Archive for the 'spiritual story' Category

Where’s the point of symmetry?

November 16, 2014

So a guru coerces his best student into helping him write a book.  His tactics in gaining her help introduce a lot of negative energy into the relationship.  She goes along with what she thinks the deal is, fearing the alternatives will be worse, and she believes that over the course of helping the guru with his project a relationship has developed.

She has helped him with his dream, or goal, if one prefers, and after his book is done and disseminated, she asks for her turn, with help with her dream or goal.  She could write a book, but that isn’t what she feels called to do.  In fact, she hears pretty clearly that she shouldn’t.  And she believes that out of the relationship that has developed, if not also out of the original arrangement, he will help her with her dream or goal.

For her, the point of symmetry was the dream or goal, not the specific form that took for the other person.

He says no, pretty simply and clearly:  “No, please go away.”

He doesn’t even notice that what she is asking for are things he has similarly asked others for and were extended to him, whether the help was earned, charitable, or some combination of the two.  He doesn’t want to do it for her.

“No, please go away.”

So she’s got a choice: write a book she thinks should not be written, in a life that does not support such an activity, or just accept that for him the point of symmetry was a specific activity, not actually meeting the other person’s needs or desires.

I don’t think it matters which she chooses, I think for her it’s always only been a lesson in discerning perspective — how different people can perceive so differently, and what is her perception of a situation and what is someone else’s.  How any particular situation is resolved is secondary to that.

My support for that interpretation is her being a student of a guru.  That suggests to me that her life is about orienting herself to her relationship with the universe, and that her relationships with particular other people fall into place when she keeps her focus on that.

She has learned that a person who sees trees and not forests will relate to someone who is focused on forests in a way that does not result in balance between them.

Unfortunately, the introduction of negative energy from the initial coercion of the student by the guru produces its own fallout.  That’s kind of like the splash in a dive, or the noise around a signal, but it can obscure the main event.  In some versions of this story, it does, and the guru and the student succumb to round after round of negative exchanges.

Finding the Achilles’ heel

September 22, 2014

Once upon a time there was some sort of yogi.  He enjoyed his talents and gifts, maybe a little too much.  Or maybe he just became too self-conscious and nervous about how it was he was able to do what he did.  Or maybe nothing he did or didn’t do had anything to do with it, but at some point in time he ceased being able to connect with his power source, and his abilities became hollow shells  —  he could no longer be the wise person he had formerly been, but he found he could fake it.   Maybe he thought it would be temporary, and so he justified developing work-arounds to get him through the desert of not being able to actually do what he used to do but look as though he were.  In any event, he didn’t admit to anybody that something significant had changed and that he was no longer the person he used to be.  [Actually he was the same person, he just wasn’t the person who could currently do what he used to do.]

This went on for some time, until one of his former students figured out a way to verify for herself that he was using superficial mental processes instead of participating in the flow.

She dyed her hair, she lived among the poor and down-trodden, she became herself one of them.  And then she went to him.  He of course didn’t recognize her, he just dealt with her as someone who made him feel uncomfortable.

Instead of engaging, he ducked.

While superficially his dismissal could be processed in other ways, she could perceive that it actually covered over the nervous fear of a child who is in way over his head.

So she left things at that, because she at least had the ability to perceive that while she could make the situation worse, she couldn’t make the situation better;  for that, the inner little boy needed to be grown up, and for that, he needed to feel safe enough to grow up, and to facilitate that, the only thing that could possibly help was for her to leave as he wished her to do.

While she still had the difficulties in her life to deal with, she had satisfied her need to verify what she had suspected on the basis of other indications:  that there was something going on that was not as it seemed.  She had also found a basis for the discrepancy.

It wasn’t just the evidence of a single incident that confirmed her suspicions, it was also the way the yogi tried to manage the aftermath.  There were many things he could have done afterwards to adjust what had happened, but all he did was more of the same.

