Cruel game

There are many reasons why I wouldn’t be a good teacher, at least not of the traditional type. Apart from not being qualified in any way, not being trained, and not enjoying projections coming my way, I often feel that traditional spiritual teachers play a cruel game with their students.

There is a reason for that cruel game, of course, and it is a quite innocent one. When there is an awakening, it is natural for many to want to share it. And when there is an absence of awakening here, combined with neediness at a human level, it is natural to seek something that will fill that hole, and spirituality can be one of those things.

So what is that cruel game?

To put it bluntly, it is the game of promising something, anything, from awakening, or giving the appearance of doing so. And getting students hooked on this to the exclusion of working on healing and maturing.

Of course, it is not quite that simple.

A genuine awakening does invite the human self to reorganize within this new context, and to heal and mature. And the process leading up to awakening, if it makes sense to talk about it that way, does often involve healing and maturing of the human self, especially when that is a clear intention.

But it is also a cruel game.

It is far too easy to get mesmerized by our ideas of an awakening, to assume that it will give us all that we ever dreamed of. It is far to easy to get caught up in projections onto others or the past or the future. It is far too easy to overlook that working on healing and maturing in a very ordinary way, at our human level, does fill the holes we experience and open for a deep sense of belonging, satisfaction and gratitude, at least to a great extent.

To me, it seems more honest to make it very clear to not expect anything from awakening. Partly because it is just the ground of everything noticing itself, and the ground is already here and already awake, even when it temporarily does not notice itself. Partly because the “I” that thinks it will get something from it, is what is awaken out of and recognized as just a gestalt of a me, doer or observer that is temporarily identified with. Partly because everything that the “I” wants before an awakening, is what it can find and get through a simple and ordinary process of healing and maturing.

Instead, we can emphasize healing and maturing using simple and ordinary practices and noticing. And if there is a quiet love for truth or God, then match that quiet love with the spiritual part of the practice.

Fortunately, there is a great deal of practices that does both, so it makes sense to use these as core practices, supplementing with practices that either focuses mainly or exclusively on healing and maturing, or inviting what we are to notice itself.

How does it look in practice?

How does the cruel game look? Mainly, it is apparent when students long for an awakening, and the teacher does not hold a mirror up to them, first helping them to see that what they are looking for is already here, and then invite them to notice and work on the ordinary human neediness behind it, a neediness that is expressed in many different ways, not only as a longing for awakening. And it is especially noticeable when a good number of students express and live out from this neediness, and continue to do so for a long time, even years.

How does a more kind game look? It can probably look many different ways. For me, it happens when the teacher holds up a mirror as described above. And especially when any neediness is met with practical and well-proven ways of working with healing and maturing at an ordinary human level. That’s where neediness comes from, that is where it is best addressed, and that is where we can find the deep sense of meaning and satisfaction that we all, or most of us, long for. It is not entirely complete, so that is where the spiritual aspect comes in, the invitation for what we are to notice itself.



It is a game of promising something wonderful from awakening, or appear to promise something wonderful from it, while de-emphasizing healing and maturing at the human level.

Neediness combined with that promise gets projections going like crazy. There is disappointment since a clear and stable awakening does not happen for everyone. And emphasizing awakening takes attention away from a simple, ordinary healing and maturing at the human level, which gives that sense of wholeness, meaning and direction that so many are looking for – and often hope to get from awakening.

To me, it seems that there is a more skilled and mature way to teach, and that is to (a) emphasize not expecting anything from awakening, and instead explore it from curiosity and as an experiment, and (b) include and emphasize healing and maturing at the human level, as a way to find that sense of wholeness, meaning and direction that we are looking for.

The good news is that we have many tools that invites in both awakening, and healing and maturing, especially when used with that intention. Some of these are The Work, the Big Mind process, self-inquiry, heart practices, body-centered practices and so on.

So a teacher can then emphasize a healthy attitude, which is to (a) take the awakening part as an experiment that will not get us anything, and (b) channel neediness and wounds into work on healing and maturing at a human level. And then offer tools that invites in both.

How does it look? It can look quite simple. For instance, as soon as neediness and projections comes up in the student, the teacher can help them recognize it for themselves, help them see what symptoms to look for, and suggest tools for working with it. It is help for self-help.

Some may say that it is good to (appear to) promise something wonderful from awakening, because it gets people on the path. But if they are on the path for the wrong reason, to fill holes created by wounds and neediness at the human level, it still seems a cruel game. Mainly because those wounds may sidetrack enough so a clear and stable awakening is less likely.



  • cruel game
    • understandable from both sides
      • wants to share
      • want to get something
    • but often a cruel game
      • promising something (or giving the impression of promising something)
      • not attained by many
      • and overlooking more practical ways to heal and mature at the human level
    • instead, focus on healing and maturing
      • easier achievable
      • fills the holes


It is the game of emphasizing awakening, and de-emphasizing healing and maturing at the human level.

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