Joan Borysenko Talks About Being Open to Spiritual Guidance

Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., is a pioneer in integrative medicine and a world-renowned expert in the mind-body connection. She is the author of the New York Times best-seller Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, and the author or co-author of 13 other books. Her most recent is Your Soul’s Compass: What Is Spiritual Guidance? We caught up with her to discuss her views on spirituality.

Joan Borysenko

Gaiam: How do you define spirituality?

Joan Borysenko: To me, spirituality is essentially all about love, kindness, and recognizing that in the end we’re not the doer. In other words, we’re not in control of everything, and there’s a larger field of intelligence that has a flow. That flow moves toward the potential good for everyone. Spirituality means being able to listen for and cooperate with that flow so that we are co-creators. That requires deep listening, the willingness to let go of the blocks to guidance, our pride, our fear, our envy, all of those kinds of things.

In your book Your Soul’s Compass, you interviewed 27 sages, people from various religious and spiritual backgrounds. Why? What is this book about?

This is a book about waking up. It’s about self-realization, and recognizing that in cooperating with the larger intelligence, we potentially bring forth not only the best within ourselves, our own joy and happiness, but also the ability to cooperate in bringing forth a better future for our family, for our community, and hopefully for the world in these very chaotic and troubled times. We asked the sages—a collection of rabbis, priests, Buddhists, Hindus, shamans and Sufis—a variety of questions, everything from what are the practices that might enable us to listen to and act upon guidance, to what are the blocks to listening to and carrying out that guidance. And the really big question that so many people have, how on earth do you tell the difference between your own ego, your own desires, your own agendas, your own past conditioning? It’s a question of discernment. And that’s important because discernment may be the key spiritual practice.

What I would hope we would birth is a world of compassion, where people could find the means to stop their own personal suffering.

In working together, we could end some of the suffering in the world.

What an amazing experience for a little girl to have. I know that trusting the unknown is a theme of your book, and obviously, it’s a great fear for many people. Why should we court the unknown?

Because we’re always walking into it. The truth is, we don’t know from one minute to next what is going to happen. The sages of all traditions say that we simply have to learn how to be present in the moment, this moment, because this moment is the only moment we know. And in understanding that, we can walk into the unknown. Because here’s the paradox: The ego always wants to control. It wants to know. It has plans. It has agendas. And, of course, we need some of that.

But at a deeper level, our agendas become like boxes that we put ourselves into, and all we see are the bars of our own self-imposed box. Letting go and going into the unknown and saying, “It’s a mystery, I trust whatever is going to happen next is happening to me in some service of waking up.” And that opens us up to what the world of infinite possibilities can be. So, living in the unknown is life outside the box. While we may not like it, in fact it’s the only choice we have.

One of the questions you asked the sages was, What are we evolving to? What do you think we’re evolving to?

I would say we are evolving into a place where we can express our spiritual DNA. That spiritual DNA is the wisdom and compassion of creation itself, so that what we’re evolving to is to become conscious co-creators with the divine. What I would hope we would birth is a world of compassion, where people could find the means to stop their own personal suffering. In working together, we could end some of the suffering in the world.

What practices can you suggest to help people open themselves up to spiritual guidance?

First of all, trust. Without the trust that there is an educating function in the universe that guides us in our journey of awakening, then who’s going to listen to guidance? Second, we need time for stillness, whether it’s 20 minutes of retreat walking in nature each day, or 20 minutes of yoga or qigong or meditation, or going away for a weekend or a week. Times of stillness and letting go are very important.

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