Why I Play the Spiritual Long Game

jim tolles, spiritual teacher, spiritual master,
The long game is essentially planning for the future.

It is the opposite of immediate gratification.

Sometimes when I talk about "be here now" and how "spiritual freedom is already here," I get the sense that some people hear this from a standpoint of immediate gratification. They're like:

"Great! If everything is already here now, then I don't have to do anything."

Actually...

Being here now makes us appreciative of how life works and how human beings work. One of those realities is that we human beings change slowly, and we backslide a lot. This is why in my spiritual teaching I play the long game. I connect with my students where they are now, and then I help intuitively chart a course for them over the span of years, if not decades.

Gradual Growth Is Better Than No Growth

I've seen a lot of spiritual stuff, and I've heard a lot of spiritual experiences. In the end, the big bursts and dramatic shifts are rarely the ones that are sustained. It is the people who commit to gradually and consistently growing, learning, and expanding on the conscious path who tend to more permanently shed the ego.

Certainly, I've seen big bursts get sustained--I'm one of the people who has. But even then, appreciating the long-term process of ego dissolution is important for me and others like me. Because the ego is almost never totally gone after those bursts; those spiritual awakenings and spiritual openings are typically just the beginning.

Years of Instruction But No Direct Work

Sometimes the way I teach people is that I do not work with them in sessions. Obviously, a lot of people feel that I am their teacher via my blog posts, videos, and newsletters. However, I'm referring to the people who email me, and then I give them a task or several tasks to do. This has included:
  • Therapy recommendations
  • Building a regular meditation practice
  • Working on healing addiction
  • Reading more of my work
  • Finding a job (The spiritual path is more practical than people realize!)
  • Practicing journaling, breathwork, and other tools
To the ego seeking immediate gratification, it is dismayed that I may not work with them at the very first contact. But sometimes it may be years before I'll work with someone directly, and by following through on what I've recommended, several other things are shown:
  • The potential student can follow through on things.
  • The person is dedicated.
  • The person is prepared through the suggestions I've offered.
  • The person is willing to actually listen to what I say.
There's no point in working together if a person won't listen or can't follow instructions, and particularly if someone follows through on doing something their ego doesn't want to hear after potentially feeling "rejected"--even though that's not the reality of what I'm doing--then the student shows promise.

The Long Path to Spiritual Freedom

Ultimately, I'm interested in spiritual freedom for my students, and there are a lot of different paths that people take. Some will work with me closely the minute they find me and message me. Others and I will have a lot of space before gradually coming together years ahead. Some students work with me for a little while and then have years between our next sessions.

There's a lot of ways this spiritual work goes, and it usually is a long-term process. But with dedication, the path to shedding the ego and realizing spiritual freedom is open to all of you.

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