philosophic inquiry into life and meaning

...if truth were not for man the desire for truth would not be as a burning unrest in his heart...

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Working with others and alone on the path by Ricky Cobb


I think the best thing someone can do for you is to remind you of your own purpose. Why are you reading this anyway? What’s your motivation? See, we usually don’t question our own motivations, we usually just roll with the punches and take things in stride…up until some tragedy happens, some blow to our ego which knocks us down to honesty again.

Richard Rose said we help each other by “punching each other in the nose.” Not physical violence but honest critical feedback given in the spirit of friendship. If we’re getting off track a word or two may be all that is needed to help ‘right’ a ‘wrong’ or keep the focus where it needs to be, back to the heart of the matter.

The times I’ve spent in groups with others were very valuable. I might not have meditated every Sunday or Monday evening on my own, but I could easily go and meditate with a group every week. It would have actually been easier to stay home and meditate but there are too many distractions at home and getting out with a group of likeminded individuals may be a good strategy if you know what your behavior patterns are. So many people working together helps get the job done faster (think Amish barn-raising but for spiritual purposes).

The teachers who have claimed to realize something profound may offer hope and inspiration or even some practice to do when not in a group of seekers. One very important thing I get from these people is they stand for something – something that articulation in words seems to fail but the point still gets across somehow. Justice, Love, Peace, Truth, Stillness, etc kind of convey the message but talking to a teacher is a whole different experience.


Even fellow seekers (especially fellow seekers) can provide encouragement and doubt about our progress on the path. I remember having a growth chart when I was young, a ruler on the wall with markings for 8 years old, 9 years old etc. We don’t see ourselves grow but require a mirror or some form of measurement to see the change. This is what a friend along the way can provide – another perspective we might miss. It goes both ways too; you help someone as they help you.


Some ‘help’ can be a distraction however. When we try to ‘help’ to put on some image or detract from someone else’s image it may only do harm or, at best, no good. Group work may involve tradition of some kind in the practices and such tradition may be meaningless unless the meaning behind it is understood intuitively.


We may try to do everything ourselves as well, and often end up standing still rarely making any progress. On the other hand, if we’ve been doing group work non-stop for quite some time then it may be beneficial to do an isolation retreat, or take as much time as we need to ourselves to ‘recover’. There seems to be a mechanism at work which prevents us from stepping too far outside our comfort zones with regards to working with others.


Despite the highs and lows of group work, I would say net-net, bottom line is very positive. And do you really think you can do it all alone?