Authenticity, Relating to Criticism, and Caring Communities

April 3, 2024

Shambhavi and the Jaya Kula community gather for satsang and get real about all the questions we humans want answered. Intimate, courageous, heartfelt spiritual talk about pretty much everything. So happy you are here! A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

In order to be authentic in our lives, in our relationships, in our spiritual practice, we have to have one condition. One precondition for authenticity. We have to be not running away from ourselves.

So in order to be authentic, we have to be feeling how we are. We have to be letting that express itself. And a lot of people are doing a lot of things to not feel that.

Because we are living in an extremely competitive, titan realm, judgy culture. And a lot of people have internalized that judgy-ness and are constantly applying it to themselves.

And so there's a kind of watchfulness or vigilance that people have with respect to how they show up in the world that borders on insanity. And sometimes does slip over into insanity.

Which is monitoring everything you say. Monitoring everything you're doing. Monitoring how you look. Constantly trying to see yourself and hear yourself as if from the perspective of someone outside of you who is judging you.

And trying to show up in a way that will somehow escape judgment.

But the whole mechanism of that is judgment. Right? [laughs] In order to escape judgment, you're constantly judging yourselves. Trying to measure up to some external thing.

So all of that, if you want to experience authenticity, all of that has to go.

You have to stop being vigilant. You have to stop monitoring. You have to stop seeing yourself from an outside perspective. You have to stop pre-speaking.

A lot of people pre-speak. They think about everything they're going to say before they say it. Or much of what they're going to say before they say it.

All of that, if you want to live an authentic life, all of that has to go.

One of the things that we do at Jaya Kula is we do a lot of kinds of practices whose aim is to put you in touch with the Self that you are when you're not trying to be anyone. And to remake friends with that Self that exists without you doing anything to refashion it or make it more presentable.

And that Self that you are is full of intelligence, and it's a wonderful Self.

And of course, we all have various limitations. But even those limitations are aspects of that eternal Self, that eternal value. So in the end, we're going to make friends with our limitations also. That's a big part of this practice. It's a big part of any practice, really.

So you can't figure out how to be authentic. To be authentic means to destroy inauthenticity. It doesn't mean to create authenticity.

Authenticity exists. That's who you are. You already have an authentic Self. And you really can't do anything to change it or make it different. It is what it is.

And yet you can get in touch with it and get more familiar with it and more friendly with it. And the more we do that, the more we stop monitoring and performing and masking.

A lot of people who are students of Jaya Kula are somewhat progressive politically. And you have all kinds of critiques of, for instance, supremacies, different supremacies.

But what you don't understand is that that's just a writ large, externalized version of what you all are doing to yourselves. Coming up with these hierarchies and trying to measure up. Trying to be better than or trying to be perfect in some way or another.

So when we are that way with ourselves, we're being very obedient actors in this world that we have all these critiques of. Think about that. [laughs] And think about the fact that you've been sold this bill of goods that what you're doing is your psychology. That's not what it is.

What you're doing to yourself, all the self-monitoring, is what you've been trained to do by this culture. This is PART OF our culture. It is not your personal psychology.

You don't need a pill for this. You need a revolution.

A lot of people are trying all the time to be above reproach or to be so 'whatever' that they can't be criticized. And I think everybody, or most people, have inordinately defensive reactions to even valid criticism. Or someone saying something that's actually helpful even.

Because we live in such a judgy culture. And we're already in this sea of judgment 24/7. So it's very, very hard to field.

But it is such a great sadhana to not defend yourself. To just let it happen and feel your feelings and examine your own feelings. And try to work with that anxiety in your practice, or in therapy or whatever you're doing. And not respond to the criticism.

Now, sometimes at work, that's not possible. Because not responding could have consequences, like losing your job or not getting a raise or something like that.

But it's really useful when we've been kind of managing everything in whatever way we do, and then something breaks through, and then that anxiety erupts.

That's actually a really useful thing to happen. Because we get to see more about what it is we're defending ourselves against all the time, not just in that one instance.

So, being in the position I'm in, I get a lot of criticism and a lot of praise. I mean, both. And it's been a big part of my practice to just try to walk in the middle between those things and not really care about either.

To take whatever seems valuable and not get too exercised about the rest.

But it has been a many, many, many, many year process of doing that. And my guide in this practice of not responding to criticism unless there's some real reason to, is Patrul Rinpoche. He's really my beacon in this.

