Our Real Condition, Trauma, and Clarity

January 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

When you say our real condition, I'm having a hard time understanding if you mean our essence nature or the condition that we're in right now.

I mean our essence nature, which the condition that we're in right now is actually an aspect of. But we don't recognize that.

Sometimes I say, just casually, real condition. Meaning, look at how you're showing up in an everyday way. But in general, what it means in the tradition, in the scriptures...

It means what you really are. That you are this upsurge of living awareness.

And this is why we recognize that all of the unique dimension that you are manifesting, which we call our problems or our personality, is also an aspect of enlightened essence nature and full of that.

We're not excluding how we're showing up as part of our real nature.

So when we're having dualistic, karmic vision, we actually think we're separate bodies in space. We think we have our own minds and we are these individuals and we have some sort of coherent individual self.

Then we think that whatever we think is wrong with us is, like, the damaged part of us, or our problems, or lack of capacity, or lack of skill or something like that.

And that somehow that is separate from our real nature, you know, enlightened essence nature. That somehow that's all going to just get wiped out and there's just going to be this like [airy singing] glowing white bindu left at the end of the story.

Actually [laughs], everything that is showing up—everything, including all of our foibles and fixations—is all an aspect of that enlightened essence nature expressing itself.

The perfect analogy, really perfect analogy, is that if there's some sort of wonderful painter, really famous, and everyone agrees this painter is so great. And that painter paints a picture of someone really sad.

We don't think, oh my God, what a messed up painting. That's a sad person! They'd better— That painting should go to therapy. [laughter]

We think, wow, what an incredible portrayal of a sad person. [laughs]

All the ways that we're showing up are aspects of that artistry. An unlimited creativity of that one self.

What if it's really uncomfortable to be the most beautifully tainted [SHAMBHAVI: Sad person [laughs]] version of a fucked up person?

Yeah! Yeah. So, on one level, what happens is—this is directly from Abhinavagupta—we go from being the played to being the players.

When we're the played, P-L-A-Y-E-D, we are like actors who have forgotten that we're acting a part and we just become played by that part. Played and plagued, I should say.

And so we suffer. We have an experience of suffering.

But when we start to recognize that all of these parts are being played by that one self and that we are that self, what happens over time is that we begin to develop a sense of humor about our condition. That's sort of the leading edge of the suffering diminishing.

People often comment that I laugh a lot in satsang. And that's why! Everything just seems somewhat funny.

And [laughs] that is really an aspect of— Any of my teachers that I consider to have any kind of actual accomplishment all laughed a lot.

Because it's a well-known phenomenon that everything just starts to seem a little funny, even your own mess-up. And then more and more down the road, you just become very relaxed.

And of course, sadness will lift. Let's say that sadness is your main flavor or someone's main flavor. That will leaven and that will lighten and that will lift.

But even if you don't unwind all of that pattern in this one lifetime, you're still going to feel a lot more friendly toward it and think it's more funny. You're going to just suffer less, as time goes on, from it.

You'll also suffer less from all of the horrible things that are happening to other people in the world.

What happens is you clear out your attachment to things being a certain way because you're seeing that things are always just as they are. Because it's the is-ness of everything.

It's like, it's not going to be a different way. It just is what it is. This is what God is making.

But with that fixation cleared out, you can feel so much more compassion and love for people. And be so much more skillful at interacting with people and helping people.

So it's not like the attachment to things being a certain way clears out and then you don't care. It's the opposite. You just care in a more all-encompassing but lighter and cooler way.

One wonderful acupuncturist I had once, when I was a lot more fervorous than I am now, he said to me, can't you just care about things? Do you have to [said intensely] care? Very egoic.

So that means some of your caring is just staying— That energy is just with you. It's not actually helping anybody. You can stomp around and proclaim how much you care all you like.

But then it's just a brand. It's not helping anyone. And it's probably hurting your health to be that fervorous.

But if you can just be letting these wisdom virtues flow out, and compassion for everyone flow out, you're much more effective and much more is going to other people.

Abhinavagupta defined enlightenment as a complete lack of self-reference. I love that. Complete lack of self-reference.

Everything's just going out. Naturally! Not in like a— [using strained voice] It must go out because it's ethically right.

It's just happening because that's what God does. That's what this self does. That's what reality does when it's unobstructed.

There is no reason for it. It is not better than anything else. The reason why it's not better is because there actually is only wisdom here. So how could anything be better than that?

But the experience of the unobstructed flow of wisdom, although we would not say it's ethically better, it is so much more fun and enjoyable.

So much more fun and enjoyable. So much more fulfilling. So much more skillful and playful and rewarding.

I was wondering, people who undergo trauma, they become their story. The poor me saga that I've been through this thing, and how the conventional psychology just reinforces that pity party.

Well, I really don't think it's wise to devalue it or denigrate it as a pity party or a poor me thing.

You have to understand that words are shakti.

So, this is a fundamental principle.

We are all born in various narrative communities, or discourse communities you could call them. And the words that we live in aren't just ideas. They're actually forces. They're energy. And they affect our body, energy, and mind.

And we are embodying many of those words in a real way.

Even though you've heard me say that I'm disturbed by this narrative of trauma, and for a few different reasons.

Not because I don't think that there's trauma. I do think that people experience trauma. But there's a lot of other things going into it.

But that is different from devaluing people who have that experience. That's a real experience.

