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Eastern vs. Western Spiritual Practices
By Maurice Turmel, PhD
Personally, I am tired of seeing Westerners adopting an Eastern stance for Personal Growth and Connecting with Spirit. This comes across to me as an unnecessary rejection of Western Practices and their ability to bring us to Source. I've been a Psychologist for almost 30 years now and my days as a therapist led me through many avenues that allowed Spiritual connection and heart felt sustenance to come through.
I fear that all this Eastern emphasis, with its unique language and descriptions of events, is just another simplified religion cast in the form of a New Age approach. This disturbs me. All my professional life I have been working against religious intrusion into our human psychodynamics and here it is again. This is simply an old form of practice, largely alien to us in the West and dressed up as the new authority on our journey to wholeness. I have no doubt it works well in the East, but why do we need it here?
I can appreciate the Western interest in foreign ideas, manners of dress and expressions of spirituality. I see the seductive nature of something different, which for us, is mysterious. But different does not necessarily mean good! And has anyone ever noticed the similarities between orthodox Christian religious garb and these Westerners who dress like Nepalese monks?
And what about our Christian and Western names coming to us from Irish, German, French, British and Western European sources? Is it necessary to discard these as well so we can become a bunch of Baba Ram Das' or Sri something or others? What's up with that?
I am quite happy with my French Canadian name and ancestry. I like being Maurice Joseph Raymond Turmel. It speaks of my heritage, my roots, my humble beginnings in a small industrial town and my location in the world as a Westerner who happens to speak both official languages of his native country.
I also like being called Moe by my friends. I've had that nickname since I was 14 years old. That's 50 years now. Online I refer to myself as Dr Moe to signify I have professional training in psychology but I am open and accessible as an individual. I don't know how Sri Moe Joe would work out. I don't think I would like it.
I like my name; and I like my nickname. I am a Westerner. I live in the so-called "New World." My country is only 142 years old and I've been here for 64.5 of those years. Isn't that amazing? My ancestors go back to France and my main influences are English and French. I love this combination. It is unique and it is real.
I'm never going to turn my back on these roots and I'm never going to put on a gown and pretend I am something I'm not. I am also not going to disavow the abuse I suffered at the hands of my French Catholic religion. I have excavated and fully explored this part of my life through years of therapy and I worked hard to successfully rid myself of all abuse effects inflicted upon me during my childhood.
This is a big part of who I am today. These experiences shaped my life and guided me toward spirituality which is my own Westernized Brand. Having helped others with these issues I know for a fact that this approach works just fine for any Westerner stepping into the Spiritual Arena.
Psychologists have been telling us for years that it is dangerous to reject any part of our personal history, or throw a big white gown over it for that matter. That's beside the kick in the face you are delivering to your Western Heritage when you do reject who you are. You do not need to change your name to become whole. You do not need to wear a robe. You do not need to speak a foreign language. Your Western heritage has everything you need to be fully your self. There are enough challenges in your own back yard for anyone to work through without adding alien layers of mystery and cryptic language into the mix.
Eastern religions and practices do not have a lock on helping people sign up with God. They do have approaches that are sympathetic to the Eastern mind, as it should be. Can you imagine an East Indian man or woman changing their name to Ralph or Wanda and then preaching a Western approach to spirituality in their native land? "Oh, yes this comes from the New World. They are so much smarter than us." Not!
My approach to spirituality is uniquely Western. I don't need any more words that are difficult to pronounce or have hidden meanings that I'm told I cannot fully comprehend. Then why give them to me? That's how the religions of the world took hold, with sleight of hand and mysterious practices that only their leaders could understand. I don't care about practices that are shrouded in mystery. That is always the case when you are trying to understand concepts coming from an alien point of view.
What's wrong with being Western in your approach to spirituality? What's wrong with using the language of our forefathers mixed in with today's adaptations? What's wrong with speaking the language(s) you were born with and using those words to describe your spiritual experience?
I am at a loss as to why so many Western thought leaders believe they have to raid the Eastern cupboards for the right words and concepts to describe spiritual experiences and practices. When you adopt another's pose you are neglecting your own authority and discernment. You are stepping into a land of fantasy because the Eastern mindset is as far away from us as the moon.
We are Westerners still settling into a new land. We come from pioneer stock. Our ancestors rode horses and walked across the plains of this great landscape we know as North America. They set out to tame this land, as they say, and created a whole new world based on Freedom of Expression and rugged individualism. We helped each other back then to not only survive but thrive in an untamed landscape filled with wonder and untold possibilities.
I love North America. It is foundational to who I am. I also love Britain, France and all of Western Europe because I can see the footprints of my ancestors there before they decided to cross over to the New Word. Here at home I also have roots in Canadian Aboriginal culture going back 5 generations. That makes me part of this land, and this land is home.
I no more understand Eastern practices than I ever understood the machinations of the Catholic Church. The East remains a mystery to me. I like it that way. But when it comes to Spirituality, I'll take mine straight up, Western style, based in modern Psychology with roots going back to the earliest descriptions of life's psychodynamics given to us through Mythology.
When it's cold out, I wear hiking boots, comfortable pants, floppy hats and vests. I wear running shoes, T shirts and short pants in the Summer and top it all off with some kind of baseball cap. I occasionally wear sandals. OK, so I let a little Eastern influence into my attire. I love the smell of burning wood year round. There is nothing cozier for me than a warm fire on a Winter's night or outdoors at a Summer campfire. I do not care for incense.
I like words derivative of Latin and mixed with French, English, Turkish, Italian, Greek and Spanish influences. I like plaid shirts and knitted slippers. I'm a Westerner. If you want to talk to me about spirituality then use words I can understand and practices I can relate to. Do not ask me to change my name or attire because I won't. That would be dishonest and I have fought too hard to win Love for myself as the person I am here and now. Why on earth would I want to abandon that?
I am quite happy with who I am these days. I've come a long way on my spiritual journey and overcome many obstacles using the exact same practices I delivered in my therapeutic work and again with my Spiritual Growth Training Programs. I am confident that my Western Brand of Spirituality will take me where I need to go. I have already connected with Source using these practices and Source informs me using the language of my culture. I overcame my own therapeutic challenges using these approaches and I am stepping into the 5th dimension with the very same tools. Thank you for listening.
Maurice Joseph Raymond Turmel - AKA "Moe", AKA "Dr Moe", AKA "Full Time Westerner"
Who is Maurice Turmel?
Dr. Maurice Turmel (aka Dr. Moe) has been involved with Spiritual and Personal Growth programs all of his adult life. While doing so he picked up a few degrees (BA, MA & PhD in Psychology) and worked as a therapist for 25 years providing services to individuals, families and major corporations. Over the years he has absorbed hundreds of Self-Help and New Age books and has written several books of his own including The Voice - A Metaphor for Personal Development and Mythical Times: Exploring Life, Love & Purpose.