Eclecticism: Friend or Foe?

In my previous blog post (Connecting the Dots), I mentioned identifying emerging patterns. As I discovered one pattern, a deeper theme bubbled to the surface that related to eclecticism, so I thought I’d share some of my process.

Just last week I was reminding myself of how eclectic I am. All you have to do is see the inside of my home to verify that. I’ve always thought of being eclectic as an asset. Often, I see my attraction to varied paths as resources, and you can never have too many resources…… can you? If it helps get the job done, gets you closer to your true self and soul, and heal, then it must be providing something worthwhile.

Then, I started reading The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Mind you, I only got partway down the first page of the first chapter and I read this: There are two interrelated flaws in eclecticism that account for its ultimate inadequacy.

What did he say?! There are flaws to eclecticism?! “Inadequacy”? It hadn’t even occurred to me that there might be a downside to my diversity. Even though I realize that any identity we apply to ourselves will eventually need to be let go of (yet another thing that I was recently reminded of), I hadn’t begun to explore how being eclectic may be imposing limits on my growth and awareness.

First, let me say that the therapist in me still supports eclecticism. People are varied, and everyone’s path carries its own uniqueness. What resonates with one person may be confusing to another, so having various options available can be helpful. Through the process of my own growth, I have pulled from a wide variety of tools, approaches, and perspectives. I honor my past as having gotten me to where I am now, and I respect the tools that I’ve utilized (and still do) to heal.

There are many reasons that I’ve clung to an eclectic approach. A strong one is my own insecurity and neuroses that can delude me into thinking that choosing a more fully formed approach is too structured and filled with dogma. In my mind, that can only mean judgment and disempowerment. I know I am not alone in being turned off by organized religion. I am equally dismayed by grandiose claims for quick fixes, liberty in _ (fill in the blank with a number) steps, and promises for whatever it is that is being pedaled. Add to that any self-help or spiritual teaching that devalues emotions by picking and choosing which ones to support and deny, and you’ve got my list of “no thank you, I’m not interested.”

In spite of my ego’s best attempts to dissuade me, I’ve begun to notice a gentle nudging to pursue a particular path. Not as the only, best, or right one. What I realize is that it’s time for a more focused approach. My heart and soul are calling out for something that I am struggling with providing on my own – with the assistance of books and guides.

Image by AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker

As I’ve mentioned many times, when we are open, opportunity presents itself. For me, for now, that is a community environment that I resonate with: Simple, humble, and open, yet dedicated to a particular path. What I am realizing is this: At some point, an eclectic approach will only take us so far. For me, I seem to have reached that limit. I do not know where this path will take me, but it is very clear to me that this is the most appropriate choice for me at this time.

My husband is at a similar crossroads and making the same choice. We’re not letting go of our familiar resources. But, we are aware that you can have too many tools for a task, and that eventually, that can be its own distraction. A therapist we were seeing many years ago once said to us: “Just keep reading all those self-help books so you can avoid the real issues.” I think being eclectic can have the same pitfalls.

So, I am coming out of the closet so to speak. In an effort to dig even deeper for the roots of my suffering, I am following a Buddhist path. Along the way, I will continue to share my adventures as I discover what unfolds. For now, I am opening to the focus that – I know – will not come easily. I am letting go of the illusion that maintaining an eclectic approach to my spiritual path is providing what is necessary for more profound development. I am not expecting it to be easy. I am simply hoping to nurture my ability to walk my talk in the most genuine manner possible.


© Sallie Odenthal 2012

Please follow and like us: