I think one of the most interesting things is the transition from having an understanding of something (through comprehending a theory or explanation) and that sudden shocking moment when you make the connection to how it works in real life. It is like the moment when you “get” that yes, if the bicycle moves than you do not fall over. Or, if you apply the brakes smoothly and lightly, you will stop without flipping over. It is a simple revelationsthat what someone has told you is truth.
I think that is probably the only way you can ever know if what someone tells you is really true. If what they told you matches what happens in reality, then they have spoken of reality – maybe not truth, that is maybe a more dense and complicated a thing to even discuss. But, you can begin to understand who is speaking from reality and who is talking from illusion/delusion from whether or not reality offers unsolicited evidence that proves what they told you.
One of the things I was mulling over this morning was the nature of conflict. How conflict is based in illusion/delusion of one or both parties and is very different from tension, which is reality based. From there my mind waltzed over to the thought about how the only constant in life is that everything changes. The desire for the unchanging is based in delusion and a denial of reality.
From there, my brain flung one end of her boa around her neck and stuck a rose between her teeth as the seductively trim figure of politics, culture and activism (wearing this seaon’s new design by society, le cape du dogma) pulled her into his arms and they began a dangerous tango. “Cheri,” he whispered in an awful, fake and undefinable accent, “You may always rely on corruption, power and politics to always be the same.”
And I thought, ahhhhhhhh there is the delusion. All this talk about how nothing has changed as far as the politics, culture, corruption and powers that influence everything is nothing but illusion. An illusion that makes any effort to create different outcomes far less effective than they could be. Because everything is approached as if it is the same moment in time and nothing is ever the same as how it has been. Yet we structure all of our funding and approaches, our bills and protests as if nothing about the system that maintains us has ever changed. And it has changed in its every aspect, not just the ones that we are comfortable (or that it is unavoidable) in recognizing.
If then (and while leaning backward in a dip my brain slipped off one feathered mule and clubbed her partner unconscious – ending the tango) then all of this conflict – the political discussions, the social discussions, the efforts to introduce changes to our societies and cultures is based in illusion and tries to fight an illusion with illusion and therefore – will accomplish nothing, except maintaining the delusion that nothing about power and influence changes.
Yesterday was a very powerful day for me. Not in an overwhelmingly comfortable way. I came face to face with a repeated situation that I had stepped away from dealing with and just hoped to avoid and now – it would appear it is time to deal with it. I am fortunate that now I have the meditation practice to help me with this and I got angry when someone I knew saw my mood and wanted to “bring me out of it.” I didn’t want to escape the mood, I wanted to do what I am supposed to do which is learn to sit in it and discover its fullness. I sat and faced the white wall. Thirty minutes later I was in a better place and had more control over my emotions. I was ready to face the kneesnappers who were already lurking and shouting “Don’t you want to play GO???” and trying to get around the person (so kindly) trying to keep them from rampaging onto the mat where I was sitting (40 feet away, wisely).
When I stood up, I realized with a shock, that I had been crying the whole time I had been meditating. I was not aware of that, but tears will still streaming down my face and I had to do a quick “oh whoops!” and scoot past the kneesnappers to clean up before charging into 3 hours of hyper play with them.
And then later…
I was exposed to my first instance of what has been described to me as “malevolent shenpa.” That is when someone who is in a position of influence allows their shenpa to force a meditation group into that person’s darkness.
Shenpa, loosely translated, is the “hook” or what we do as habit or use as habit to allow us to escape reality and permit us to shut down emotionally. A shenpa holds some promise of “relief without suffering” and we bite at it like a fish and get hooked. Because we know the food is tasty, easy to come by and at first – works, we bite it each time we see it until we get so used to doing it we seek out the baited hook.
Malevolent shenpa is when someone defines an expectation of another as only being good if they are biting at the same hook as that person. If they are in a position of authority, it is easy to make acceptance of and participation in their personal shenpa a requirement for being in the group. It becomes the perfect rationalization for the avoidance of facing yourself, by making everyone around you the same. If you say it is good and a bunch of people go “ok,” then the self-examination of whether or not your shenpa is causing you harm or, harm to others becomes unimportant to you.
By introducing their malevolent shenpa to the group as a definition, in a way, they introduce poison. The group, to remain a group, has to adopt the shenpa as their own on an individual basis and it can be psychologically and emotionally devastating.
There are good shenpas too. But meditation, yoga, spirituality, religion, prayer, fitness, health, whole foods – all of that is still a hook we use to escape the totality of being present because they are things outside of ourselves that we use to prove that we are good or bad or compassionate or suffering or whatever – rather than take the responsibilities of seeing and being those things, we have to put things around them to try and contain them – limiting our capacity for understanding and realizing their importance. Good shenpa can easily become malevolent, you see that a lot when someone becomes so single minded in their devotion to a practice they decree it is the only way for everyone or, that only they and its practitioners know the truth or have special insight. Shenpa has a lot of other names.
So I experienced malevolent shenpa last night. I thought it would be more spectacular, dramatic and obvious but it wasn’t. It was subtle but being aware of it, it highlighted how everything changed for the entire meeting. Afterward, a few of us were like “did what just happen, happen?” Because it is not what we are taught to expect of these things. Part of practicing is learning to spot teachers who teach from their shenpa rather than from their practice. Part of it is learning how to protect yourself from taking in that poison. And part of it is learning what to do after that has happened.
I have no idea.
But as the koan says,
“You have so much to do, why are you wasting your time on a question like that?”
c.2012. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.