Shambhavi answers student questions about trust, repetitive thoughts, the most important things she’s learned from Anandamayi Ma, and red flags with spiritual teachers. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
There's a lot of like, structured trust that is falling apart around me.
The teaching in this tradition, or the teachings I've gotten from my teachers in any case, are that trust is not something we should be cultivating or looking for or demanding.
Trust is something that is based on a list of things someone should be doing or not doing.
We have this phrase, you need to earn my trust, or so and so has earned my trust. What does that mean?
It means that right now your behavior conforms to something that makes me feel comfortable.
And so that means that trust is very much in the zone of impermanence. And yet we often build relationships around trust. And what that does is, let's say that I get married to somebody at age 21, and I trust this person so much because they do ABCDE in a way that I find comfortable.
But then ten years go by and that person changes, and then they're doing something different, or maybe some other part of their character gets revealed, and then all of a sudden they're only doing A and D, but not anything else. And now I say, I don't trust you anymore, and it's a big deal, and you've broken my trust, and this is something I'm going to feel terrible about.
And so not only are we sad because something happened that we didn't like and we feel abandoned or whatever happened, but now we're also angry because our trust got broken.
So trust is basically a series of expectations that we put on other people that eventually and inevitably are going to cause our own suffering.
So what do we want instead?
One of the things we want is confidence. We want to feel confidence, like, say, in relationships, we want to feel confident that the other person wants the best for us, that regardless of what they do, that they have a kindly feeling toward us and they want the best for us.
We want to feel confident that someone has some basic kind of integrity, which doesn't mean that they can't screw up, but that if they do screw up, they're going to come back to their integrity.
Those are sort of general things that we can feel from other people and that we can have confidence in. Confidence is very different from trust. And then we want to be responsible for what we want rather than making someone else responsible for it. So trust makes someone else responsible for what we want rather than we taking responsibility for what we want.
So, for instance, if someone is behaving in such a way a friend or someone else we have a relationship with, that is what we want in a relationship, then we can just recognize that.
But then if later, if they change or if it is revealed that we didn't have clarity about that person and they turn out they're really a different way, then we need to take responsibility for the fact that they no longer are offering us what we want.
It's not their fault. They're just doing them. Even if it's horrible, they're just doing them.
So then we have to take responsibility for the fact that we either didn't have clarity or we only had partial clarity. And now we're seeing something differently than what we saw before. They haven't actually changed, maybe. Maybe just our own clarity has changed.
This often happens in relationships where one person is doing a lot of practice, a lot of sadhana, and the other person isn't. When you're doing a lot of sadhana, you change and you get more clarity and then all of a sudden you're experiencing the other person in a very different way.
And what seemed really sincere might seem contrived, and what seemed honest might seem dishonest. And you just woke up a little, and that's why this is happening.
So we need to take responsibility for our own reactions to things and what we want and not put it so much on the other person, like, you broke my trust.
For instance, if we have a love relationship where at the beginning of the relationship it was stated that there would be monogamy, but later on the other person goes and has an affair with someone and doesn't tell us about it, and maybe we find out about it some other way or they eventually tell us, but it's already way too late. Obviously we're going to be angry.
We're going to say, we said we were going to be monogamous and you're not and you didn't even come tell me about it. I don't like that and I don't really want that in my life.
This is taking responsibility, rather than saying, you promised, you broke my trust, blah, blah, blah. That's obvious. It's obvious that they did something that was outside the bounds of the agreement. But the thing is, you just don't like it. And so we need to just take responsibility for what we want rather than making it about the other person so much and how they broke our trust.
There's an American Kundalini teacher. He's not alive anymore, but his name is Rudy and he would say if he didn't have the life that he wanted, he would get up and look in the mirror in the morning and say, you idiot!
Now, of course, there's lots of reasons why we might not have the life we want, and many of them or most of them are out of our control. But definitely we do have more choices than we normally give ourselves allowance for.
Choices of what kind of relationships we want to be in, those kinds of things. And there are some things that it's just up to us to try to fashion the life that we want.
It's really not up to other people to hand it to us.
