"Don't Follow Me"
Alan Cohen


I saw a bumper sticker proclaiming, “Don’t follow me, I’m following my bliss.”  Good advice! How much more creative and successful would your life be if you remained true to your own inner guidance rather than imitating the paths chosen by others?

When you are secure in who you are, you set the trend for your own life, and do not look to others to tell you how to live. I remember seeing Julia  Roberts show up unannounced on the David Letterman show one night, clad in jeans and a tee-shirt, with no make-up and her hair not styled. The audience gave Julia a rousing welcome, and then she had a lighthearted spontaneous interview with Letterman. Everyone was thrilled to see her, and no one cared that she was not glamorous that evening.

Authenticity yields far more power than ostentation. Sometimes people become confident in themselves because they are successful, but always people become successful because they are confident.

For many years I wore a jacket and tie when I spoke in churches, simply because I thought I should be appropriate. Yet all the while I felt totally unnatural and hated it. Then one night I asked Wayne Dyer what he wore when he spoke at the same churches. “A sweateror whatever,” Wayne told me nonchalantly. “I don’t even own a jacket and tie.”

That did it. I realized that Wayne had been true to himself, but I had not. I squirmed as I remembered the title of some of my talks: “Dare to be Yourself.” That was the end of the jacket and tie era for me. Other men love to wear  a jacket and tie. To be true to themselves, they must dress up. To be true to me, I must dress comfortably. Realness is an inside job.

In Monty Python’s hilarious film Life of Brian, a scofflaw during the time of Jesus eludes Roman soldiers by disguising himself as a pundit. Brian finds a soapbox in the town square and spouts mock words of wisdom. As soon as the soldiers depart, Brian makes a beeline for the city limits, only to discover that he is being followed by a crowd of students. Soon the throng grows from hundreds to thousands, begging their master to teach them. Finally Brian turns and chides them, “I’m not your master Just go away!”

“But master!” a voice cries out from the crowd, “tell us how we should go away.”
Many of us have given our power, money, and minds to people whom we believe can tell us how to live. And many teachers have given us good advice. But advice is useful only if it resonates deep within us in a place that feels like home. So the teacher did not give us anything we did not already have; he or she just pointed us to what we already knew. A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is.        

A guru is someone who sits by the bank of  a river selling bottles of river water. Anyone could just go directly to the river and obtain water without going through a middle party.  There are two kinds of gurus: those who get their students hooked on bottled water and keep upping the price, and those who show their students how to get their own water. The best teachers are those who work themselves out of a job.

Years ago I got involved with a cult led by a teacher who claimed to be enlightened. The students in this organization worshipped  the teacher more than the teachings, and I went right along with the hype. I gave my power away to this man and I did things just to fit in with the crowd. But every time fit in, I sold out. Eventually a scandal revealed that the teacher had been lying to the students and engaging in covert activities contrary to his teachings.

When the debacle became public,  I felt ripped off, betrayed, and angry. I blamed the teacher for fooling me. After some introspection, however, I realized that I had fooled myself. If I had been true to myself, I never would have become one of the sheep. Then I began to appreciate the experience. I realized that the purpose of my involvement with the teacher was not the lessons he gave, but for me to learn to follow my own spirit rather than the herd. Suddenly the whole process became immensely valuable to me, and I laughed about it. It was worth the experience to learn how to respect my sacred self rather than external authority. 

When you know that every truth you seek is available within you, you will not place someone else’s idea of how you should live, above your own. There are many roads to the mountaintop, but the only one that will take you all the way is the one with your name on it.

Alan Cohen is the author of 15 popular inspirational books, including
the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life.  To order Alan's new acclaimed
novel My Father's Voice or request a free catalog of Alan's books,
tapes, and seminars, call 1-800-462-3013. Join Alan on a mystic journey
to Bali in October, 2001! For info contact 455A Kukuna Road, Haiku, HI
96708, 1-800-568-3079, email: acpubs@maui.net.  Check out Alan's web
site at www.alancohen.com.