Contrivance and Contrived Naturalness

Talking at a Restaurant Table
September 23, 2020

Contriving a personality, contriving a spiritual persona, or simply trying to appear as you wish to be seen or how you believe others want you to appear are all obstacles to authentic spiritual life. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

Shambhavi: In a zendo the meditation master is sitting up here, and there are two lines of meditators facing each other. It’s usually kind of a rectangular room. So they’re sitting on raised platforms on black zabutons with black cushions. They’re precisely the same distance apart from each other. The mediation master is slightly higher on his or her black cushion and black zabuton.

And then if it’s a very traditional zendo, if the meditation master thought that you weren’t staying in presence, you weren’t being awake, he would come around, or she would come around, and whack you with a stick.

So this was happening, but this one fellow was snoring. Zzzz. Zzzz. The teacher wasn’t whacking that person with a stick. And then at one point the teacher comes and stands right in front of this sleeping person. The sleeping person wakes up and goes, “Oh, it’s you.” And then he goes right back to sleep. “Zzzz zzzz.” And then what happens?

Student: The other students complain. They ask, what’s up? How come you didn’t whack him?

Shambhavi: Right. They ask how come he gets to sleep? How come you didn’t whack him? And what does the teacher answer?

Student: He’s the only one who gets it.

Shambhavi: Right. He’s the only one who gets it. What does he get?

Student: Naturalness.

Shambhavi: Being natural.

Student: There’s no competition. Trying to be stiff. That there’s no appearance to be held.

Shambhavi: There’s no appearance to be held. There’s no contrived way of being. There’s no way you can be contrived and please the teacher. Any contrivance is not pleasing the teacher. At best, they’re just shrugging.


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