Archive for the 'yogis' Category

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.


March 20, 2012

I suspect I wasn’t all that clear in making my point this morning in response to the David Brooks column about our assumptions underlying our surprise when a “good” person suddenly engages in violence.  I was trying to take issue with his assumption, as he tried to debunk these other assumptions, that there exist internal forces that are intrinsically destructive.  I think it’s more like the smell of home-delivered natural gas — the smell (here, the destructiveness) is added from something else.

I guess I don’t disagree with the idea that the source of the violent act is something that wells up from within, but I think what produces the impetus and the behavior is the interplay between a (neutral) force and the person’s unresolved “stuff” (their fears, their desires, their attachments, their ego needs).  I get concerned when I hear about “destructive forces” or “evil,” because I think it’s like saying that corporations are people with personalities — it attributes to something inert a kind of drive I don’t think it has.  In the case of people who suddenly commit violent acts, there may well be a force perceived internally that is involved, but that very same force might well pass through another person without producing violence.  The issue is whether the force gets tangled in the person’s unresolved damage and hence doesn’t pass through but gets stuck and inflates.

To try to avoid such experiences, people try to clean themselves up, do “interior work,” work the 4th through 7th steps of a 12-step program, go to confession, fast and pray, go on a spiritual retreat, work with a therapist, read self-help books — there are many ways people try to clean themselves up.  I suppose in a way, this work is not all that different from David Brooks’s ideas on how people build character in that the person engages in some sort of program to arrive at a further stage of self-development, but my emphasis is not on willful insistence on hewing to an ideal or some rules but rather getting to the point where helpful behaviors flow voluntarily from the heart and the behaviors that don’t serve wither away.  I think the other approach may produce superficial compliance in some people, but that compliance is unreliable across many situations.

So, maybe I should have framed my comment as a difference in emphasis, but I get very frustrated when I seem to hear, yet again, that it’s all about character achieved through a strong exertion of will.  I want to say, “All right, David, you’re good at that, and it’s a wonderful skill; but other skills are needed that come from taking a different approach to developing the self.”  And maybe he’s done those, too, he certainly has a lot going on, but he comes across to me as missing some component — his ideas often strike me as getting at something profound but, from my point of view, are slightly off or at a tangent. My biggest concern is that he lacks thoroughgoing willingness, and that keeps him trapped in his own sense of what serves, rather than actually allowing him to follow his guidance step by step along a path of what actually does serve.  But, for all I know, he’s following his guidance and this is the result — it doesn’t have to make sense to me.

I know that for me it’s very difficult to hear (it’s why I can’t get myself to read the rest of things like The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter or even all of books on religion and spirituality) stuff that is close but no cigar, from my point of view — it has the effect in me of my feeling a need to try to sort out where I differ from the other belief system.  In the case of a NYTimes op-ed column, I have the added frustration that it may be having an influence that isn’t helpful.  In the case of these “destructive forces,” my concern is that people will think there are these negative things out there or in us that we need to guard against, when in fact I think it’s the case that we need to clean ourselves up so these neutral forces don’t look negative or contribute to a negative outcome, and that we need to be more open, not less open.  We can clean up ourselves, but fighting with a truly negative force as if it were an actual entity produces more harm than good overall, I think.  And learning how very much of our suffering is the product of our perceptions, including their distortions by our “stuff,” I think is important — attributing it to even internal forces I think is problematic — it ain’t the forces, it’s us.


I realized after I wrote this that I didn’t include the part of my understanding that some forces are more likely to get caught on our stuff than others, and that if we’re not ready to encounter such forces, we would do well not to put ourselves in situations in which we will.  A very well cleaned-up person can encounter a force and not be fazed by it whereas the same force might mix with another person’s unresolved stuff to produce a lot of distress and a lot of dysfunctional behavior.

The method’s the thing

March 11, 2012

I am trying to process what it means when a person gives me an explanation, for behavior, that I know isn’t, at least completely, accurate.  I don’t like trying to choose between seeing the explanation as a lie and going along with something I know doesn’t capture what I distinctly heard coming from the other person.

But it occurs to me that it’s probably not the content of the interaction that is important, at least for me, here.  It’s probably simply to see that the other person does not connect with what’s going on at the deeper levels of themselves.  If they did, I don’t think my personal situation with them would necessarily be resolved, but they would have a better technique themselves for navigating their lives.

