In the last few months, I’ve seen more of just how much power I give away from myself.
Now that I’m focusing on this, I see just how ubiquitous it is. Just yesterday, when staring out the window, I could see a child being curious about something in the grass, perhaps a little bug. Her eyes were alit with commodious wonder. Mother didn’t want to spare the time, and so pulled her along with a forceful word, and the child lost the look of vastness in her face. There was nothing abusive in it, nothing a normal parent wouldn’t do; but the child submitted to authority and lost something in that moment. A?despondency?came over me for a few minutes. I could put myself in the life of that child.
I’ve been well trained in this practice. I can think, “Other people know better than me. I should just focus on what I “should” be doing.” Or I go to the flip side of it and try to be the parent: “Hey you – I know what I’m doing! Listen to me!” I know how to speak with authority, at least in my voice and posture. That can cover up my own doubts and pain.
I can’t say I’m above any of it now. But I can say I’m a little less carried away by things. I notice my own reactions.
This morning I noticed my own reaction to several videos, which I’m including here. They are from two spiritual teachers who speak of somewhat similar things, Eckhart Tolle and J.Krishmnamurthi. I wanted to share these reactions.
First, let’s listen to Eckhart, who of course is very well known from his books and Oprah.
I listened to this Eckhart clip from a facebook update, and I experimented with simply surrendering to the energy, trying to let the stream of thoughts permeate me and experience it that way. To be honest, it wasn’t the most pleasant thing. I couldn’t find anything I disagreed with in it at all. There were no untruths spoken. I could take a different perspective, or not simplify it so much, but it’s all valid. However, at the end of it what I felt was that Eckhart knew all about ego and spaciousness – but I didn’t feel I did. I felt myself wanting to learn more, to reach out to get that feeling of spaciousness, like it was an emptiness in me that needed to be filled.
Now this is my own subjective personal reaction, but perhaps it resonates with you. We’re so used to authority, someone who knows more than I, that it’s so easy to jump into that dynamic. Perhaps it’s not Echkart himself, but the hype surrounding him. We can think that someone else is more knowledgeable about our own psyche, our own well being, than ourselves. I’ve seen this in groups of many spiritual teachers, especially of the Monty Python “you must think for yourselves” variety.
Here’s a video from the?library of Krishnamurthi
If I let the energy of this inundate me like I did with Eckhart my reaction is that I laugh. I lighten up. Something in the glint of the eyes and his passion bring that laughter from a place within me. He’s talking about conflict, about going beyond thought and the past – similar things to Eckhart – but for some reason I think that we are discovering this together. In that moment I’m not learning, I’m not accumulating knowledge, I’m simply seeing something. I remember this reaction from other videos I’ve seen of him.
I think this is something universal about what a teacher is. This applies in all sorts of teaching, including high school – “A Teacher Creates Peers, not Fans“. A true teacher creates knowledge, not followers. They help you see, feel and think for yourself, not?imitate or thirst for more from them. They help you experience spaciousness and knowing, not simply want it.
I’m not actually saying that one teacher is better than another here. I’ve also seen people do the Monty Python thing with Krishnamurthi. too. I am saying that judging by my own reactions, I find him beneficial for me. Solely for me. But the process to get there is universal. Does someone help you hear your own voice? What does it truly feel like? Does someone feel like a peer to you? Does someone speak with you (even if via a video it is still with, not to) beyond power, beyond status? That is also what a friend is.
I think we need to unify the concepts of teacher and friend. I don’t know of any dear friend I’m not learning so much from.
I also think the issue of authority to be universal, at least in how we run our society today. It’s a process I’ve seen in so many journeys: First, we see how little we know and look for people to learn from. Then we learn from someone or something, becoming a follower or student. Then we want to rise above it and become a teacher, an authority. We want followers ourselves. (Notice this about bloggers?) Sometimes this is very subtle from without, but recognizable within – “hey, no one responded to this! Don’t they see I offer something of value here?!”
Chogyam Trungpa, the founder of the Shambhala Centers of Buddhism of which Pema Chodron is a teacher within, writes “The problem is that the ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality”. It’s easy to learn about awareness, spirituality, and love, and then want to be the authority on it.
But finally, if we are willing to let it all go, we can go beyond the interactions of power and worth, and simply become ourselves, with whoever we are, whatever we know, and all that we see. There is nothing needed to become except more of who we are. No external authority can help with that.
What is your relationship with authority?