Welcome back for the second half of my interview with Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute.
You give new meaning to the expression "go with the flow." Have you found that all cultures resist change or is this a particularly Western phenomenon?
Resisting change is by no means a Western phenomenon. Rather, it is a universal, cross-cultural phenomenon that has dogged human beings since our ancestors first became aware of their own mortality. You can find stories, songs, poems, novels, parables, fairy tales, and myths from every culture and every era that address our discomfort with loss, change, and death. It is human to hold on to what we know and to fear the unknown. Knowing that we share that tendency with all of our human brothers and sisters is comforting: We're not alone in our fears; it's hardwired into the human organism. There are people who have overcome their resistance to change whose lives can serve as an example of hope. Their wise counsel can help us release some of our own resistance and even gain a spirit of adventure toward the changing nature of life.
Should we be able to fix ourselves, by ourselves? And what is the role of the teacher or guide? Is that just one more crutch so that we avoid taking the responsibility to fix ourselves?
People don't think
twice about having someone help them fix their computer or car, or they
question going to the doctor when they feel bad, or to the gym when they
trainer to help them get strong or lose weight. But when it comes to
psychological or spiritual help, there's a general squeamishness.
cultural bias against paying someone to help us figure out things like
relationships, purpose, feelings, grief. But there's this idea that we
be able to figure these things ourselves, or ask a friend, or just take a
walk and get over it!
There is nothing wrong with getting expert help when dealing with life's difficult challenges. It is not a sign of weakness or a lack of responsibility. In fact, I think it's the wise choice to seek help when we need it. Therapists, healers, coaches, counselors, spiritual guides can be a godsend when the going gets tough (and in all of our lives we go through challenging phases and stages.) Of course, it's important to find someone who is kind and genuine and skillful--someone who knows when you have learned what you came to learn and helps you move on.