I was wondering about having repetitive thoughts that are sort of either angry or hurt. And also, if you have thoughts about when it's important to communicate that kind of thing?
In terms of the repetitive aspect and the feelings of hurt or anger, the Ayurveda that you're doing will help with some of that over the long term. So some of that has to do with imbalance and the five elements, and some degree of that will be relaxed from doing what you're doing with Ayurveda.
The second thing is you should be doing mantra practice and Yantra. If you do enough of it over enough period of time, it will start playing in your mind like a pop song. And this replaces a lot of the other thoughts that you have, so we might want to head in that direction. And again, I'm just speaking to the repetitiveness of your experience with your thoughts, not the content of them.
In terms of when should one say anything, that is completely unique to any circumstance. And I really can't give you a paradigm for doing that, but I do agree that it does, on the one hand, seem a little silly to bother, and often in my life I have kept quiet, very, very often.
My students are probably rolling their eyes right now because they probably don't think I do. [laughs]
But what actually comes out of my mouth in terms of things that I might criticize is way, way less than what's going on in my mind. There's so much that I don't say because it does seem silly to say anything about it or just useless, basically. I try to just do what's useful, so that's my guide.
And it's not really a paradigm in the sense that it could necessarily help you out in any particular situation. But I try to only say things that are actually going to be useful for somebody, and you maybe can experiment with applying that in your own life, or you can just do what feels right to you.
I mean, you are young, you don't have that much experience with this kind of thing, and it's just fine to kind of bumble along and just trust your feelings about it and do what seems right to you. That will help build confidence, too. Most of the stuff I don't say is when people are being unkind to each other, not understanding, or being too self absorbed.
And it really wouldn't do any good to say anything.
Could you please share the most life transforming lessons, those visions you had of Anandamayi Ma.
Sure. Most powerful things, they weren't lessons, really. But the most powerful knowledge I gained from those experiences was, first of all, that everything is made of wisdom, that compassion is built into the fabric of reality in full measure.
That wisdom is pouring out from everywhere, that there's only beneficence, that's the most important thing. That the goal of this process is to be totally open-hearted, to be able to host everyone, which I still fail at, just saying that I learned that the real goal of the practice is not to become a great yogi or yogini, but to become totally open-hearted, to be completely for others.
As Abhinavagupta says this, to be completely for others. That's how he defines self-realization, one of the ways he defines it.
And Ma doesn't say that, but she demonstrates it in how she is. So I learned that from her and attribute that to saving me from getting stuck at some lesser place.
I learned patience from her and to just keep showing up no matter what happens.
And I learned the meaning of ananda, like experientially, which is very easy to get confused about if you don't actually have that experience of Grace. It's very easy to get confused about what ananda really is. Those are the things that come to mind right now.
She used to laugh so open from the heart. That's the way you laugh.
I was wondering, why are we so self conscious? Like, why don't we laugh like this? Is this laughter only after awakening?
We're so constricted because we think that our lives are important and serious and it matters what we do or don't do.
My parents were Jewish, sort of. I mean, they didn't really practice, but they have Jewish ancestry. And there's a certain urbanness and snarkiness and humor to Jewish culture that always is a little ironic. Like everything's just always taken a little ironically.
So I think in an ordinary sense, everyone in my family has a great sense of humor. Even though our family life was horrible, everyone laughed a lot. And especially one of my brothers just had a tremendous sense of humor. And so I just grew up thinking everything was a little funny. That's an ordinary thing. That's a very ordinary experience.
But then when you recognize what's going on here, it is funny. It's funny watching everyone run around so seriously about everything. So that's the unordinary laughter. And if we don't take ourselves so seriously, then we can see the humor in everything.
Humor is a part of enlightened essence nature. God has a sense of humor, for sure.
One of the most repeated phrases in the Mahabharata is "Krishna's mocking smile." That's this phrase that's just repeated over and over again.
Krishna is just having a whale of a time leading all these little players around the field of Kurukshetra. He doesn't take it all that seriously.