And you might have seen me post some of his teachings on this, but they have really been guides for me. He says: when you're praised, it's bad. When you're criticized, it's good.

Because we're trying to be recognizing our real Self so that those things don't throw us off anymore. Again, it's a multi-year process. But if you feel like you can, just determine that you're not going to respond.

That will cut down on some of this feeling, but there will still be a lot left in there. And you can just let yourself feel it, and it'll be very useful.

But you need to be doing sadhana at the same time. Because you need to be getting in touch with that Self that doesn't need any defense. Over time, slowly. But it's a fantastic sadhana. It's fantastic to relate to criticism this way.

I've got praise down. I don't really have a big response to praise. There's maybe some enjoyment if someone appreciates something that I do. But I'm not seeking it. It's not all that important to me. But, you know, still working on criticism. [laughs]

It's a bit agonizing not knowing what to do to move more into my true Self.

Well, my experience is that if you're doing quite a bit of sadhana, that just happens naturally. It is agonizing some days and other days not. It is difficult some days to feel that you're out of focus or off kilter or not in sync or disconnected.

But the more we do practice with sincerity, then...that just writes itself over time. You don't need to attack that or have a plan to change that other than the plan to do sadhana every day.

That's what it's for, to get you hooked up again. And it will do that over time.

As long as you're doing it, at least some of the time, with the right bhava. You know, open and sincere, uncontrived. You have to do it that way sometimes.

None of us can do it that way all the time. [laughs] If we were open and uncontrived all the time, we would already be enlightened and we wouldn't need to be doing any sadhana. [laughs]

I have a question about not knowing, and not caring about not knowing. I struggle with this because I tend to want to know. I tend to want to have a goal.

Well, wanting to know and wanting a goal are antithetical. Because when we set goals, we're basically saying, I already know where I'm going. And so that's going to be very limited from the outset.

In relation to spiritual practice, wanting to know, if it's the kind of wanting to know that actually bears fruit in our practice, it's open-ended.

We want to know what we know we don't know. We want to be in touch with what we know we're not in touch with. But we don't KNOW what that is. So we're not telling it to be a certain way and appear and give us a certain result.

There are people who are doing very goal-driven practices. They want this particular result or another. And that basically can serve you for a time, but it's definitely not a mature way to practice. It might be helpful for somebody at some point.

The best way is just let yourself feel that you want to know. There's a lot to know. We know nothing, basically, or very, very little.

Or you could say, find out. Desire to find out is better than saying desire to know. Just this open-ended desire to find out who you are and what's happening here.

But with the understanding that you don't know right now. Or that you do somewhere, but it's hidden from you in some way.

In terms of not wanting to miss out on things in practice, that could look like a lot of different things. I'm wanting to sort of be engaged and see what condition you're in.

If that is discursive, and by that I mean... If you've been trained to ask questions or to narrate or to explain what's happening to you, or your 'not wanting to miss out on' is something very psychological, or concrete and narrative.

There's a point when you need to jump off of that diving board. You need to be more in touch with the energetic level of your practice, with the subtle energy that has no narration attached to it.

In this kind of practice, there's just, sort of in a simplistic way, three levels at which we can relate to our practice. One of them is through narration and just gross ordinary physical stuff that we do. And our minds, right? Ordinary mind.

The next level is subtle energy. And so it's very important to get through that first level and be able to open up your senses enough that you can feel what is happening to you energetically on a very subtle level.

There might be words that come with that. There might be things that you realize that can then be said in words. I'm not saying there's never any words.

But the encounter is much more of a sensory encounter on a very, very subtle level, and that's what you're following.

And then there's the next level, which is this direct perception of wisdom level.

All of those can be happening at the same time. It's not necessarily a linear thing. But when we are wanting to feel our condition, we eventually want to be feeling ITS condition or THE condition.

Something that feels more like a conversation that is happening energetically.

Even if we're just doing open-eyed meditation, like shikantaza or something like that. If we've also done other kinds of practices in a different context, like kriya yogas or kundalini yoga, or anything to do with the channels or anything like that, certain kinds of mantras...

Then all of that comes to bear when we're doing open-eyed meditation also.

We're basically immersed in that livingness and relating to it. Right? It has a conversational feel, but it's much broader and less narrativized.

So that's kind of the next step. Not to get too attached to investigating yourself in this discursive way, and your patterns and everything.

