Hosting regular weekly satsang is a wonderful opportunity to connect with a growing group of people. We gather together and explore inner-truth in such a way that is almost entirely void of ego. There is, in fact, only enough ego present for us to have the conversation. Outside of that, it’s a space of total freedom. Each time we gather, from the moment of silence and the beginning, a deep sense of calmness, contentment and awareness pervades every facet of the experience. We are each present in such a way where we are no longer people having an experience but each parts of a larger whole. Yet, not identity is drawn from such a surrendering. We don’t become “members of satsang”. There’s no extra story told about it… We are just… there… It’s so wonderful to facilitate such a gathering. And as the numbers steadily increase and satsang becomes more of a home in the aether (so to speak – breathe that in and breathe it out. The word is not the thing) we delve deeper and deeper into more complex matters of the human experience.
One such discussion took place this past Sunday. The most recent satsang was focused around the topic “Compassion, acceptance and indifference.” And, in light of this exploration, I feel called to write on this topic a little here today. The reason being that something we addressed in satsang – the rise of indifference overtaking acceptance and acknowledgement – really should not be kept in exclusivity. As such, I’ll map this out today a little here. If you’d like to explore this further at all, please contact me directly or post a comment below.
It’s very common that the “experience your emotions fully” trip becomes something which overwhelms every other aspect of life and the spiritual path. It can happen so that experiencing emotions “fully” ends up being all that we are experiencing for the time that these emotions are present.
We are familiar with the notion that emotions don’t come from anywhere else – emotions don’t come from others. They exist within us at all times – as possibilities. Emotions are conditioned reactive responses which tend towards seeming like the most important thing in the world – nay, the universe – when they arise. The recognition of several important factors is necessary however…
1. The root cause of the suffering of the mind is investment in or belief in what the mind is offering. We have about 45 thoughts every minute (give or take), most of them are not based on fact and most of them contradict each other. Suffering arises when we cling to painful thoughts. The insanity here is that in order to cling religiously to the painful thoughts we have to ignore plenty of other thoughts which a) aren’t as painful and b) are closer to the truth than the painful ones. The mind likes a complex game and the ego finds the complexity of a painful game rather rewarding, and so it goes on… Until we step in and redirect our focus. In the words of Radiohead, “Just ’cause you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there.” You thought it – does that make it true?
2. There is a difference between accepting or acknowledging your emotions and letting them run the show. Experiencing your emotions in their totality does not mean that the totality of your experience becomes emotional. If you have the intellectual understanding that you are not the persona but continue to only experience the play of the persona without any real awareness or, as buddhists might put it, non-attachment, then the intellectual understanding is worth nothing to you. It’s just a nice idea and that’s all. Whether or not you have the intellectual understanding or belief model of being more than persona, if you become so absorbed by the human experience that you lose the awareness of your true nature then your actions contradict the intellectual understanding/belief. It remains clear then that although emotions are part of the human experience, they are not the totality of it. If we go around our lives letting emotions define our experiences then we are only living through our lesser nature and our totality goes unrealised. You felt it – does that mean it’s all there is?
3. Accepting your feelings does not mean becoming indifferent to them. When we realise that suffering is mind created and excessive suffering leads to severe illness, part of caring for our selves is to redirect our energy towards solutions to problems rather than feeding courses of thought and action which lead to illness and premature decay. This is not to suppress emotions but to transcend them. Thoughts, feelings and mental stories are all figments of the mind. They are relatively real and exist only within the mind. We must understand though that the mind is the governing body of the physical form. As such, if the mind is not treated with care and love then the body becomes ill.
Acceptance is not “believe in what you are thinking to the point of suffering and accept that.” If “What should I do?” is causing you suffering then you’re far too invested in the doing of life and would likely benefit from dialling it back to the being level. If instead of trying to accept the stories we are telling to ourselves, we instead accept that that these stories come and go then they stop becoming so painful. Deal with suffering at it’s root – the clinging of mind – and then questions like “what should I do?” become much less stressful. After all, if trying to end stress is stressful then do you really think you’ll not be stressed afterwards?
When we realise that we – in our totality – are not our minds then sooner or later it becomes a choice or option for us to acknowledge what goes on within the mind or the world without investing in it fully to the degree that we are not only living there. We – in our totality – do not dwell within the mind. You might say that the mind and body dwell within us. That’s one way of looking at it. Breathe it in and breathe it out.
On the mind level, we can accept our thoughts and emotions and so on in the same way that we can accept that underneath these bodies right now – at some point – there is earth. Instead of immediately tarring thoughts as bad or good or just or immoral, we can first accept that they are there. This way we are not fighting with reality and creating suffering in that way.
This is not to become indifferent though. Indifference always breeds more of the same – indifference to suffering creates as much suffering as ignoring or fighting its reality does. Again – as with everything – balance is key. Grip loosely.
At some point, through this meditation on acceptance and indifference, the awareness arises within us that if we are not persona – body, mind, stories – and nobody else is either… Then we must exist in such a way which is not bound by uniqueness or individuality. Then, somewhere between total oneness and individuality, there is this soul level. This soul level encompasses – to some extent – the limited individualistic uniqueness as well as the timeless formless essence of all things (the space in which all occurs). As such, no longer is there you and me or us and them… There is just us… And you take that a little “higher” and you realise that there is no longer even an “us” there is just what is and it’s all a play or a dance.
For a moment now, I’ll paraphrase the words of the great teacher Ram Dass to describe this. On the soul level, no longer is there my suffering and your suffering. There is only our suffering. And you go up a little “higher” than that and there is just suffering. It’s part of what is transpiring. Then suddenly the alleviation of suffering is no longer “I’m going to help you because I have what you don’t have.” It’s like – as Ram Dass put it – one hand pulling the other out of the fire.
From this place, suddenly service becomes devotional. Not devotion to the person that the persona is serving but devotion to God or whatever name we give it that doesn’t drive us crazy. As such, this service of God is not the service of any particular form or thing or idea or concept but is rather simply service. And then the persona that you thought was yours is no longer more important or more significant than the rest of the personas running around the world on their missions. It’s all just happening.
To the heart, acceptance is more of an acknowledgement. Suffering cannot be alleviated without first accepting that it has a place in reality. When we first accept the pain of the persona, we recognise its unreality but compassion has its place and so it does not become a thing of coldness or indifference. When compassion is present we don’t tell the story of, “It’s their own fault.” Because a) they are us anyway, there is no blame and nobody to blame and b) If we’re saying it’s their own fault then it’s our fault too because there is no divide.
Compassion occurs when pain is shared without additional suffering being generated. True altruistic compassion does not generate negative karma.
In summary: In order to alleviate suffering then we must first accept that suffering has a place in reality and that we cannot possibly alleviate all suffering – certainly not from a place of identity or individualism. Indifference is the way to perpetuate suffering not the way to alleviate it. Compassion arises naturally through meditation on acceptance. When we follow this reflection through to it’s natural conclusion we realise that indifference to the suffering of others is really indifference to our own suffering – because there is no divide. When we realise that all form is impermanent and ever-changing, pain is no longer an enemy but rather – to the intellectual mind – an opportunity to grow. Suffering becomes unnecessary thereafter because a new realisation sets in. This realisation is one of the true origins of suffering (the clinging of mind) and as such, acceptance is inevitable, indifference is unnatural and compassion is effortless.
If you have any reservations or questions on this, please feel free to comment below or contact me directly. I trust this will serve you well.
Live, love and play