The former student felt bad, not just for herself but also for her yogi, too.  She found that she could feel gratitude that he was in this world, that she could accept that he was doing his best, and that she could learn that she didn’t have to condone the particulars to feel that gratitude and compassion or that she had to express that gratitude or compassion in a way that would contribute to the problem, regardless of what anyone else said.  She also didn’t have to pretend that things were other than they were.

What she did have to do was to wait and to listen, to hear what would come next.

And, of course, she missed the way her yogi had been before, that was a sadness in her heart.

“Two wives”

April 18, 2014

There’s a spiritual story in which a wise man tells an ambitious man that one can’t have two wives successfully.

The ambitious man thinks, “Well, we’ll just see about that, I’ll show this ‘wise’ man that it can be done, and undermine his credibility to boot.”

So he marries two different women.  Different versions of the story have this happen in different ways.

I’m not even sure that all of the households in all of the stories are unhappy — because that was never the issue;  the issue was that a person cannot be successful in both the material world and the spiritual world — one can’t “marry” both.

Taking something back, or sharing?

March 19, 2014

There’s this spiritual story about an adolescent who really feels strongly that a grown man has stolen from her her jewels.  He feels equally convinced she has robbed him of something equally valuable, namely, something required to maintain his stature and status in the community.

So how to restore equilibrium?

There’s an attempt, which doesn’t succeed, in which he returns something and she returns something, but they both accuse the other of returning a false approximation of what was stolen.

There are attempts at partial returns, there are empty promises, there are claims nothing was stolen — lots of adversarial attempts to restore without actually completely participating.

In the meantime, they are each using some “ill-gotten gain” from the other to try to maintain themselves.  They each end up in situations in which they are ill-equipped in some way, and this does not serve the greater good, either.

A lot of the trouble reconciling was probably a trust issue — “If I give to you, will you really give to me or will it just be throwing good money after bad, as they say?”

So here’s how it got resolved:  they both were agreeable with sharing with a disinterested third party, and through something like the mathematical transitive principle or something like a concept of mixing cooking ingredients, eventually they both ended up with a portion of what they felt they were missing.  What they shared with the intermediary included the “stolen good,” and through sharing with the intermediary, they had access again to what they considered the good stolen by the other.

Footnote:  disinterested third party did not have an easy time of it, as they were often treated as if they were actually the other person in the dispute.

Which tradition?

January 20, 2014

Richard Rohr talks about delving deep through one’s spiritual tradition, citing the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa as sources.

My sense is that the only bedrock guidelines are, open your heart and listen.  If that process leads to going with a particular current religious tradition, that’s one thing.  But if it leads elsewhere, that’s something else.

So, too, with the notion of the happy mystic Father Rohr has written about.  To me that sounds like a human interpretation, the idea that mystics will give external evidence of happiness.  Maybe the “physics” of being a mystic do necessarily produce what we perceive as happiness, but I am open to the possibility that they don’t, that there are varieties of mystic experience and that the tradition he refers to is just one of many.  To me, the issue is what serves the greater good in a particular situation, what puzzle piece fits.  It’s a logical possibility that a grumpy mystic might.  Not every partially enlightened person fulfills the same function, is doing the same job.  And I’m not sure that the completely enlightened people hang out here, I think to be incarnated we have to accept having some kind of flaw.  Even the happy mystics.

As to what religious tradition has worked for me, in terms of spiritual union, I believe it is a much older one, one which most people no longer use today, and I believe that for me that reflects that I am helping someone from the past resolve an attempted spiritual union that went awry in a complicated way.

Which leads me to a spiritual story.  It’s about someone who thinks they are getting someone else’s dreams.  Today we might think of it in terms of getting someone else’s email and wanting to forward the messages on to the correct recipient, who would know how to respond to them.  It was clear to this second person in the story that the first person was getting her stuff because he had too much of her energy incorporated within him.  If you’re impersonating someone, you get their messages.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t want her to take her energy back, just the messages.  He didn’t understand that it doesn’t work that way.

They interacted, she got the messages, did what they indicated needed to be done, stuff which he didn’t know how to do (and he knew that he didn’t).  Then the universe found a way to keep the problem from recurring.

