Apologies, Spiritual Bypassing, and Doing What You Enjoy

Dog Looking Sorry
June 15, 2022

Shambhavi talks about the pitfalls of demanding apologies, the consequences of spiritual bypassing, and just doing what we enjoy. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Could you talk about apologies and particularly whether apologies can be demanded of other people?

Well, you can demand, but that doesn't mean you'll get one. [laughter] Do you mean do you have the right to demand an apology? Or what do you mean?

Well, I wonder how it fits in with the view.

So Ma said everything is correct at its own level, depending on what view you're really operating with. So if you're operating with a view that people can do wrong to you and that they need to atone or apologize and that will somehow wipe out their karmic debt to you or make you feel better or something like that, then that's the view that you're working with.

You're having an experience that what somebody else does is wrong or right or mixed—wrong and right—that if someone else does something wrong to you, then they should give you an apology. So that is a very dualist, relativistic view. But if that's where you're at, then that's what you should do.

But you also have to have the understanding that someone might not feel sorry or they might have an experience that their response to feeling that they've done something wrong is to be defensive or aggressive. Some people, when they feel they've done something wrong, actually turn around and blame the person that they've done something wrong to.

So the idea that even if you're operating with more dualistic karmic realm vision would be that you would make the effort to kind of see clearly where the other person is at, and not just sort of bludgeon people with demands for apologies, regardless of what condition they were in.

So, for instance, if you're a person who when you do something wrong, you feel ashamed, and the way that you deal with that shame is you attack the person that you hurt, and I come to you demanding an apology, that's very unskillful.

It means that I'm just also operating in my own karmic realm vision. I’m not seeing you clearly. And my karmic realm vision tells me you done me wrong and you owe me an apology.

But if I were being more relaxed and being more clear sighted, I would see what condition you're in, and instead of saying you must apologize to me, I might say something like, wow, you feel really badly about this, don't you? Instead of having it be all about me and the apology that I need.

So the idea is that we're never just applying something. That's what karmic vision is, that's what karma is. Just this little pattern that toodles along, regardless of circumstances. Chug chug chug chug chug, demanding apologies and stuff, regardless of the circumstances.

But the more awake we are, the more our heart is open and the more clear vision we have, and the more we're able to see the condition that other people are in, and the more we're able to respond to their condition rather than just insisting on ourselves.

And this actually makes for a much nicer life.

Because when we're just operating through karmic realm vision, we're constantly crashing our train into other people, and then we have all kinds of complications. I'll crash my train to you, you'll crash yours into me, woohoo! Then we have to go to a repair shop—therapy—[laughs] and spend lots of time and money.

Whereas if we had been more open hearted and more clear sighted, I could have responded to the condition that you're actually in, rather than what's happening on the surface. So that's a relativistic viewpoint or a dualistic way of dealing with things.

If apologies are given freely and wholeheartedly, do apologies make a difference?

I think the feeling behind them makes a difference. I mean, I've apologized to people, too. It just spontaneously comes out of me. Oh, I'm sorry I did that—or something like that.

And that's expressing recognition that you caused distress for somebody else or didn't do something in the best possible way. And then that's just a moment of intimacy.

It's not like, you must listen to me, I'm apologizing to you. This must be very important to you. It's just like a spontaneous moment of warmth directed at another person, recognizing that something has gone awry because of your own limitations.

So I would never demand an apology out of anyone, personally. I mean, I feel like if they feel like apologizing, they will. [laughs] They would have done it already.

And if they've done something that I think is worth apologizing for, but they're not apologizing, then I figure something else is going on. I've told other people to apologize, but that's as a sadhana, not because it's like morally or ethically somehow better than not apologizing.

Just, if it's helpful for someone to apologize then that's why one would do it—it's helpful. The idea is that we're always just trying to be helpful.

I've been wondering about spiritual bypassing.

Well, spiritual bypassing means that we're trying to shut out our more difficult feelings or knowledge of our limitations and using spiritual sloganism or spiritual teachings or aphorisms or something like that, to sort of distract us from pain.

So the idea is that we're having an experience, we're having many experiences every day. Some of those experiences are more pleasant to us than others, but every single one of those experiences is full of wisdom.

So if you have a pain or a feeling of frustration or something happens while driving, then you tell yourself that nothing matters, it's okay—what happens to the pain that you were feeling? How can you contact the wisdom if that's how you relate to things?