There's a place for that, absolutely. But at some point, you want to be able to relate in a more intuitive, energetic way. That's where it gets really fun. Sitting around thinking about your karmas is like... [laughter]

I'm feeling very ranty about COVID. I'm trying to navigate how to take care of myself, how to honor other people's freedom, and how to be in this world where this is happening, and so many people just don't even want to acknowledge that it's happening because it's too stressful.

The board of directors of Jaya Kula has had about 100,000 conversations like this over the last four years. [laughter]

Only 100,000?

Only 100,000, yeah.

Well, I want to say that part of our culture, which I would call titan culture, is that we don't want to acknowledge illness because we see it as somehow a flaw, a personal flaw.

We definitely don't want to acknowledge disability. The specter of disability is very, very scary for people who feel that they have to be presenting this impervious front all the time and be productive all the time. There's a lot of fear, masked by anger and aggression.

There's a disability activist, she called COVID a worldwide disability event, and I think that's absolutely spot on.

We're very slow to acknowledge the long term effects of different kinds of diseases, like Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, COVID. The medical establishment here is very, very slow to recognize those things.

And I have to say that even people who otherwise have progressive or liberal politics of some sort, this is where they fall short.

If we want to have a community... I mean, I know we all want this for the whole world, but we're not going to get it.

So if we want to have a community that's really based on principles of mutual care and concern and kindness, then this is part of it. Right? This is part of it.

We need to be taking care of each other's health and be considerate of each other's health. And not make it an issue of personal freedom. Our personal freedom cannot be at the expense of somebody else's well-being.

There's people who will be very, very generous in other ways. Donating to this and that cause, helping people who are unhoused... Speaking out about this, that, and the other issue, marching around, doing this, that, and the other...

But then when it comes to health issues and wearing masks and taking care of people in that way, they draw the line there.

It really has to do with fear of one's own mortality, not wanting to acknowledge the severity of this and the disability aspects of it...

You know, I've been surprised at how put upon people are who otherwise seem like they're very community-minded people. In any case, it's hard to spend four years wearing masks around other people.

Now we're in the middle of a very big surge. We have people in the community with chronic health issues, as every community does.

But the only way to survive what's going on in the larger world. The only way to survive the absolute eruption of cruelty to an insane level and lack of care for each other. The only way to survive that is to have a community that does otherwise.

To just be the world, in this community, that we want to see. And that's what I'm doing. To the best of my ability.

But at least in the context of a community like this, we can talk about it. We can try to call people in who are having that kind of experience. But there's grief involved.

It's not so much the grief of the pandemic. It's the grief of seeing how people are relating to it. It's the grief of seeing into the human condition in a way that maybe some of us were shielded from before.

Not everyone has been shielded from this, but there's a lot of things happening right now that are ripping whatever veil there was off of viewing, really, the depths of the human condition.

And of course, there's other things to the human condition besides genocide and lack of care and stomping on each other. There's lots of other things to the human condition.

There's also caring, intelligence, and devotion, and worshipfulness. If there wasn't, we would have nothing to do here. Right? [laughs]

But there's grief entailed in seeing all this, and we have to just acknowledge that. There's nothing we can do about it other than understand that everything WILL change. There's nothing that's going to cause this to be our forever situation.

Things just aren't like that in impermanence.

And our job—or at least I see my job, maybe it's not your job—is to pull the thread through this. Pull the golden thread through the garbage heap [laughs] without shutting down. Without shutting down.

We can't dismiss people. We can't just say, oh, that guy's an asshole. Although we may want to do that, but– Or at least I might want to do that, having a very pitta personality.

But we can't let ourselves do that. We won't be the golden thread then.

So we have to stay open to the pain. We have to stay open to the loss and the grief. We have to let ourselves see what's really happening. We have to let ourselves see this incredible opening into who we really are.

If you let yourself, this is a big strip down of fantasy.

Depending on who we are and what our prior experience has been, where we're situated, we have more or less fantasy about what's going on here.

But this is a strip down, and we have to let it happen because that's the only way we can move forward and make it different. Whatever we're shutting out or not acknowledging or pushing away with anger is going to hamper us.

So it's hard. I just hope this is the late stage of the Kali Yuga. [laughter]

Really late.

Yeah, really late. I don't know, like, tomorrow, it's going to end. [laughter]


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