Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.
I was chatting yesterday with some dear (and damn smart) friends over coffee at the cutest little pastry shop down on Church St. It was sunny and warm, that perfect kind of rare San Francisco day that breaks clear and bright and makes you forget all the fog and the gloom.
And we got to talking about spiritual teachers, specifically, er, the ones we have crushes on (or shall we say, "I" have crushes on), and that particular phenomenon we've noticed with a lot of brilliant very advanced meditation and Buddhist scholars (yoga teachers, too) wherein their personal affect, their tone of voice, their spirit, all of it, is so very non-reactive, equanimous, balanced, as to be almost monotonic.
It's always been a bit strange to me how I can read a Buddhist or yogic text and really feel connected to one particular author or another, really feel like they "get it," and then perhaps I meet them in real life, and there's this seriously non-plussed, almost robotic demeanor that meets me in the form of that writer. And personally, I dig a little fire, a little charisma, a little rough-and-tumble spirit in someone's being. That's attractive to me; it speaks of humanity, and life, and presence, a real true acknowledgment of the reality of being in a body, which means highs and lows, joys and sorrows, all of it, baby.
So we got to talking, these smart friends of mine and I, about whether you're destined to automatically turn monotonic, measured, oh-so-reasonable in affect once you hit a certain point in your meditation practice. And I realized that I don't necessary want to ever hit that passionless place, if it means losing that natural light.
But, that in mind, quite serendipitously this morning Susan Piver shared her latest blog post: "Do meditators get pissed off?". And it addressed quite perfectly that entire conundrum, in regard to a friend who'd struggled with her feelings of anger after something dear to her was stolen:
The thing about practice is that it does not mean you will feel non-plussed or that you will always feel kind and gentle towards people. (Personally, I was quite chagrined to find this out.)Absolutely. Piver writes from a predominantly seated-meditation perspective, but the same can be said for asana as moving meditation, or even the kind of simple "watching our thoughts" that can happen on a 10-minute bus ride or a 3-block walk.
However, you can begin to recover your softness by offering some kindness and gentleness toward yourself--beginning with cutting yourself a break for your feelings, for being human. Being well-practiced doesn't mean you won't get upset at anything, it means that when you do get upset, you are able to turn your attention toward it immediately, on the spot, and open your arms to it, not to condone (or reject) it, but simply to feel it. The more readily you can embrace and inhabit your experience as it is, the more you can deem your practice a "success." So it's not about shutting out anything, even the so-called "bad" things such as lack of charity and anger--it's about opening up, allowing your humanity, neither judging nor acting on your feelings. This is where kindness begins. First, as mentioned, toward yourself. From here, such kindness naturally expands to others. ....
Of course, your meditation practice provides the foundation for all of this. First, it teaches you how to turn toward your thoughts and feelings without judgment, simply to allow them. Then it teaches you how, by adopting the stance of observation, to introduce a space between what you feel and what you do. (Very important, that.) Finally, it gives you the precious ability to meet what seems so solid in your mind--anger, judgment, and so on--and know beyond doubt that they will change, you can expand to include them, and by doing so, remain seated in the midst of your own experience like a King or a Queen. There is tremendous dignity in this and it stems from your very simple (though not easy) sitting meditation practice.
I talked a little yesterday in class, given the day's perfectly pristine blue sky, about that metaphor for meditation that employs the blue sky mind as a parallel for sunyata consciousness, and the thoughts and feelings (sometimes unmanageable or ugly) that roll across the blue sky consciousness as merely wispy clouds floating on by. They appear, stay for a moment, and blow right by. And we're reminded, in the watching, that all of those clouds, be they stormy or peaceful, will pass, and so we are never stuck in moments of loneliness or sorrow, anger or jealousy, because those big black clouds are merely passer-bys on the big peaceful blue sky that is our ultimate reality.
Great to remember in those moments when you're suffering through Supta Virasana or Double Pigeon and just wanna cry your eyes out because the pain feels too much to bear. It will pass. It always does. But you sit with the pain, the frustration, in the meantime, and come back to the breath, and somehow, somewhere, in the end, it's all good.
Susan Piver: Do Meditators get Pissed Off?
Susan Piver: Do Meditators get Pissed Off?