You also have limitations, and your limitations are also real experiences. Things that you really have to deal with that engage your body, energy, and mind.

But to answer your question, there's a lot going on there. If someone is just utterly immersed in Western psychology, then in a sense, their body, energy, and mind has been organized around that narrative of the psychological self.

And so they are living that.

Just like someone might be living a narrative of a punishing Abrahamic God and feel that they need to be saved. Or some other very, very powerful narrative like that, that organizes our body, energy, and mind. Then they have to live through that.

I have referred students to psychiatric care or psychologists to get therapy because they are living that narrative and they need that help. They need to complete that path before they can do something else.

But you do have to be willing to entertain that there's an otherwise to the self. That you might not be essentially damaged. You might not have to function in this ordinary way.

If you can't even entertain that idea, then this is definitely not the path for you.

But if there is some opening for you to be excited about a different kind of way of relating to the self. And the various experiences that we have. Then maybe you might be able to do this.

And eventually the psychological story of the self would not be so important to you.

From the perspective of this tradition, there's nothing inherently harmful about therapy or psychiatry or the methods that they use. It's just one path that people go on.

And from the perspective of this kind of a tradition, it's a path that we would want people to step off of eventually.

So that they could have an experience of their indestructible vajra nature. And understand that nothing that happens to them is damning or eternally harmful.

And that they have much more capacity for healing and for releasing trauma than they might think given the current discourses.

One of the big obstacles that we have, at least in the United States, is that we are discomfort-phobic.

There's a whole swath of the population that thinks that being uncomfortable is wrong and bad. And should be avoided at all costs. [laughs]

And so even relatively minor upsets in one's life are described as triggering a traumatic response or being traumatic.

This language of trauma is really becoming very buzzy and getting thrown around a lot in circumstances that are simply ordinary aspects of life's ups and downs.

And things that we really need to learn how to handle with more grace and skill, not bringing on this whole heavy apparatus of trauma. Which, really, in those circumstances, just ends up imprisoning us.

There are people who experience serious trauma. And some of those people are in our community.

They've had serious multigenerational trauma, or some kind of trauma in their lives. And they have worked on these in various different ways. You know, by going to therapy, by going to healers and shamans and doing spiritual practice.

And there's many, many different ways that we can approach these things.

My attitude is use whatever tool works. That there's no tool that's in and of itself bad. Whatever works for you is the best tool in that moment, and most of us are going to need multiple kinds of tools over our lifetimes.

Part of my job if a student who has that kind of multigenerational or this-lifetime trauma is to try to discover what are the best tools for that person.

And if I have an attitude that certain tools are just wrong or bad or lesser-than, then I'm going to be not as good of a teacher. Right?

Direct realization traditions have this attitude toward their own practices too.

Because in the direct realization traditions like Trika Shaivism and Dzogchen, there are so many practices one can learn. Probably hundreds of practices. And you'll get many practices from a teacher if you stick around for a while.

And the idea is that eventually you become a more mature practitioner and you have a toolbox and you have now the skill and the ability to self-diagnose and know what tools are best for you. Eventually. This is the idea.

But all of my teachers have taught that there's no reason to reject anything on the face of it.

You'll hear me say stuff about a psychological view of the self. Critical things. But when people need that help, I send them to that help.

I wondered if you'd say some things about clarity. During morning practice when you name the wisdom virtues, that one's the hardest for me to have a feeling for.

Mhmm. Yeah. So the reason why clarity is in the ways that I'm describing what we discover when we encounter living presence, is because I encountered that in my practice.

This blazing clarity that you start to experience in various different ways.

And also there's a misconception from an ordinary point of view that the word ananda, bliss, means just some sort of tranced-out, happy, bubbly state.

But one of the absolute signal qualities of ananda is clarity.

So much clarity that you need to spend years doing sadhana to have your body, energy, and mind be able to host that clarity.

Clarity can be painful, or just overwhelming, when we're not prepared to digest it. We can see that in our ordinary lives when we get a clear reflection from teacher, from reality, or a friend, or a partner.

Then sometimes a clear reflection about how we're actually showing up can really hit our sensorium and take us a little while to be able to host that or digest that reflection that somebody gives us.

We've been in some state of self-veiling. We've turned away from looking at ourselves in some way. And someone else goes, zing, this is what's going on.

And we feel that zing. The clarity, it's like the clarity of a perfect work of art.

And we need time to prepare our senses to slowly wake up to that and slowly have more capacity to host that clarity.

It's clarity of all your senses: vision, scent, taste, touch, clarity of your sense of energy, hearing. And it's not really dependent on our physical organs of sense. Clarity of intuition, clarity of knowing.

A lot of us spend our lives running away from the clarity of knowing. Because it's inconvenient.

As I've said so many times, especially women will claim to be confused when they're not really confused.

Because it's just more convenient to tell someone who's challenging you that you're confused, than to tell them that, no, I actually know what I'm seeing and what I'm talking about.

Because then there are other repercussions, especially for women, when we display our clarity.

So the clarity is problematic for us [laughs] and sometimes difficult and sometimes painful, until stuff clears out and we get used to it.

So clarity is just not talked about enough. So that's why I always want to mention it in the morning practice.

And also mentioning [it] at the beginning of the practice, right before we're about to do visualization.

Some people who are able to get in touch with that experience of clarity inside of themselves will then have an easier time with the visualization. So there's a bit of a technological aspect to that also.


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