The shadow of psychological awareness ~ Kaspa

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    • #541

      Friday morning. It was our regular Order meeting/training meeting here at the temple. We’d had a beautiful morning service; in both the spirit of our practice, and in the light-filled shrine room; the early autumn days of 2016 were filled with bright sunshine.

      We were discussing shadows, and splitting, and some of the misbehaviour of Buddhist teachers that have come out in the last few years; how do we protect ourselves against such things, both as leaders and public figures ourselves, and as community members?

      One of the ways we keep ourselves safe is by having a realistic view of the human condition, learning to be honest about ourselves, our impulses and desires, and having somewhere to express those.

      Although the meeting that morning was more theoretical, we often share more personally. Passing a smooth stone from hand to hand, speaking from the heart in turn, and listening deeply to each other.

      A related question came up in the conversation that morning. Is there a shadow side of the psychological awareness of our community? We are closely aligned with therapeutic practice – what might the downside of that be?

      I had already been thinking about this, in the days before the meeting. Jnanamati shared a little of his own answer to this question, and I shared as well, and I thought we were both saying similar things. I can only speak for myself, of course.

      I’d been noticing how my own personal practice had recently become shining a light into my own ego. Not just simply noticing what was floating around on the surface, but trying to make sense of it. Where has this feeling come from? What’s underneath this thought? When do I feel it more strongly? When does it go away? A little like the Nie Quan sesshin we had in France a couple of years ago, but less formal.

      The danger with this kind of practice is that I tip-over into wanting to ‘fix’ what I discover.  What can I do to change this habit, or that pattern?

      It’s not the end of the world, to think in such a way, but it’s a self-power practice, and it can get me into all sorts of tangles, when it turns out that I can’t change in the way that I want to, or in the time-frame that I would like to change.

      As priests, and counsellors, we might fall into the same trap with our congregation, or with each other. Seeing habits and patterns, and then wanting to fix them. ‘Just take this little step’ we might think, ‘and then everything will be okay’. Of course, what we often mean by that is, ‘Just take this little step, and you’ll be easier to live with.’

      The deeper truth is that what we are seeing is the human condition, and it is outside of our power to make what is real into what we would prefer to be the case.

      Instead we can take this clear seeing of our own patterns, and the occasional sighting of the patterns of others, as a way of deepening our nembutsu, rather than rushing to find the answer (the fix) to a question (fix me) that is not being asked.

      This is why I love the practice with the stone. We just bring our messy selves to the Buddha, and the Sangha, and there is no jumping in and trying to change what is uncomfortable, just a remembering that Amida’s light shines for people like us.

    • #546
      David Brazier
      Participant

      Yes, nice observations. Buddhism is full of good psychology, but the question is how we use it – to enhance the ego or to let it be? to fix ourselves or to arrive at compassion for the universal human condition? at what point does “sharing” become self-indulgent rumination, or even a burdensome imposition upon others? when is it useful to share and when to contain? what heals and what merely perpetuates? These are the kinds of question to which any formulaic response is likely to fall short of fully addressing what really happens when we encounter one another.

    • #567

      Thanks.

      The question of what heals is a good one, as you say, there is no fixed answer. Sometimes my own sharing is helpful for others, maybe sometimes it could be unhelpful for others.

      I have a mixture of relationships, in some there is mutual ‘helping’, in some I am usually the ‘helper’, and in some the ‘helped’. I use the word ‘help’ with caution. Perhaps I can say sometimes I am asking to be received, and sometimes I am being received, and sometimes I am doing both.

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