Saturday, November 15, 2008
A Spiritual Perspective on Speaking Your Mind
Can we say whatever we want around our loved ones without worrying about their reactions, or do we have to walk on eggshells so that we don't disturb anyone's ego?
As is obvious to anyone, if our relationship is based around preserving each other's ego, then it is a very limited connection and probably will not be very fulfilling. We can't enjoy an open and harmonious relationship if we worry about the other's reaction every time we voice what we are truly feeling or observing. When this happens, couples tend to stop communicating altogether, and this marks the end of the enjoyment of the relationship, for open communication is essential.
All couples should establish the foundation of communication that either of them can freely say anything without the other reacting. Otherwise, if you can't speak your mind without the other coming down on you because of it, the relationship cannot grow.
Only the ego reacts. The inner Self simply observes the dialogue without taking anything personally, or feeling that anything has to be righted, corrected, or confronted.
I will be focusing more and more on the lessons of the Course of Training available through email, and working with those who are actively participating in the course. Of course, we will continue with new blog entries twice monthly as a means for staying current with each other, and as a great avenue for questions and answers. We have enjoyed an interesting discussion over the past couple of weeks, and I'm bringing up 3 exchanges in particular so that everyone can see and perhaps focus a little more deeply on what is being discussed, which I find very valuable and relevant.
I feel that the entries already posted in the blog are an excellent introduction to the Course of Training, and anyone who reads over the blog should have a fair idea of what is available through the course. I especially recommend the entry of November 1 for learning more about the course, as well as more specifically where we are coming from. Also, at the end of the very first entry in July, titled "Introduction," there is a list of topics that are among what we are exploring in the Course of Training.
While the group who began the new course in August/September will receive Lesson 6 sometime later tonight, work is also being done for the future. Speaking of the course in Lesson 17, it is written:
"This Course is for those who are open to the possibility that rapid spiritual growth is possible if we are willing to work toward it. It is for those people who simply want to come into harmony with the present moment and to be content in their own life as it is right now. It is for those who have experienced a fruitful spiritual path for many years and want to explore even deeper. It is also for all those who simply have some inkling that there is much more to life than what they have previously known, yet for whom the ideas and terminology of the lessons are new and unfamiliar.
"The Course is simultaneously for those who are absolute beginners on the spiritual path and for those who might have done sadhana (spiritual work) for many years. Most people who will appreciate the lessons are those who begin the Course having already attained some understanding of spiritual principles. I work primarily with those who have been around awhile, and few absolute beginners show up; but they are indeed welcome.
"Ultimately, the Course is for anyone who sincerely aspires to see and experience the simple Truth of the existing moment.
"We can learn what is new only when we maintain a state of inquiry. True self-inquiry is an exploration of what is true right now.
"I invite you to accompany me on this fascinating adventure, this exploration of the Truth of the present moment. As we proceed along this journey together, our experience of life can be transformed and our understanding deepened and refined. On one level, the Truth of the present moment is eternally changeless. On another level—the fun part—we have no idea what might happen next."
I truly recommend that all the comments under each entry are read, as I don't allow anything that doesn't contribute positively to our opening through dialogue. There are really great sharings of the course, as well as many thoughtful questions and answers regarding the day-by-day process of spiritual growth.
If you are new to these writings, please note that the person who posts under the name "DRB" is none other than myself, the writer of the blog and the Course of Training, D. R. Butler.
Now on to the questions:
Kristina: I have been working on myself for awhile and it seems that I am not what I thought I would be when I started the course many years ago. I am often confused and I certainly don't feel like I am beaming with the light of god. I often feel quite the contrary. I do accept myself a lot more and I am less scared to say what is really on my mind. This is what bothers me. I used to be a very timid and reserved kind of person (I didn't get into any trouble) and now it seems I speak up more and I have more personality and I care less what others think. This scares me because I think I am becoming some kind of monster. It just seems that before I was always safe and pleasing to everyone, while now I have become the opposite. I don't know if I am going in the right direction towards my Self or if I am just going around displaying my big fat ego and making a total fool of myself. It seems I am getting into more trouble these days. Things don't always seem harmonious. Sometimes I am afraid of what comes out of my mouth and after I think, I can't believe I just said that. I challenge what people say to me and I am more critical of things others say. Like I want to think for myself more than just listen to someone else's jibber jabber. It doesn't seem very positive to me. Obviously, I know that I am not an enlightened person which I aspire to, but am I on the right track?
