Tuesday 19 January 2021

If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.

Sheldon Kopp's book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! Was one of my favourite books for a very long time. It looks at modern day stories and combines them with therapeutic journeys in a most intriguing way. Ultimately though, he shares that people are only really healed when they are able to step away from the gurus they trusted and forge their own paths, explaining that the therapy client in particular is often too invested in the opinions of others. From the business woman who would like to become a gogo dancer, to the beauty who needs to connect with her own beast or shadow, the tales are fascinating ones which would motivate many to seek self knowledge.

It is the concept of stepping away from the guru who fascinates me though. In a book about the psychotherapist as guru, Kopp once compared the therapist to the Wizard of Oz. He comes in disguise, seemingly more important and capable than he really is. Oz is more than human, a powerful image in the mind of those who would seek his assistance. There is the cowardly lion, the brainless scarecrow and the tin man without a heart. There is also Dorothy, seeking her way back home. Although Dorothy would later declare the wizard to be a 'very bad man' and a fraud, the wizard saw himself as a very good man. As Kopp shares, had he pointed out that his seekers already had the qualities they were looking for at the very beginning, they would simply not have believed him.

Lately though, I've been intrigued by the dark guru or wizard, the one who will not relinquish power even after his/her followers are aware of their own strengths. Followers are so often more capable than their mentors eventually. I am reminded of Asher Lev, who eventually became a better artist than his mentor, Jacob Kahn. Jacob admitted to teaching Asher all that he could and pointed out that the student had surpassed the mentor. One of my own mentors, a brilliant woman with incredible insights once said to me (about a single topic) 'thank you for showing us, including me, what you see.' I was stunned. I believe true mentoring is about humility and the ability to share how we our all on our own learning journeys. None of us have all of the answers. It simply isn't possible.

Many who seek a mentor are naturally humble and believe that assistance offers great benefits. How important, then, to ensure those people know when they have the skills to manage alone. This helps to prevent imposter syndrome, where a person always believes s/he is not ready, that extra assistance is crucial, that is always something more to learn. Sheldon Kopp, by teaching his clients to reject all gurus and to follow their own path, offers some of the greatest advice of all. The path to authenticity

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