I don’t do advice

These local spiritual leaders don’t have all the answers—you do

Ravi Verma

Ravi Verma

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

“I don’t do advice.” These words from Sandy Freeman-Loomis, co-pastor and president of Science of Mind New Thought Center, rang in my ears for hours after our meeting. No advice from a spiritual leader? I had always considered that to be a big chunk of their responsibilities. This was different and slightly disconcerting to hear.

But the guests of this week’s Higher Ground roundtable echoed similar sentiments.

Connie Grant, minister for education at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, commended the idea put forth by Loomis. Lama Jinpa and Ravi Verma of Universal Compassion Center offered insights in the spirit of that concept, encouraging our advice-seekers to “sit and stew” and “work with their karma.”

Sandy Freeman-Loomis

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

When asked for their answers to the life questions posed at our Higher Ground roundtable, none of the spiritual leaders really gave one. All practice a more Socratic method, with the intention of guiding the direction-seeker toward his or her own conclusions and peace of mind.

I’ve always been a firm believer that we already have the answers we’re seeking. When we’re faced with a problem, we already know the best way to go about solving it. Quite often there’s just something that keeps us hesitating and doubting for a while.

These spiritual leaders act as the jump start to those members of their congregations who are stuck in mental first gear.

From the moment I heard Loomis say, “I don’t do advice,” I was reminded of a maid’s proclamation, “I don’t do windows.” In a way, they’re similar. Both the role of maid and minister are intended to serve and better the lives of the people for whom they work. And sometimes, that service means taking a step back. The maid plainly refuses to help in the matter of the windows. If you want it done, you’ve got to do it yourself. And these spiritual guides echo the “wash ’em yourself” approach. Only these folks will help steer your mind toward where you last left the Windex. And with the panes much clearer now, you’ll have a lens through which to make the best decision for yourself.

Lama Jinpa

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

I slept with my best friend’s boyfriend. It was a one-night thing and a huge mistake. We’ll both never do it again. We both care a great amount for her and don’t want to hurt her, but the guilt hangs over my head daily. Should I tell her and risk our friendship and her relationship with her boyfriend, or should I leave things as they are and deal with my remorse in secret?

“Well, you’ve already hurt your friend, so … ” began Verma.

“I have someone who I’ve been counseling who’s on the other side of that,” said Loomis. “Her best friend is now with her husband, but they’re separated. She was okay with letting him go, and then she found out that he and her best friend were together, and she feels so betrayed. She was able to forgive him, but she’s having tremendous difficulty forgiving the girl. I’m going to recommend that she take the class I’m teaching on forgiveness. The analogy from the book that the class is based on says that forgiveness is like drinking poison [and] expecting the other person to die. She’s the one that feels all this angst and betrayal. But I do agree that it’s a done deal.”

Is honesty always the best policy?

“I think it’s eventually going to come out somehow,” said Jinpa. “The boyfriend likely has hooked up with other people. That mistake isn’t only made just once. Maybe letting someone stew in their guilt for a little while isn’t always bad. Maybe mulling it over for the next few weeks and working it out, instead of blurting it out and saying, ‘I’ve got to get this off my chest now!’ Work with your karma.”

Connie Grant

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

When asked to elaborate on working with one’s karma, Jinpa said, “Karma means cause and effect, so you work with your own emotional consequences. Instead of just telling everyone and then you’re done. Obviously, you won’t be done. Work with your guilt and remorse and think it through.”

Grant asked, “What would be accomplished by telling the friend? Would that cause more pain? It probably would. I also wonder which of them expects to be able to continue a relationship with the girl. Does the best friend? Does the boyfriend? In some senses, there’s sort of a double betrayal, in that the best friend and the boyfriend have this secret in addition to the illicit relationship. I think if she tells, she’ll relieve her own guilt, but then the question would be, ‘what will she do with that?’ Is there a way to reach healing for herself and for the friend who was betrayed? Part of the task would be to find a way to deal with the pain all around. I would agree with you that the friend has already been hurt, whether she’s aware of the specific nature of it or not. Those relationships have already been damaged. Can they be healed? Are either of them willing to put in the work?”