DRB: Kristina, I relate totally to everything you are saying. I was just describing to someone not long ago about how I have changed over the past few years. One is that I speak my mind more without being afraid of what others are hearing. I also complain more, as I figure at this point it's better to just say something than to keep it bottled up where it will fester. If I have the freedom to complain without there being a reaction to my complaint, it only takes a moment to get it off my chest and then it's forgotten (if the other doesn't take it personally, that is; otherwise, it can initiate a whole chain of negative reactions). Repressing the feeling, however, builds up toxic energy that will lead to unpleasant consequences.
Kay and I have an agreement that either of us can say anything to the other without the other taking it personally or reacting to it, just so that we are both allowed complete freedom of expression. We both strongly recommend that all couples and partners adopt this principle in your own relationship. Neither partner should feel censored regarding what he or she is allowed to express to the other. Holding things in is bad for both physical and emotional health--which are obviously closely linked.
Kay has expressed to me that she thinks I've grown grumpier over the years, but that she's also noticed that I seem to be happiest when I'm simply allowed to be grumpy without anyone thinking anything of it or feeling that it needs to be addressed somehow.
There is certainly no reason to take another's grumpiness personally. After all, it is just as egotistical to take offense as it is to give offense.
The feeling I got from reading your question was that you are simply becoming more real, more spontaneous, and less of a people-pleaser, which are all big steps. It's a huge step to finally just stop caring about how others see or hear us, or what they think of us.
A great teacher once said, "If people think better of you, it will not help you; if people think worse of you, it will not hurt you"
I can certainly attest to this in my own life. I have had large groups of people at a time relating to me with great love and respect, and it didn't do anything for me, it didn't enhance my own experience. I still had to maintain my own state. And I have had people say and write the worst things about me imaginable, and spread the most ignorant rumors, and it didn't hurt me at all. I still had to maintain my own state.
You said, "I do accept myself a lot more and I am a lot less scared to say what is really on my mind."
This is a good sign, Kristina, and a big step to take. I'd say keep heading in the direction you're going. You have a good heart, and one day you will attain all your dreams.
Mary: Thank you to Kristina for her honest share - I feel like I'm in the same club - letting my "inner monster" out after 54 years - but I also feel my inner affectionate, tender self coming out as well. I think I have to be able to feel my pain to feel my joy - and go through it cleanly (or let it go through me, rather) without letting the ego do its "misery" thing. I find that really tricky. My question is, do you agree, and how does that fit in with refusing to consider what is unpleasant? I know you said not to complicate things, and I don't want to either, but sometimes clarification helps to cut off my ego from protesting with "yes, but" stuff. Thank you so very much
DRB: There is a truth to the fact that as we break free from our tendencies to be inhibited and reserved, and allow ourselves to freely express those things that are not so people-pleasing, our "more affectionate and tender side" comes out as well.
When we are enslaved by inhibition, we prevent the expression of the best of ourselves as well as what we fear might be the worst of ourselves. This is why ultimately we have to be free from inhibition. Only then can we be truly spontaneous.
Later in the course, we will explore the "Seven Deadly Samskaras," and we will examine how inhibition is a limitation we must break free from. Otherwise the highest cannot freely express through us, which only happens spontaneously. The Creative Power of the universe doesn't have to plan things out in advance.
I loved when you said: "I have to be able to feel my pain to feel my joy - and go through it cleanly (or let it go through me, rather) without letting the ego do its 'misery' thing."
It is a great attainment to go through pain cleanly without getting into the negative emotion of misery, or without using the pain as a justification for allowing ourselves to be miserable, or to make a martyr of ourselves ("Oh, my life is so hard. So many bad things happen to me.")
