Did anyone ever give you advice you didn’t ask for? “Ha!” you say, maybe even out loud! It’s ridiculous to ask since OF COURSE that’s happened. Maybe you were just with family over Christmas and got more of it than you ever wanted! Some of us are blessed with certain people in our life who seem to give an overabundance of this “skill”; I say “blessed” since they are helping make us stronger in our own convictions and being able to stay loving and grounded and accepting even when another, possibly important, person in our life is disagreeing with our choices.
You may be wondering why I’m mentioning this since it seems like a very “un-yogic” topic, BUT it’s not so much about the receiving of it that is the issue for us as spiritual practitioners and as people who simply want to experience more peace inside and to be more radiantly loving and of service in the world. It’s really the GIVING of it that we need to watch out for.
A follow-up question: Have you ever GIVEN advice that was not requested? (Every time I read that while writing this, I say, “Ha!”) Most likely you have, as I have, too. If we are at all self-reflective, then we would have to ask ourselves what makes us any different from the people who annoyed us by doing the same to us. Giving advice, especially when unsolicited, is potentially a dangerous situation for a spiritual practitioner to be in: dangerous because we are assuming we know best for someone else; dangerous because we have initiated a flow of energy where there was not an opening and that energy has to go somewhere and may, in fact, rebound unfavorably on us, or maybe we just lost/wasted it; and dangerous because we are assuming that our, no-doubt, CORRECT (that’s sarcasm) guidance was for that other person, WHEN REALLY IT WAS FOR OURSELF!
That’s the main issue that I see in giving advice, EITHER solicited OR unsolicited, doesn’t matter to me. The real thing is that when we are giving advice, as far as I can tell from many years of watching this, we are always, inevitably, giving advice to ourselves. Our deepest, knowing Self is sneaking some guidance through the veil of the ego which we can use as guidance in our life. However, too many egos are (easily) fooled into thinking that it’s for the “OTHER” person and thereby miss the beautiful opportunity that is actually presented in the situation.
For many years I have had a purposeful practice of watching when I give advice and being sure, after the fact at least, that I was taking the advice myself, basically that I am practicing what I’m preaching. (The world has WAY too many people preaching and NOT practicing it. I do not want to be one of those people.) The world changes when I make this mental shift; I take back control, and the Universe is a more friendly place to one who is endeavoring to be consistent, as far as I can tell. Also, to the benefit of the people around me, through this conscious practice, I give advice less and less and only very infrequently now give unsolicited advice, and I am very mindful and careful even about the advice that I give which someone has requested of me. If I give advice, I know that I have just created a responsibility and more inner work for myself. Instead of giving advice, I prefer to share my perspective, or to share what appears to me, or to share from my experience, KNOWING, and here’s another thing that most of the advice-givers out there miss, that I could be wrong, that the person with me may need something else, or come to a different and equally valid conclusion!
Rarely do people give ME unsolicited advice, but toward the end of the November election cycle, a woman who I had been emailing with, gave me advice that she so obviously was not taking herself, which is, of course, normal for such situations in my experience and probably your’s, too. However, in that moment, it gave me my take-away from the whole 2018 election process for which I am incredibly thankful. There was this spontaneous prayer that has stayed with me since: Please, God, Please, Divine Mother, let MY hypocrisy be as obvious to me as other people’s hypocrisy is to me. Please let me see MY hypocrisy as easily as I seem to see “other’s.”
Another way to say this prayer, given the earlier thoughts, is, “Please, God/Divine Mother, please let me see when I’m NOT taking my own advice as easily as I see when someone else is not taking their own advice.” I do prefer the “hypocrisy” part of the original because it has a negative connotation, regardless of political and religious point of view, and it reminds me of the very real dangers that come from saying one thing and doing another.
If you are proudly thinking, “Yeah! I wish OTHER PEOPLE would do that!” don’t be too proud and don’t think that it doesn’t equally apply to you as well. That would be a mentally “giving advice” to others (more about that later), and as I already said, that advice is for us. We probably (we definitely! in my view) have more in common with the “other people” that we wish would do that than we have differences. And seeing that is a powerful spiritual practice.
Just a reminder, as I’ve written and said many times before and will continue to say probably till I die, INSIDE, in the Inner World, I personally go for consensus, waking up all the parts and getting all viewpoints and working to have ALL parts saying “yes,” no one in here needing to feel that they are giving advice to ANY OTHER PART. A heart-full sharing of viewpoints, yes, that’s a good thing in here, but whether advice is given from one part of myself to another inside or advice is given, or inflicted, in the outside world, it feels the same inside, kind of yucky, you know. It’s not easy or fast necessarily to get consensus, and not always possible, but in my experience, it’s been worth the effort and is definitely a discipline that I will continue. As far as I can tell, it’s the way to Peace. It certainly requires a disturbingly (to the ego) high level of respect of all voices in there, a sensitive and willing “ear”, patience and a willingness to hear and see what previously had not felt safe to be heard or seen. I imagine it’s easy to see the possible benefits of that practice.
The main point in all of this, again, is to give encouragement simply to pay attention when we hear advice coming out of our mouth, and to make good use of the opportunity we have given ourselves. If you are a bit more intense in your spiritual search, then you can join me in the practice of noticing in the same way even the advice I give mentally to others without saying anything verbally to them. It is trickier to catch that but equally as meaningful and powerful. If you are even more intent on your Path, then you could try out, as I do, noticing whenever I am critical of another and then I look for how do I do the same thing. There’s always SOME WAY I’m doing the same thing, maybe in a different context. And if you are quite a bit more intense in your spiritual quest, then the advice you receive from others, whether requested OR NOT, take it as advice as I try to do, and check it out to see if it might actually be right and meaningful for you, or some part of it is, since it just might be. I readily acknowledge that not everyone is up for the challenges that I have proposed, and more important is to learn to whole-heartedly love yourself, and others, and the world. Seeing the darker sides of ourself, as all these practices will reveal, can’t meaningfully happen if we don’t already have some degree of Self-love.
Also to be clear, in case you think I was writing all this for you (or someone else), it was actually, obviously a reminder for myself! It’s been very helpful to me already.
As we end 2018, please don’t take this final thought as me giving advice (Ha!)…or maybe it is… but just putting the suggestion out there (again) that you clarify some do-able and personally meaningful and relevant New Year’s resolution for yourself if you haven’t already, which is something I’ve done for years and found personally meaningful and helpful. Maybe you need to come to class more frequently than you did last year? 🙂 If you need some historic inspiration around this, check out what I wrote at the beginning of 2015. It is the traditional time of year to reflect on where we’re at and where we’re going. We might as well do it purposefully and by conscious choice.
Love, deeper Self-awareness, and Happy New Year to you all!