Because there's wisdom in knowing—I'll tell you a funny story about one time when I was driving, which a lot of people here know, but I was much, much younger, studying with a teacher, and I was living in the Bay Area, which has crazy traffic. And somebody cut me off on the freeway, and I gave them the finger and shouted a curse word at them. [laughs]

And then I went to my teacher and I said, I've been practicing for so many years, why am I still doing this? [laughter]

And he said, well, you're trying to make a connection. He said, when you express anger towards someone and you give them the finger, you're actually throwing out a line of connection to them.

And that was a revelation to me, an absolute revelation that whatever we're trying to do is to make a connection, even if it is very, very limited and not looking like that at all.

If I had instead, when I was driving the car, gotten angry and then said, nothing matters, it's fine—I would never have gone to my teacher because I would have probably not wanted to admit that I had done that, and I would never have heard his teaching on that, and I would never have realized something that was really very important for me to learn.

So it's kind of like, as they say, licking honey from a razor's edge when we're dealing with these kinds of things because we don't want to just let our fixations and karmas run wild—oh, I'm angry! Shambhavi said, be angry, so screw you. [laughs]

And at the same time, we don't want to bypass them with slogans. We want to acknowledge what we're feeling and then try to understand some wisdom about it. Or even just to notice, hey, I'm still doing that.

That's the first thing I noticed was, wow, I'm still doing that. I guess the great yogini hasn't arrived yet or something. [laughs]

So it's important to know your limitations, too. We don't want to like, indulge them by just sort of going from nothing matters to I'll do whatever I want. It's more somewhere in the middle of acknowledging and trying to learn from that, see if there's any wisdom there for us, or at least let ourselves be humbled by it, understanding what our real condition is.

I'm just curious if you had first thoughts on what happens when you try to learn in isolation.

Well, there's many different circumstances, but it always is much more supportive to have a direct relationship with a teacher and to have community, to have satsang.

It helps you, especially in these times, living in a country where this kind of practice isn't the norm. And even if you had community, it would still be like a little island of satsang in an ocean of something else.

So it really does help us to organize our body energy and mind in the direction that sadhana is taking us in order to have those things. So it really depends on your desire, the level of your desire. That's what is in charge, basically.

So there are people who will just practice on their own or practice very intermittently and never really seek out a teacher and never go to live teachings. And that's not your situation, but I'm just saying that happens very, very often.

There's even people, especially in this country who actively avoid live teachings. They'd rather read something in a book. They don't want to have to be challenged by being around live people who are practicing. [laughs] So there's that too. They have a very small amount of desire.

But then there are other people sort of on the other end of the spectrum who do extraordinary things to receive teachings. They don't care what hour of the night it is or where they have to travel or what they have to do to get teachings. They're really just determined to get teachings.

So in between don't bother me, I'll read it in a book, and I'll do anything, anything at all to get teachings, you have to find out where you are somewhere on that continuum. What are you willing to do? What is your desire calling you to do?

People move, they travel, they do whatever. They stay up late. Or they don't, or they don't. They come intermittently when it's convenient, or they come every year, or they just listen to podcasts, or whatever they do. All of that is fine.

It's not about someone being better than somebody else. It's really only about the level of desire that people have. And that desire that we have is actually Grace operating in our lives.

So it's like, how much access to Grace does somebody have? That's between them and God, really? So you need to just feel into yourself, but recognize that the possibilities for receiving teachings are much greater than you probably conceptually have allowed yourself to understand.

Basically, you can get teachings if you want them. You can have community. If you want it enough, you will have it.

You might look for teachings closer to where you're going to be living. Or you might just decide that your desire is such that you get more involved with something like this that's not in your neighborhood. So you'll just have to see how you feel about that.

And you should be honest with yourself. It's not a contest. It's just really what your natural desire is. That's the most important thing.

Just recognize that it's really up to you. It's not about circumstances. It's about your level of desire.

I have this idea that there's, like, spiritual things and then there's nonspiritual things or like secular things. But then I know that everything's God, and so that's probably not true. I guess I just feel confused.

Well, it has to do with what our actual experience is, right now, versus what the real nature of reality is.

So you have some small glimpses of the real nature of things, but mostly you're still living in dualistic experience. So these kinds of conundrums still arise—and that's fine. It's absolutely appropriate.

So just think of this—that all of these kinds of questions—you know, is what I'm doing dharmic or adharmic? I better do dharmic things, stay away from adharmic things.

Think of, in the larger sense, all of those things as part of a game.

So you're on a game board and some directions are going to lead to very long, twisted routes that take much longer to get to the end of the game and don't have as many rewards immediately along the way. And other ways of moving on the game board are going to bring you to the end of the game much more quickly, and you'll still have your ups and downs, but it’s a more direct route.

