10/08/2011 11:27 am ET | Updated Dec 08, 2011

5 Things I Learned From Great Spiritual Masters

It's certainly true that spiritual seekers can learn from ancient masters like Jesus, Moses, Buddha and Mohammad. But I'm convinced it's also true that masters abound right here and now. And there's nothing like being in the physical presence of a highly-evolved person -- be it at an intimate weeklong workshop or a huge, sold-out arena. (I know, because I've done both.)

Contemporary spiritual masters also have something going for them that those who lived thousands of years ago can't match: They live in the same world I do. It's hard to picture Moses wandering lost in the desert for 40 years when we've got GPS and cell phones, tough to envision "what would Jesus do" when the topic is gay marriage or online etiquette.

My personal spiritual growth owes a debt to a long list of spiritual individuals whose writings, lectures and workshops have expanded my mind and elevated my consciousness, and I've learned from them all. Still, five stand out -- not so much because they're more knowledgeable or evolved than others, but because their messages have shaped my life in the most deep and profound ways.

Here are the five amazing teachings and teachers I adore. Chime in on the comments section with others who've most influenced you.

1) We are always perfect and whole.

"People think that the true, the beautiful, and the good exist somewhere else, in someone else. They don't know that they are true, beautiful and good at their core." -- Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Art of Power."

Anytime I think I am not complete enough to be happy, I recall this brilliant Vietnamese/French Buddhist's words and am immediately bathed in relief and contentment. I am enough. And you are enough. And when my true and beautiful and good inner self mindfully meets yours ("Dear one, I am here for you," as Nhat Hanh masterfully puts it in his book "True Love"), how could anything be wrong?

2) It's our choice whether to love or fear.

"Part of our mind is bent on love, and part of it is bent on fear ... We always have the choice to align ourselves with [the loving mind, or God]'s presence and act accordingly in the world or give in to fear and, on some level, die." --Marianne Williamson, "Illuminata."

I adore the stark way Williamson puts this: No matter how it looks, every moment offers up only the choice of love or of fear. Worry, skepticism, frustration and anxiety are all just fear masquerading as logic. Whenever I put Williamson's question to myself -- would I rather choose love or choose fear? -- the answer is obvious.

3) Focusing on what I want brings it right to me.

"All things that happen in your experience come because of the requests that you are sending out with your thoughts." --Esther and Jerry Hicks, "The Vortex."

I know many both in and outside the spiritual community have trouble wrapping their heads around the law of attraction, but I've seen it work too often in my own life to have doubts. It's not about positive, rah-rah thinking, the Hickses make clear. You have to emotionally feel yourself shift to hope or expectation before wanted things (including people and experiences, not just stuff) can come your way.

4) Getting out of my head is the key to joy.

"Becoming conscious of stillness whenever we encounter it in our lives will connect us with the formless and timeless dimension within ourselves, that which is beyond thought, beyond ego." --Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth."

I've always adored meditating because when I enter that place beyond thought I know I am in the kingdom of heaven. But what I treasure about Tolle is that he doesn't advocate formal practices that must be a certain length or done in a certain style. (If you've read my prior blogs, you know I'm not quite so disciplined.) I've even heard Tolle say that one conscious breath is a sufficient meditation. Through his teachings, I've come to see that any moment that I find the exit door from thinking, even if I soon turn around and walk back in, is a moment that I'm truly living.

5) I can have my own conversation with God.

"Most people choose to believe that God communicates in special ways and only with special people ... All people are special, and all moments are golden." --Neale Donald Walsch, "Conversations with God, book 1."

What more need be said?

Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new spiritual women's novel, "Downward Dog, Upward Fog," which was recommended by Yoga Journal Buzz Blog and the Science of Mind national newsletter. ForeWord Reviews calls the novel "an inspirational gem that will appeal to introspective, evolving women." Read excerpts at Meryl also writes for O: the Oprah Magazine, Whole Living, Reader's Digest and other national magazines.

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