All of the best teachers I've had just laughed a lot. Whenever I see someone claiming to be enlightened and they're all like, [gestures] don't even bother. Don't even bother talking about it. You have no idea. Anybody who takes their lineage, their practice, themselves too seriously, they're not there yet.
As I said, what we're about here is beauty.
Just because I say it's not serious and meaningful in the way we want it to be, it doesn't mean that it's not valuable or worthwhile. It's magnificent.
It's the most all-encompassing adventure. It's much better than meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is like, importance is it important. That's like a potato chip, it's junk food. That sense of importance compared to the magnificence and playfulness and creativity of everything.
Abhinavagupta calls God the artist or the magician. That's what's going on here. And it's way better than meaning and importance.
And so Krishna knew that. For him the field of Kurukshetra was a playground. And then we have worship as, Utpaladeva, one of my favorite siddhas from the Trika tradition, he was constantly referencing the festival of worship, which I've been using that phrase in morning practice.
It comes from him. And what could be more fun than a festival of worship?
This is fun. It's like the richest fun. So don't trust teachers who take themselves too seriously or don't laugh. You can like them. You can learn from them.
But I think that the more one wakes up the sillier everything seems. You can always laugh with me, too. Give it a whirl [laughs]. Ma said you should laugh with your whole body. Laugh from head to toe.
Hey, I know you've spoken before about our expectations of teachers, and we should be more open to being surprised or even shocked by certain teachers. But I'm wondering what we should do about red flags.
Well, first of all, trust what you're seeing and what you're feeling about it, or at least not exactly trusting, but go along with what you're feeling and what you're seeing.
So on the one hand, if you're having some clarity about a circumstance, don't try to rationalize your way out of it or kind of like massage your vision, your clarity so that you can still stay, even though your clarity is telling you something is wrong. Try to have confidence in your own clarity and not question it so much.
And then even many people have reactions to spiritual teachers, especially in this kind of tradition, that are based on their own karmic fixations.
And I can just tell you that as a woman teacher, again, there are so many students who have come who expect me to be like, mom, and if I'm not mom, there's something wrong. And I'm just really not that mommy. So that's just not who I am.
So people get disappointed or upset about that. But even though even if you have a reaction to a teacher that is somewhat based on some precondition that you're bringing, you have to know when you can digest the situation and when you can't.
So, for instance, I've had many reactions to teachers, negative reactions or just reactive emotions. And sometimes I could work with that. And it turned out really well for me as a practitioner that I was challenged in that way and that those tensions came out and I was able to look at them and work with them. So that's just part of the process.
But then sometimes we just continue in that condition of reactivity. We're not able to work with it. So then no matter whether we're right or wrong about the teacher, it doesn't really matter.
The fact is that we're not in the right situation for us, so if someone comes along and is continually upset about the same thing about a teacher, then whether they're right about the teacher or not doesn't really matter. The fact is they are not thriving with that teacher so they should go find somebody else.
That's a little bit complex, obviously, and then we each have tolerances for different kinds of situations. I studied with a teacher that I knew had some pretty serious character flaws but I chose to stay and study with that teacher because I was getting a lot of things that I wanted from that teacher. And then when it no longer became a tenable situation and I outgrew it, I left.
So that's another thing that can happen and now I feel very differently. Now, I probably would never study with a teacher like that. But back then it seemed like, okay, I'm going to put up with this and I'm going to get these teachings and I'm going to practice and that was what was good for me then.
So my own personal experience, like sometimes I've been in situations that, not necessarily the teachers but just other people, where I wasn't sure if my perception of them was correct or where I didn't want to feel about them what I was feeling, or I felt badly about how I was feeling about them but I couldn't shake it and so I just had to go because right or wrong, that was the condition I was in.
So you have to decide, for instance, if you're entering into a community where there's a teacher and you've heard things like they've sexually harassed people or whatever they've done, first of all, it's usually men, not always, but usually and women do not lie about those things 99.9% of the time, so they have nothing to gain by lying about that.
They have only to lose by coming out and saying those things.
So I would definitely feel confidence in those kinds of reports, but then you have to decide, well, is there something here that I really want that I'm willing to like still be here, or am I going to continue and just find something else?
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