Monday, April 10, 2017

Forgiveness at Kripalu with Byron Katie - Day 2

There are a number of people here who are acting (and doing so appropriately, I might add) as armchair psychotherapists and a number of people who are here taking advantage of the opportunity.  It's heartening to see people giving so generously of themselves to each other, strangers for the most part.
As I walk around during the working sessions most conversations I pass sound really interesting: "so I told my sister that if she slept with him again she'd be dead to me and...." or "what I realize is I've been the one terrorizing him, not the other way around" or "I haven't spoken to him in 45 years, but I'm calling him tonight."

There's not a dry eye in the house, and if there's one surprise that truly blows me away about Byron Katie it is how well she handles achingly profound emotional depth.  She takes people right to the edge of their personal cliff and then gently pushes them off, or more correctly, she stays with them and asks simple questions until they jump because they're curious what's at the bottom.  She half-jokingly refers to this work as "mental yoga," but I think it is more properly called emotional yoga.  Instead of sweating, you cry.

It's hard, hard, hard work to do.  It's exhausting.   My partner today had a story that rocked me back on my heels.  That's not easy.  I've heard many tragic tales.  I'm stunned by seeing this process in action in the lives of all these people I don't know and have never met before, and I came in expecting to be impressed by all this.  Those expectations have been far exceeded.  "Impressed" got passed up a while ago, "in awe" is actually not overstating it any longer, and I expect to go beyond that.

Perhaps the most surprising source of instruction has been simply watching Byron Katie herself.  She is able to attune to this moment, and to the person to whom she is speaking, more acutely than anyone I've seen since I last observed the Dalai Lama working with people in a similar way.  I'm not saying she's the Dalai Lama, but they possess a similar quality of making the person they are speaking to feel like the most important person in the room at that moment.

She's not "nice" in the sense that self-help gurus can be, she's not endlessly optimistic, doesn't preach positive thinking or affirmations.  She isn't exhorting everyone to feel good, or follow their bliss, or buy her books and go to her courses.  I haven't been drawn to have a personal encounter with her myself, she's not seductive in that sense, I'm perfectly okay with our distance.  Why?

I think it's because this isn't about her.  She's really good at lecturing about all this because she has lots of experience doing it, but the value I am getting from this conference isn't about being with her, it's about being with a bunch of people that are doing this work together.  

The biggest value in having her here is as a role model, in the way she deals with difficult people, answers questions and lets the air fill with a pregnant silence when she isn't quite sure what to say.  This is what someone who vigorously questions what they think about themselves looks and acts like.  She is solid, grounded, and present.  Whatever happens is going to be okay with her.

Several people have tried to do a kind of dharma battle with her, asking question after question designed to expose that whomever is asking can't really do this technique like other people can.  She doesn't have answers, but she has a response.  Each question begs another.  It's quite Socratic, the entire program has been a dialog with the audience, but it has systematically followed the progression of the curricula.  She's a master at this.

There are plenty of resources on the web for understanding the work.  One need not give anyone a penny to learn the technique.  Yes, your broke dumb-ass self can find everything you need because you are reading this.  You have the tools.  It is disarmingly simple.  I won't go into it here, or in these series of posts, because it's so easy to get that information elsewhere.

Questioning one's identity is very threatening.  I have shed an identity, or rather one was shed for me, when I went from 400+ lbs to under 300 in 2010 after the gastric sleeve.  I was no longer the fattest guy in the room, I've written about this in detail elsewhere, I mention it here because I know this territory.  

Doing this process and questioning the things you've decided are true about yourself and your life, if one is heavily invested in an identity (and almost all of us are), will cause you a great deal of distress. Genuinely shedding an identity is perhaps the most threatening thing one can do internally.

So, when you decide to leave the particular version of hell you crafted for yourself, and you start to question ideas like "I am a good Catholic" or "I am an abused child" or "I am a divorced parent" or "I am disabled" or "I am a recovering drug addict" or "I am a yoga teacher" even, your mind, your ego, will "yes, but" you to death.  There is nothing more threatening to the part of you that gets scared, feels pain, harbors grudges, and won't forgive than the idea that the story, the personal journey you navigated to get you to wherever you're stuck, might be wrong, or not telling the whole story.

Not that this part of you is *IS* wrong, deciding that something else is true is just another story, as useless to the task of finding peace as the story you've decide is wrong to get there.  That's the deepest wisdom in this technique.  There's no certainty.  The idea isn't to find answers, the idea is to realize, truly and deeply, that there are still questions.  You don't know what is true,  You only know your story.

When you get it, when you've had a true insight into all this, you will spontaneously burst out laughing.  The paradox, once realized, is absolutely hilarious.

What's my version?  You won't get it, because my words aren't enough either, but the closest I can get to the Big Joke is "we do all this to ourselves."

My God, that's fucking hilarious.