November 14, 2010

The Downside of Favoring Only the Upside.

Guilt = the gap between values and behavior. ~Diana Alstad

This was some of the groundwork offered in a recent talk by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. They shared that from their worldview, they feel that it is unhealthy to have unattainable goals, because they just make us feel bad about ourselves. And to truly form healthy relationships with each other and the planet we need to have a decent sense of self-worth.

Later Diana talked about the breadth of conscious experience.

She talked about how bliss was regularly acknowledged as a spiritual experience, and I could relate with that. Love the bliss!

Then I heard her say something like it was also true that horrible realizations (like a “bad trip”) were also spiritual experiences.

At this point the car of my mind hit a serious road bump.


I was momentarily stalled. So I spoke up and asked the question, “Can you please repeat what you just said?”

I mean, I had come across the general idea in the Bhagavad Gita, for example:

“Who burns with the bliss
And suffers the sorrow
Of every creature
Within his own heart,
Making his own
Each bliss and each sorrow:
Him I hold highest
Of all the yogis.”

From the Bhagavad Gita as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood.

And more recently Richard Freeman talks about this in The Mirror of Yoga:

“A lack of inquisitiveness can cause you to forget that the very nature of the world is suffering, and that it is a place of fragmentation and death (just as it is a place of bliss).”

But, somehow hearing it coming from Joel and Diana’s pragmatic approach to spirituality got beneath my ordinary guard. My mind went blank. I didn’t know how to process what I was feeling. I was suddenly in a new place, seeing things differently. And Diana very generously said it again.

As she moved on in her talk, I felt gentle tears moving down my cheeks.

I realized that I had been rejecting the horrible dying and decaying side of life in favor of acknowledging the story that I preferred to be true: that life is bliss. Well, that is only half true. And I had been suffering in trying to believe the upsides of life more than the downsides.

“If you treat a partial truth as a total truth you have a total lie”
~ Joel Kramer

So when I was holding the belief that, “life is bliss” in the face of serious difficulty and disappointment in my life, I was inadvertently feeling guilty because of the space between my ideal that life should be bliss and the truth of the difficulty in my experience. And when I went along for the ride with what Diana was saying I felt incredible relief and a softening that resulted in a few sweet tears. It was good.

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