All the rest was irrelevant detail, in the great scheme of things.  She could see that, even if she didn’t like some of the detail, and eventually she made peace with the fact that he had his own interpretation of what had happened.

For her it was a little like overpaying to recover needed information stored on a stolen computer, a computer that was now in the hands of someone who really thought it was theirs.

No one ever told her she was getting a pleasurable or easy role in the story.  It’s being of service that brings inner peace, not necessarily the particulars of what that service entails.  And within the confines of the story, she complained heartily.  It’s just that she could also see (after the fact) that it was only a spiritual story and that she was being of service by playing her role within it.

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Re-establishing the status quo

September 6, 2013

Nowadays we can get tracking information for our packages so we can monitor the progress of their transit.  At first this seemed to be a gain.

But now I feel that I’m back at square one.

Jordan ordered coursebooks from his campus bookstore.  He commutes and having them delivered here isn’t actually very expensive and in his case makes sense.

Some came.  Some didn’t.  But all were issued tracking labels.  Some never progressed in the system beyond that.  The bookstore says, “They must have fallen off the truck” (sic).  Jordan took an hour yesterday to get replacement copies from the store, in person.

This morning I was checking the status of a different package, and again, we’ve got a shipping label acknowledgement by the carrier.  I called the vendor, and they assured me this was normal, that the package was actually in transit with the carrier, and will indeed arrive next week.  I asked them how they could be sure, and cited by way of example the recent experience of Jordan’s books.  The customer service agent said that the lack of information that the package has made it into the carrier’s system is normal.

So tracking information has now become somewhat random.  Maybe it gives one real information, maybe it is misleading.  It is not dependable, does not give us a basis for a realistic expectation of whether the package will arrive.  It does not seem to me that it leaves us better off than we were before we had access to it, at least when the tracking information gets stuck at this stage of “label created, not yet with carrier.”

But there’s always, for me, the possibility of an analogy.  There’s always a lesson I can find in my circumstances.  The situation is not a useless exercise in frustration or in unmet expectations from what technology purports to do (and maybe even did for a time).

Here it could be how psychism interferes with faith.

For example, there’s a spiritual story about a person who “tracks” other people with some sort of supernatural powers we might call psychic.  They eavesdrop and insert messages on a frequency most people don’t notice because they don’t have enough awareness to pick out within their thoughts and emotions these intruded thoughts and emotions as not being their own.

During a subsequent incarnation, these psychic people have that same ability, but without the quality of discernment as to which individual they are communicating with.

They eventually figure this out and are quite indignant.  They think they’ve got defective machinery.

But they don’t.  They have machinery helpful for a different task and helpful for teaching them not to rely on psychism to navigate their lives.  The “different task” is empathic healing, in which it is quite helpful not to know the identity of the person being healed.  And not being able to triangulate and strategize about what move to make based on inside information forces the person back onto faith and reliance on internal guidance from their core.  They can’t track the package, or even know it will get there, they can only do their part and then wait and see, until they receive feedback actually addressed to them; and in the meantime, they can (only) do what their guidance suggests.

But they cry out and complain and sit down and refuse to participate.  Or they demand extra help to compensate for their inability to untangle the strands of what they hear and attribute them accurately to individuals.  Because in addition to being able to undertake empathetic healing, the person in the story is also capable of being one of those “mixing bowls” (like Plato mentions somewhere), and can mix various strands of energy or information in a way that forms a new whole, but they don’t realize that’s what that talent is for, either — they see it, again, as a defective device for manipulating people.  They don’t understand their function, probably because it isn’t part of the belief system of their culture.

Along comes the IT support, the spiritual geek squad, and they check out the equipment (by trying it out themselves).  And they report that it works just fine, it’s just not meant for tracking other people or manipulating them or building social relationships, it’s meant for healing shattered souls, including by creating pieces that may be missing and lost.

I have no idea whether I will receive my package.  I have no idea where it is.  I can only wait.  While I wait, I can stop scouring my external environment for clues and listen to what I hear within.

The package in question is a representation of Kwan Yin.  She would not be who she is through means of trying manipulate on the basis of pieces of external information or trying to manipulate other people.  She hears the cries of others as cries welling up within her, she navigates and heals by means of looking deep within herself and connecting with those forces.

