OK, so you got all fired-up with spiritual inspiration; you've chucked out your trashy novels, you're starting to talk to God and you're considering opting-out of Facebook. Now, you're ready to find a spiritual guide to help you go even higher. Here's 10 things you should look for before accepting someone as your spiritual guide:
1) Do they talk about themselves, or about God?
If your spiritual guide is constantly talking about himself, and his amazing level, and his incredible spiritual practices and ideas - he's much more interested in worshipping himself, than getting you closer to the Creator of the world.
2) Do they consistently practise what they preach?
Sure, they talk a great game about 'accepting the Divine Will', and 'everything coming from God' - but then when someone forgets to pick up their dry cleaning, or doesn't buy their latest book, they go ballistic. If they can't walk the walk as well as talk the talk, stay away.
3) Are they a real person, or do they pretend to be perfect?
If your spiritual guide is regularly pictured staring off into the distance, or staring up at the sky - whilst surrounded by adoring acolytes - give them a wide berth: the 'heavenly scrutiny' pose is a classic favourite of cult leaders.
Truly holy people look you (and themselves) straight in the face. They know they have flaws, they accept that they aren't perfect, and they're very happy to share how they overcame their anger / fear / judgement / parenting issue with you. If your spiritual guide can't tell you, in detail HOW he stopped being angry, (or whatever it is) that's because he never actually did it.
4) Do they treat other people with kindness, patience and compassion even if they're not celebrities or multi-millionaires?
It's easy to be kind, gracious and inspiring to someone who just wrote you a big cheque. Pay close attention to how your spiritual guide treats the people that can't 'do' anything for him, like shop assistants, children and poor people.
5) Do they say sorry?
This one speaks for itself. We all do things wrong, all the time, even if it's not on purpose. If your spiritual guide never apologises to anyone for anything, that's a big clue that they're not anywhere near as 'self-aware' as they like to make out.
6) Do they have good relations with their family members?
You can't fake things on the homefront. How is your spiritual guide treating 'Mrs Guru'? Has he gone through multiple divorces? Is he on good terms with his own children, even if they didn't follow his particular path, or has he got a bunch of 'bad personal relationship' skeletons tucked away in the closet? If your spiritual guide doesn't have a loving relationship with all his children - even the ones who aren't following his lead - walk away.
7) Do they like to pretend that they have the answer to every question, and the solution to every problem?
Some things in life are obvious, but many things are not, particularly when it comes to matters of the soul. If your spiritual guide has a pat answer ready for every question or difficulty you're facing, odds are they're operating on a very superficial spiritual level. If they like to tell you things like 'release your guilt', or 'let go of anger' - without giving you step by step instructions on how to actually do it - show them the door. Theoretical wisdom just won't cut the mustard for true spiritual strivers.
8) Do they encourage independent thought and free-choice, or dependence on them and their ideas?
A true spiritual guide will encourage you to connect back to God, and to go to God for the answers, at every opportunity. By contrast, a faker will do his best to make you feel like you need him to really work things out, even going as far as shooting down your own ideas or insights. Genuinely holy people know that everyone learns by making their own mistakes; they won't try to short-circuit that process by putting themselves in the middle of every decision you need to make. If your guru isn't encouraging you to take your issues back to God to get a solution, say goodbye.
9) Are they genuinely happy?
This sounds so obvious, but so many spiritual guides are actually pretty miserable, and really not fun to be around. A truly holy person is a happy person. If your guru is cynical, bitter, angry, jealous, competitive, aggressive or depressed, they can't help you get closer to God and inner peace. Full stop.
10) Are they happily married?
NOTHING tests a person's spiritual mettle and character like the bonds of matrimony. If your guru never got married, or never stayed married, they're missing a huge part of the puzzle. If 'Mrs Guru' is out of the picture, or is chronically unhappy, look elsewhere for guidance.