Pain in itself is not an egotistical melodrama. Misery is. Misery comes up when we create a mournful story to go along with our pain.
Much better to, as you said, go through the pain cleanly and be done with it without making a big deal of it.
When we discipline ourselves enough to think only of what is pleasant, which is true discipline, then even our pain will never lead to misery. If we continue considering what is unpleasant, then we can experience misery even when there is no real or valid pain. In this way misery itself is an egotistical melodrama.
Ari: It was very liberating to read what you and Kristina wrote about expressing yourself freely and not worrying so much about how others view us. When I was young I was very outgoing and always spoke my mind (I'm talking grade school here). Then I suffered some trauma in my life and went into a shell for a long time. Through it I found yoga and a spiritual practice. I feel I have come full circle again but have not had the courage to really start speaking my mind until recently. With it I started to have doubts because it felt like such a big change. I felt at times it was "unyogi" like. So it was reassuring for me to read your posts on this subject.
My only added comment on it is how do you know when you're just being an ass or speaking your mind? I remember reading a quote from my spiritual master on the subject. She said why would you spend all this time doing meditation if you're going to be mean to the first person that you come across? I think if you are coming from the heart you will be coming from a good place and wont have to worry if people are approving of you.
DRB: Ari, you answered your own question: "I think if you are coming from the heart, you will be coming from a good place and won't have to worry if people are approving of you."
This is so true, and the very best answer to the question you presented. Simply come from the heart--from a place of love, kindness, and respect--and whatever comes out is what is best for everyone involved.
It's more a matter of vibrations than semantics. In other words, it's not so much what is said as what is felt as the words are spoken. Someone teases us playfully, but the ego is quick to take offense at the imagined slight, interpreting the words as a serious insult. Many of us have a hard time with imagined slights.
Your spiritual master is obviously very wise when she said: "Why would you spend all this time doing meditation if you're going to be mean to the first person that you come across?"
Too many of us practice our practices, meditate, repeat homilies and platitudes about what is good and best and right, and then we act like an absolute jerk the first time someone says something we don't like.
Kristina's post seemed to strike a nerve with several people. A lot of people think it's "unyogi like" to speak their mind--but the yogic Masters I have worked with didn't seem to subscribe to that particular point of view. They spoke their minds to me several times, pulling no punches, and it was always very good for my ego.
You can speak your mind and still come from the heart, still come from a place of love and respect. Sometimes fierceness is required in certain situations.
I am reminded of a story I once heard about Swami Satchitananda, one of the yoga teachers I met and studied with for a while in the early 70's. He was traveling on a crowded train in India with an older swami. The older swami had to leave his chair for a moment and asked Swami Satchitananda to please save his chair for him. Soon after he left a burly man came and sat down testily on the seat. Swami Satchitananda sweetly explained to him that the seat was saved for an elderly swami who would be right back. The burly man refused to budge.
Suddenly, Swami Satchitananda turned to the man and roared like a lion. You could hear his roar throughout the crowded coach. The burly man took one hasty look at the apparently mad yogi, and then quickly retreated from the chair. Soon the elderly swami returned to his seat without further incident.
Sometimes we have to roar like a lion. Sometimes, when faced with extreme negativity, stupidity, or rigidity, what is most appropriate is not always the nicest or most people-pleasing thing to do. Sometimes intensity is called for to serve a noble purpose.
Look at Arjuna, in the Bhagavad Gita; he had to go to war with cousins, uncles, gurus, and sages on the other side. When Arjuna doubted that war was the best option, Krishna reminded him, "It is the duty (dharma) of a warrior to fight for a noble cause."
Sometimes we have to fight for a noble cause--and such noble causes may be big things or seemingly smaller things. Yogis aren't always sweet people. My own Master once said, "I am not the kind of swami that turns the other cheek."
I enjoyed all the comments from last time, and I look forward to seeing what all of you come up with this time.
For more information about D. R. Butler's new Course of Training available through email, write: firstname.lastname@example.org