Mistranslations

September 3, 2013

Reading a NYTimes post about women in philosophy, I got to thinking about an old spiritual story.

The Times piece starts off with the author’s difficulty fielding responses to her self-description as a philosopher when people ask her what she does.

In this spiritual story I’m thinking about, a young girl is questioned by some men from another culture what she is.  I suspect they meant whether she’s a servant, a princess, a weaver, etc.  She answers something like “Energy worker.”  She is a shaman, I guess we might say.

They end up pressing her into prostitution.  She at some point blames herself for her easily misconstrued answer; maybe if she had not thought to present herself as accomplished they would have let her alone.

Nowadays we would say she was trafficked and we wouldn’t see her as the cause of her misfortune.

Help or deception?

June 29, 2013

There’s an old spiritual story I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, in which the adult male tells the young girl he’ll be back, she should keep the household going until he does.  And he doesn’t.

He thought he was giving her hope that would buoy her through hard times until she was old enough and experienced enough to perform her role comfortably, to survive on her own and care for her younger brother.

I now wonder whether the adult male was engaging in a distorted version of attempting to provide a “flight control system” that would disguise the difficulty of the situation.

In the case with the young girl, the device did not give her something that made her tasks easier, and once she became overwhelmed and/or realized he was not coming back, she succumbed.  It was an inadequate version.

But it could be made to work in other circumstances — an older person in her role, for example, would help, even if that person lacked other elements needed to go it alone.

And when enough of the factors that led to the original scenario’s being unworkable were adjusted, she survived her ordeal long enough to be able to find the man who made the false promise and tell him, “You didn’t capture an important element of the technique.  It’s not about fooling someone in the sense of a deceit that is convenient to the deceiver, it’s about figuring out a help that actually makes the tasks easier for the other person.”

Lighthouse

March 5, 2013

A lighthouse marks a piece of land, some dangerous terrain, to warn ships to steer clear.  Spiritual lighthouses, I think, do the opposite — they attract passers-by, as if the light beckoned.

For “spiritual lighthouse,” I think “fairly enlightened person” can be substituted.

A problem would arise if passing ships came to the lighthouse as if it were actually a different kind of light source, as if it were a signal to harbor instead of a warning of dangerous rocks.

The souls or spirits of people who have died and are disoriented can be attracted to spiritual lighthouses, and the lighthouse redirects them gently.  I suppose that if people prayed to spiritual lighthouses, those prayers could be redirected, too.

Living people, especially those who for whatever reason live to a large extent in their subconscious, can wind up drawn to one of these lighthouses.  They may mistake the lighthouse for something else — a muse, a god (or God), maybe even a demon.

In some ways this doesn’t matter (in an existential sense), except, of course, to the person attracted to the lighthouse, because a lighthouse is a lighthouse, not the sun or some other self-sustaining source of energy; the lighthouse remains unaffected by the misunderstanding.

But unlike a real, literal lighthouse, a spiritual lighthouse can get caught up in the passer-by’s mistake that the lighthouse is an ultimate source of light — yes, a person can be sufficiently enlightened to function as a lighthouse while still harboring flaws that encourage them to believe erroneous things (that meet unresolved psychological needs).   Becoming enlightened may be a series of steps, but they aren’t always taken in the same particular order.  Some sequences are more difficult to pull off than others.  Just as a piece of seemingly watertight pottery can leak or shatter for no apparent (to the naked eye) reason.

I woke up this morning with the realization, during that transitional period from sleep to wakefulness, that some people will just never see things as I do and that all I need to do is to see that, and with compassion, not to try to get them to change their minds.  I just need to see them clearly, to see them as they are, even if they take great pains to make that difficult.

And later in the morning, I could see that in the story in which the prince understands his mission as being to wake the sleeping princess from her nightmare, the nightmare at issue was actually not how the princess perceived her dream, or the “nightmare” of her situation, but the distress caused to her by her taking to heart the prince’s own idiosyncratic perception of her.