A RETREAT GURU INTERVIEW WITH SOSA CO-FOUNDER TROY MCFADDEN
This was originally published on retreat.guru magazine’s blog here.
This article is based on an interview we did with Troy McFadden. You can also read another of his articles in our online magazine here: Messages from Mother Earth
What is your position and how long have you been doing this?
In common parlance, I’m the co-founder and co-owner of the School of Sacred Arts. Together with my partner (Simone MacKay) we have been running this organization for about 7 years or so. That said, I much prefer to think of it as a kind of living entity that I helped to conceive, birth, and take care of, while allowing it to find its own way as it grows and expands. I consider it an honor and a responsibility.
Do you have a spiritual path and how does that path intersect with your work?
Most of my earliest, strongest influences were from the more formal Asian traditions (Buddhism and later, Yoga) though lately I have been more drawn to what I perceive as the simplicity, profundity, the earth & heart-based nature of the Native American traditions (both North and South).
Beyond the specific tools and techniques of these particular paths, increasingly I am able to see the commonality that all authentic traditions share—the ‘perennial tradition’ as it were—and find myself letting go of a great deal of the formality and rules associated with some of my previous approaches.
Instead of compartmentalizing my practice within the rest of my life, I now see that moment-to-moment awareness, with an underlying current of love, is the beginning of wisdom. The more I am able to be in this space, the more I learn to trust that everything—everything—is a teacher, the guru, here to help me learn, grow, and awaken to who and what I truly am. Such trust deepens, expands, and enlivens all of my work in the world.
What are people seeking?
I believe that we are all seeking the same thing essentially, whether we know it or not: love, security, acceptance, freedom, authenticity, peace and for some of us at least, insight into the underlying nature of things. We approach this quest in many ways of course, and at its extreme, as Ram Dass once said ‘every desire, no matter how twisted, is an attempt to get to the light’. Basically, as I see it we are all trying to find our way to the fulfillment of unity, moved along by the distress of separation. We all just want to go home.
As modern humans we are blessed with a rich array of offerings from a vast number of wisdom traditions, both old and new. If we can avoid the pitfalls associated with their exploration, perils such as exoticism, exploitation, dilettantism (or its flip side, fundamentalism) we can ultimately come to know the universality of truth and utilize only those particular elements that we most resonate with, those that are most conducive to our waking up.
Said another way, this smorgasbord approach is a ‘razor’s edge’ but so are all spiritual paths, and again, I feel it’s the special gift allowed modern humanity. With smart phones, we all have a source of information and knowledge—though not wisdom—in the palm of our hands, far greater that the Library of Alexandria and all of the oral traditions put together, if we know how to use it. Knowing how to apply knowledge is the wisdom part of course, and no, we can’t get that from the web. No shortcuts, it seems. Wisdom has to be learned from the inside out, by way of love or suffering.
What is needed in the world today?
In one sense, the world has exactly what it needs, in the exact amounts. Basically, there are enough resources, on every level, for us to live in harmony, abundance, and in alignment with what I like to call the evolutionary impulse of the universe. Maybe all that’s needed then is for humanity to awaken to these possibilities. Everything else on earth seems to go with the flow more or less perfectly.
In another sense, the world desperately needs humans that are open, balanced, authentic…and kind stewards to all beings, all of creation, ‘all of our relations’ to paraphrase the beautiful native sentiment. These qualities seem to me to be inherent in the process of becoming self-realized, even at the relatively early stages of the process. Yes, we need to wake up, quickly, for our own sake at least. Otherwise, Nature will find a new form to express itself in. Which may well be just fine with her, despite her love for us.
To me, a direct encounter with spirit always feels like an immersion in the feminine. That could be because I’m in a male body with a male mind of course, but the imbalance between hyper-masculine expressions in the world and dishonored, suppressed feminine power in all of its forms is what’s causing most of our suffering. Passed down from a First Nations mentor of mine, from one of his (female) elders is the teaching ‘what the world needs now is women of vision and men of heart’. I love that. We’ve had plenty of the opposite; again, now is the time for greater balance.
What is your offering to the world?
In short, my offering to the world is to shine brightly so that others may brightly shine. In truth, this is the offering that all of us are here to make —to become more fully human in our own unique way, thereby giving permission to others to do the same.