Saturday, April 17, 2010

Leading and Following

A free market of ideas can be a messy thing. One person may wonder why another joined a group that appears kind of whacky to those who are not part of it, while the one who is in it may be having fantastic experiences. I am excluding from consideration here any groups that had a violent ending. I am referring to the vast majority of groups in which the difference is in the leader or teacher and their methods.

Usually a person will choose to become part of a group because they like what the group and its leader or teacher has to offer. If they don't care for what the group has to offer, they leave. Some may leave within a matter of days, others stay in for years.

For example, there was one guru who became regarded as outlandish because he took the money that his followers gave him to buy a fleet of luxury cars. If I recall properly, that was one of those groups where followers gave up all their stuff in order to become part of the group. It certainly would never cross my mind to give all my money to some guru. Then over the years, I have met some people who were part of his group and they told me that they had a great time and they were glad they were part of it. Whatever. It was their time and money, not mine.

During my life, I have had many opportunities to meet a wide variety of gurus, teachers, shamans, witches, healers, readers, authors, artists, musicians, inventors, designers, adventurers, and whatnot. I have experienced things that were amazing, and others that were what I would consider a ripoff. In some cases, there is just no substitute for experience.

Examples. At one time, I would never have done a firewalk. The one day I did it. I once met a healer who was reputed to have a healing touch that would transmit light and electrical currents. The spot he chose was right on my third eye. I was skeptical until it happened. I have been in circle with a group of witches, doing a ritual on a mountain top. Storm clouds were all around us, and outside the circle it was cold. Inside the circle it was warm. The weather held the whole time we were together. After the ritual was over and we headed back to our campsites, then we felt the temperature drop, wind kicked up and the rain started. While visiting a famous healer in Brazil, I heard a man speak who swore that a well known healer came to him in spirit while he was in the morgue and brought him back from the dead.

Another example. There is a person who promotes himself as a marketing guru. Somebody who bought a book from him let me read it. I was stunned at how lame it was, and glad that I had not bought it. My friend later agreed with my assessment. Why does his stuff keep selling? There is a strong appeal in this crazy economy for people seeking to make a lot of money. Who doesn't want to have enough to have a safety net below and live in a comfortable way? Even a badly flawed opportunity still looks like an opportunity to a person who is struggling. In some cases, sampling a person's work was disappointing and disgusting. In other cases it was enlightening.

I have had the experience of going to a workshop with a teacher who was very popular and flashy. Lots of showmanship.He was the flavor of the month 20 years ago. Where is he now? Then I went to a workshop that has a much more grounded profile. The teacher and the system has been plugging along for years. It is so calm, simple and direct in the delivery of the presentation that participants discover amazing results, that just kept happening one after the other, without any flash. This group is so established that they don't get a lot of publicity these days, But they were absolutely worth it. The new star will outdraw the old standard on any given day, but those with an experience of both know who is better.

The dividing line, in my view, is to consider whether the type of business you are in will make you better off while giving the other party a fair deal. Answering that question is a reliable guide for your conscience and your actions. And are the things you will be doing,things you want to do? Do you feel the real connection. There is a huge difference between saying that you are happy to be making so much money, and quite another to say that you really enjoy doing what you are doing.

I think there are two different issues to consider, which sometimes get jumbled up. One is whether there is some lasting value in a transaction, one that is fair to both parties. The other is what kinds of life lessons do the students or members get out of their experience. There were people who have lived in communes (these days the preferred term is intentional communities) that failed, and yet gained valuable lessons from the experience. Others, of course, wish that they had passed on that opportunity.

What got me thinking about this was that a friend expressed concern about someone she knew just up and going off to follow some guru. The person in question is an adult and free to make that choice. The teacher in question? Well, after looking at some of her material on the web, I will say she is a lot better looking than other gurus. That could be reason enough for that young man to run off and join the circus. Who knows what he might learn from this?

I myself have been part of groups that outsiders might question the value of, but I am happy that I did what I did, and got a lot out of it. Sometimes I thought that if more people just understood what we were about, they would not see my participation in those groups as a good thing, But we all have our own opinions, and there will always be as many flavors of teachers as there are flavors of people. We also have to accept that sometimes a person is not interested in understanding someone else's point of view. Learning to accept and consider other point of view is part of the process

I deliberately left names out of these examples, because I did not want to get tangled up in discussing the particulars of individuals. I want to keep the focus on the principles.

Choose the times you want to be the leader or the follower, There's lots of opportunities, and they are not all equal, but some, strange as they may seem, may be just right for you. Instead if jumping to conclusions about others, engage them in a discussion about what they do. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome, Approaching our own changes and understanding those of others makes everything move along more swiftly. Sometimes we are leaders and sometimes we are followers

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