Sensei Anthony Stultz wrote the smallest book I have read yet this year, the 73-page?Free Your Mind: The Four Directions of an Awakened Life. Stultz offered a simple and structured approach for people find peace of mind, personal empowerment, and the way to greater freedom in life. A student of both psychology and theology, Stultz founded the?Blue Mountain Lotus Society?to help people find clarity, to cultivate open hearts, and to achieve fullness of life.
The Four Directions are simple, yet powerful methods one can learn by reading this short book. The Four Directions are as follows:
- Rediscovering the true self
- Understanding the ego self
- Harnessing the power of the true self
- Trusting in the true self
Learning the Four Directions can help a person come full circle with their true self and begin to live an awakened life. Throughout the process, Stultz introduced Buddhist philosophy and meditation techniques one can use as tools to bring the theory to reality.
Before starting down the path of the Four Directions, Stultz defined the differences between the true self (the core part of our being that is unchanging) and the ego self (our conditioned identity that is always changing). Seeing an understanding of the ego self as critical to a person’s awakening, Stultz also broke down the ego self into five stages so one can apply that developmental framework to their own life. These five developmental stages (hereditary, acquisition of feminine energy, acquisition of masculine energy, environment, and conscious development) form the basic programming of the ego self.
The journey through the Four Directions takes place in a series of 12 exercises one can perform to help become an awakened person. Stultz offered complete instructions on how to complete each exercise, diagrams, and real-life testimonials from Stultz's own practice. Two helpful diagrams for me were the comparison of the Perfection and Wholeness Triangles and the layout of a centering space one could make in the home. Another useful lesson and diagram for me was how to understand the roles of the ego's child, parent, and adult states in one's psyche. Properly learning how these three work will allow one to train themselves to “think with clarity while remaining focused and in the present” (37). We can then manage the hurt child and angry parent residing within the ego and still remain an adult focused on living in the present.
Stultz's final chapter shows us the benefits of coming full circle within our true self. This final chapter is four paragraphs and is worth repeating here.
A practitioner of mindfulness learns that all of the practices flow in an interconnected, ongoing journey around and within the Four Directions, which always lead to and go through the center of our True Self. We can cultivate this relationship to the True Self by simply thinking of the True Self as a part of us, a spiritual power within that we can speak to and be with, a power that knows us and understands us. It is very intimate. By developing a very personal sense of that relationship with our transpersonal True Nature, we can tell it all the things we want, and we can tell it all the things we are afraid of. We can trust that no matter what, wisdom and compassion will be there.
In time, the reorientation becomes complete. The Ego Self is no longer controlled by fear and taking, but has opened up to the free, giving, larger life of the True Self.
I remember one of my teachers saying that there are three basic attitudes: “I can't take this anymore;” “I'm not going to take this anymore;” and the middle way, “I can take anything you throw at me, I can handle anything.” The middle way is always initiated by the True Self.
The first and second attitudes come from the hurt child and the angry parent within us. A lot of the not-taking-this-anymore attitude comes from thoughts that are striking out as those above us. The middle way attitude, however, comes from our True Self, the adult, that clear conduit to our True Ground that shows us that we are actually able to handle everything and experience a growing sense of gratitude. When all is said and done, I believe that gratitude is the greatest practice of all. (69)
When we embrace mindfulness, we can achieve anything. Teachers like Stultz help us to achieve mindfulness, which enables us to tack back our body and soul from dangerous choices and thought.