So it's still, though, just a game board. Really, if you went the adharmic way—in the absolute sense, the overarching sense—it's not a big deal.

But if you're really seeing yourself and experiencing yourself as the player of the game, which you are, then you're going to also experience more suffering and pain if you choose certain ways and not other ways.

So we have to pay attention to that because that's where we're at. We don't want to bypass that. It's only in the more absolute sense that those things aren't different.

It's the same analogy—if I'm an artist and I paint a painting of a dead corpse that's been murdered versus I paint a painting of a bowl of flowers, the bowl of flowers isn't better than or less disturbing than—they're both paint and they're both paintings, and on that level, they have complete equality.

So on the level of the absolute—that everything is made of this living self, dharmic and adharmic don't make any sense at all. But on the level of this alive, aware reality[…] the game master, it created those categories, dharma and adharmic, for us to play with.

So you just play the game as well as you can until you are able to recognize there's no real difference. But until then, play the game, recognizing that the game is made by God for us.

This is what's known by lila, the sport of God. The game, the sport, the play. This is the game, the sport, the play of going from an apparent condition of relative lack of access to wisdom to more access to wisdom.

But it's just like being players in a drama, because if I'm playing a person in a play who doesn't know very much, it's uneducated and doesn't really get what's going on around them and stuff, it actually takes a lot of skill to play that role, like as an actor, right?

So there's not really any difference between me and the other actors. We're all just playing those parts on an absolute level I'm not uneducated and I'm not stupid or whatever. I'm just playing that role. So that's the difference between relative and absolute.

So we're playing the game because that's the game that we've been given. Just like an actor is saying, well, I'm going to do this script and I'm going to play these roles because this is what the playwright has produced and it's fun and I like doing it.

What helps us when we remember the more absolute view is it just lightens things up a bit.

If we just remember that everything here is God playing this, we can still play really hard and have fun and also remember that there's only beneficence here, that the real nature of this alive, aware reality is goodness, sweetness, compassion. So even the bad stuff has that in it.

I'm curious what it feels like to you to teach in more of a formal setting, like when we have like a Bhuta Shuddhi teaching?

I don't know, I've never really thought about it. [laughter]

I enjoy being in a field of many, many different people. So I've always enjoyed that even before I started practicing or teaching. I just enjoy being around a lot of different people in different conditions and kind of feeling them and fielding them. And it just feels like a big, complicated birthday cake that I'm eating. [laughs]

I've been doing energy based practices since I was 15 years old, and so my energy body, and then the insight I've gained through other practice that I did, makes it a circumstance of great immediacy. And if you have all of the sensory apparatus, you want something to feed it, basically.

So I like being in complicated situations with lots of people and just working through them, like intuitively and sensorily. And most of the time when I'm teaching, words are just coming out of my mouth and there's not really much going on in my brain. It just feels very, very direct.

But teaching online doesn't always feel that way. So there are different moments during those longer formal teachings where I feel for the first time ever that I'm pushing out energy.

When there's other people in the room with me live, it's not as often. And when the people participate more who are online, it's not that often.

But there was one teaching that happened recently—I can't remember what it was—where there was nobody in the room and the people online weren't saying very much. And I just felt exhausted after that in a way that I have never felt after giving a teaching.

Usually I just feel relaxed, and I may feel tired in an ordinary way, but I don't feel that sense of exhaustion, like I've overused my energy.

So there's something about the synergy of being with other people or when people are participating more online, that makes it just very joyful and natural and relaxed and fulfilling for me. I don't know what else to say about it. I sort of feel like someone in their right environment.

Do you ever get nervous?

Yeah, but not teaching. Teaching feels like my natural habitat. [laughs]

Basically, I just like sharing things that I have deep knowledge of and sharing them in an environment that's kind of messy and multi-layered. One on one, if we're doing something more mystical, is also a lot of fun for me.

Anything that gets me into the round world, that's why we should do stuff, because we enjoy it. [laughs] Words of profound wisdom. [laughs]

That's where I've gotten into the most trouble for most of my life—is that I just do stuff I enjoy and then there's some other people that take affront at that. But [laughs]… we're supposed to be worrying about ourselves. That’s somehow demonstrating our seriousness and merit.

That sort of seems like the opposite to me of the teaching—to worry about yourself all the time.

Yeah, it is the opposite. I mean, the teaching is whatever condition you're in, that's where you begin and that's what you work with. So we're not trying to be in a different condition than we are by thinking our way out of it.

But yeah, I mean the self is full of virtue, full of wisdom. And when we discover that there's absolutely nothing to worry about. The time it takes us to discover that is—there's the rub, right? [laughter]


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.