So, I could tell this person that he was uncomfortable with me and asked me to go away, although he had, whether inadvertently or not, asked me to come in the first place.  These pieces I know.  I know I experience other people empathetically, that is, as an empath.  I know I hear them, and I know my role is passive, as a recipient and a mirror.

If I am called and I come and I am sent away and the person tells me that’s not what he thinks happened, I will say that that is actually the issue he wanted diagnosed, that he doesn’t hear himself.

Imploded yogi, II

August 10, 2011

I have been mulling over the phenomenon of imploded yogis again.  This comes after reading Stanley Fish’s latest on the limits of philosophy, or however his two pieces on “Does Philosophy Matter?” should be characterized.  The connection between his post and my musings is that his discussion struck me as so devoid of methods of apprehending the world other than thinking, other than using the intellect.  For me, there are other parts of my apparatus for taking in information than my intellectual mind and other processes for comprehending it than my thinking.  As I mentioned in my comment, sometimes one of these other ways of knowing is called gnosis.

When I understand something through this other means, it is a very internal process — it’s like getting the information through a conduit deep inside of me that I can access once I get my ego and thinking mind to get out of my way (like asking the kids or the dog to get out of my line of sight when I use the rear-view mirror in the car, kind of).

My impression is that an imploded yogi may end up with this conduit being very long and convoluted, and using, maybe as a consequence of this (I’m thinking there is difficulty receiving information through this means because of this, that the sound is very faint by the time it emerges from the length of the conduit) some other, more external means of “hearing” information (a sort of work-around, kind of like reading lips for someone who is moderately hearing impaired).  I suspect this works fine for certain kinds of information, certain frequencies if you will, this “listening” to them through some other means.  The problem arises, I think, with trying to “hear” information of certain other sorts through this external means (this “lip reading” sort of work-around) — for some “frequencies,” I’m thinking this method may result in overwhelming and muffling “sound.”

So, what’s an imploded yogi to do?  Well, first off, such a person can find someone to pull in information for them and then translate or transmit the information to the imploded yogi through a form that is accessible to them.  The problem with this solution is that there’s some stuff that will sound different to each person.  So, learning to hear it directly through an internal conduit is probably preferable for an imploded yogi.  Maybe this can be done through some sort of sharing of somebody else’s internal conduit, like the Graiae (or, Old Grey Ones) did with the one eye they shared among their three selves, since I have the impression yogis are pretty good at merging, or interpenetrating, or whatever we call how people connect with each other in less than obvious ways.  In any case, I’m sure there’s a way to help an imploded yogi hear internally. (As someone who has a substantial (physical) conductive hearing loss in one ear, I find this interesting, since the (physical) inverse of this is the one way I do hear with my left ear — anything internal, like chewing or dental work going on in my mouth, I hear all too loudly, whereas external sound, especially human speech and cars coming up behind me, not very much.)

Imploded yogi

July 17, 2011

I think I’m back to musing about the distinction between how thinking about the idea of the thing is different from the thing itself.  This is actually one of my frustrations with a lot of theology — the confusion of how we do the thing, with the idea of how we do it.  And so much of the discussion becomes just words and intellectualizing, it seems to me, so divorced from actually serving, an intoxication of a sort.

I read in a small book I found on the shelves in my local supermarket (one of those “take a book, leave a donation” kind of things) about the distinction between wanting to merge with God and wanting to serve God.  It endorsed the latter, and implied that whatever needs to follow will flow from a simple, unadulterated, without-secondary-motives desire to serve God, and that keeping one’s separate individual nature is necessary in order to do this.  Apparently, people who want to merge with an impersonal understanding of God and lose their individuality in so doing actually push themselves further from their goal of spiritual freedom.  (And this can produce implosion in a yogi, it seems.)  It’s in letting go of any particular result, in focusing on doing what serves, and in maintaining some level of personal self-identity and some sense of a personal God that we, indirectly, make spiritual progress, according to this way of thinking.

Well, I don’t know, but it is the case in my experience that willingness (to serve) is key, and that finding a love for the divine that is intense enough is had through the metaphor of loving God as my son, my father, my husband.  But having experienced a relationship with God in that way, and had its consequences, things change, I move along to what’s next, and the metaphor becomes a simile, if you will.  But what doesn’t change is the willingness to serve, my willingness to serve, that is a constant, as are the open heart, the listening, the trying to pull back my ego, when I try to discern what I should do next.

It’s just willingness to serve, is all that’s necessary, the rest will follow.