Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Is and Is Not Spiritual: A Series of Mini-Blogs #2

Zen Awareness Training is a dialog. We encounter something—guidance, teaching, a practice structure—we notice the voices go crazy, a clue that there is something to look at; we sit with it, see what we see, and then share that with the teacher or facilitator to invite what they see. In the back and forth of processing, clarity is arrived at and the “barriers to love” are winnowed away.

Thank you to all who responded to the last blog by calling or writing in. Here is another installment in this continuing conversation.


An outraged individual wrote to me recently (returning rosary beads and key with the letter), comparing what I’m saying currently with money and spirituality to Jim Jones getting people to drink poisoned kool aid. I am so wrong, so irresponsible, so spiritually incorrect that I have become a danger to good spiritual people everywhere, based on the projection that I’m motivated by my own financial gain.

Oh, my.

In reference to saying yes to everything Life offers, one of the questions put to me by this unhappy individual was, “Do you really believe egocentricity doesn’t have ‘yes’ in its vocabulary?” Of course it does. Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate IS the divided world of opposites. It IS duality. It has “yes” and “no” at the ready. “Yes, you should get a big pile of junk food and watch tv all evening; you’ve had such a hard day.” “No, you don’t need to meditate or record and listen tonight; you’ve had such a hard day.” But what Life doesn’t seem to have is “no” in its vocabulary! Life’s no is still a yes: “Yes, it won’t take care of you to eat food that doesn’t nourish you or to allow distraction to occupy consciousness.”

I love religion. I love spirituality. I love awareness practice. As with most people in love I tend to focus on the “objects of my affection” almost exclusively. And, carefully scrutinizing as I do, I can’t find a single example of any originators of the religions, spiritualities, and practices I love encouraging us to choose content over process. No one says there is content—money, sex, possessions, politics, family, health, relationship—that “trumps” the process of love. I find nothing that says we can decide what something is and what it means and then use that decision to judge or hate.

Moses gave us the Ten Commandments. Have no other gods, no graven images or likenesses, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath day, honor your father and your mother, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet. Jesus encouraged people to love God, love one another, and not judge. The Buddha gave us the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Mohammad taught Muslims to worship God, be gentle, forgiving, honest, generous, reverent, and grateful. And, as we know, the one expression of the teachings that all religions share is the Golden Rule: treat everyone (and everything, if you’re Buddhist) as you wish to be treated. (I think it’s really important to note that none of those folks encouraged us to use self-hate as a path to spiritual perfection!)

I offer the example of the outraged individual as a place we’ve probably all gotten to, and not just once! We’re so caught up in ego’s righteous indignation that it never occurs to us to question what we’re being told by conditioned mind, what we’re assuming, and what ego is projecting.

I know encouraging people to go up against what ego is hiding with such ferocity will not enhance my reputation in some circles. But would we really not choose what it feels Life is calling us to do because someone might judge us? Might disagree? Might hate us? I hope not. As Rumi wrote, “Live where you fear to live.”

Only ego gets outraged. Only ego is certain of right and wrong and whom to judge and what “simply must not be tolerated.”

So, while this might seem a bit of a divergence from our last blog focus, it actually brings me back to the final question in that blog: What are you seeing about what you’re allowed to have and what you’re not allowed to have? About what is spiritual and not spiritual? About what sets off the voices in the head? About what makes your stomach clench up and everything in you scream, “Nooooooo!”?

This will quickly take us to the next questions: Why must you be controlled in that way? Are you dangerous? Can’t you be trusted to be good, to do the right thing? Do you project others can’t be trusted? Do you project others will believe you can’t be trusted? Do you not deserve to have? What triggers the fear reaction?

These are questions offered in the hope one or more will spark an insight that can take us to the next point of inquiry.

If you’d like to talk about this with me, please call Open Air.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

What Is and Is Not Spiritual: A Series of Mini-Blogs


I love Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. (He said a lot of amazing things, much of it offensive to a lot of people.) He’s been a part of our practice right from the beginning, his primary contribution usually being the opening to a conversation about money and spirituality. I’ve always introduced him as the owner of 80 Rolls Royces, but it turns out there were 93. Eighty Rolls Royces made people crazy; what’s 13 more!

I’m hoping we can take 2015 to look deeply and closely at all that lies behind the outrage and judgment that roars up when people are confronted with something like a spiritual teacher owning 93 Rolls Royces. (It does seem a bit over the top, doesn’t it? I suspect he could have accomplished the same result with just one Rolls Royce.)

A little about the format here before we go on. If you’d like to approach these blogs as a mini-workshop, I invite you to stop to consider the preceding paragraph, and then jot down your answers to the following questions.

1) Let’s forget about the 93 number and just go with: What arises when you consider a spiritual person owning a Rolls Royce? Take your time to let all the responses come in….
2) If a spiritual person owns a car, what sort of car should it be? Look closely…
3) Do you have a belief that money corrupts, and that the only way to remain “pure” is not to have anything to do with it? Again, take just a moment to consider whether or not you believe that… 
4) What is your reaction when yet another scandal breaks, revealing that a religious leader has been personally benefiting from their “ministry”? That donations are paying for a lavish lifestyle? Take another moment to write down additional insights…

Now, consider:
Do you see a connection between your answers to these questions and what you’re allowed to have and what you’re not allowed to have?

It seems that many people are conditioned to believe that spirituality and poverty go together. Not just that people who take a vow of poverty should be poor, but that all spiritual people should be poor. To paraphrase Rajneesh, people live in such an intolerably impoverished mindset that they console themselves by making that mindset the spiritually correct way to think.

If you want to talk about what you’re seeing, please call Open Air on January 13.