliably engendering altered states, which include feelings of peace, clarity, insight, etc. What I’ve found is that the IAM Course techniques are able to do that more quickly and reliably than anything else I’ve found.

      I don’t use them to get out of one “bad” state and into a “better” one. I use them because I enjoy where they take me when I’m practicing them. And I don’t concern myself with any sort of long term “attainment.”

      I also don’t think of these as “spiritual” because I have no frame of reference for that word. But, hey, that’s just me 😉

    14. Carina Says:

      Hi Steven!
      Nice to talk to you! What you say I find reasonable. I also don´t think that there is a permanent state of mind to achieve. I find that hard to believe because we are impermanent beings. But I think you can increase inner peace by practicing let go of destructive thoughts, compassion, wisdom etc.

      One person that I find admirable is a woman called “Peace pilgrim”. I don´t know if you heard about her. She is dead now, but she practiced deep transformation by letting go of all her negative thinking pattern and increased her compassion towards everybody. So I think it is possible to transform our negative thoughts, but I also think that there is not a permanent state. By that I mean you can be more or less peaceful, because life is in constant flux. But you don´t need to have negative thoughts, this I think you can transform.

      Words can be very misleading. I look at different religions and their different dogmas. Somehow I think that a lot of people have experienced something sacred or divine, and different religions have developed because of that experience. When people try to explain that experience, dogma occurs. So I think it is the same experience but different explanations. Spiritual is also just a word explaining this. The words and explanations can make us blind so we forget our experience.

      :)




     

     

     

     

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