Recently I read a post about spiritual teachers getting face lifts and other plastic surgery. The blogger, like myself, was disturbed by this growing trend. And after agreeing with her comments I got to thinking about different spiritual teachers and then to asking: why would a Spiritual teacher have plastic surgery?
Starting with a basic foundation that includes a list of expected traits for a spiritual leader….things like honesty, kindness, compassion, an open heart, gifts of seeing, knowing, feeling or understanding the esoteric, healing potentials and an ability to impart wisdom to others, to name a few. Various spiritual leaders came to mind… Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Fr. Damion, Barbara Ann Brennan, Eckarte Tolle, The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Deepak Chopra. And I realized that there is a delineation of depth between spiritual leaders. As I see it, this delineation, becomes about the internal balance of light and dark and the ability to relate deeply to both.
Many modern day spiritual teachers exemplify basking in the light. Good looks, great marketing skills, a team for self promoting, charming and charismatic, more than enough money, abundant gifts of talent applied in ways that keep them in the light of positive while allowing that light to help others. As I see it more clearly, they have the capability to do good… even great and amazing works, but their approach doesn’t come with the seasoned depth of a spiritual leader who has been tested and shaped, quite literally, in the flames of hell. That metaphysical space where our places of inner steel are molded and shaped time and again into the casts of character. In other words, the space of suffering.
Consider, Nelson Mandela sitting in a jail cell enduring year after year of injustice for his race, or Mother Theresa working each day in the slums of India surrounded by filth, disease and the sights and smells of human death or Father Damion working with the rotting flesh and humiliation of exiled leapers on Molokai. These are not glamorous jobs of fame and glory, in surrounds pampered by comfort and esthetics. These leaders exist because they, their very humanity, character, hearts and souls were tested and tested again and again with the trials of suffering. They know the human experience, in all its tribulations, from the inside out, and have cultivated through it all, not a hardened heart or a boatload of justified resentment, but rather an enormous capacity to love.
So back to the temptations of face lifts and boob jobs. It seems to me that relating to our inner darkness, our fears, anxieties and irrational places of ugliness, moves us down through layers of depth akin to the layers of our beautiful mother earth. Within each layer there is the opportunity to harden the heart and close down, stopping in position, hold fast to the limitations of the moment or to open the heart to blossom and continue to grow into more life and down through the next layer. Assuming that no growth accepts a smaller form of life and that maximum life and growth is always moving towards love and wholeness. In each layer we have the option to embrace something that turns us away from love or to embrace something that will return us to that inherent gift of love.
As the days tick by and I too become old, less able bodied, less desirable for my physical appearances, less seen in the world, less memorable in my words or actions, difficult and dark feelings arise in myself. These dark places call me to interact with them. To relate. As each layer unearths I know I have the option to turn towards love or away from it, to open my heart and embrace growth, or to close my heart and choose something smaller. Perhaps as we age these choices become even harder to make. When I think of plastic surgery I ask the question; does deliberately harming healthy physical matter bring a person to deeper love?
And then begins the question of love.