Friday, June 13, 2008
Last night I went with friends to hear Jack Kornfield, well known spiritual teacher and therapist, for a talk and book signing. He is a special man. Once a Buddhist monk in Thailand, he subsequently founded a Buddhist center called Spirit Rock just north of San Francisco. This center offers retreats, workshops, meditation instruction, and other things of that nature.
When Jack began to speak, I realized that I was in the presence of an authentic being, someone who indeed devotes himself to his work and whose qualities shine through. He has, among other things, given counsel as a therapist to many a seeker, often to those struggling with severe internal problems of various kinds. In addition, he has written books and traveled widely to serve in various causes. Recently he journeyed to Israel and Palestine, and reports that many small groups dedicated to peace and mutual understanding have sprung up in those parts of the world. It seems that there (just as here) people are taking up the work of world salvation into their own hands, not waiting for governments to discover solutions.
Jack emphasizes compassion and service in his message, and he has indeed walked his talk. He also has a great sense of humor. He told the story of a teacher who decided to make sandwiches to give to the homeless. More and more came ready to receive her gift. Word of her good work spread, and soon she began to receive money to aid her in her cause. But, she returned all the funds that were sent to her, with a brief note: "Make your own damn sandwiches."
Jack talked about the many qualities available to us as humans, not only those of the shadow side but those of the light--and among the latter, he did include rapture in his list. He was reminding the audience that we need not cling to our suffering, but that we can find our "inner nobility" (our true identity) if we allow it to emerge.
However, as always, I noted that he did not speak of ecstasy as a significant state of being, and of course there was no mention of kundalini as such. As one who feels that kundalini is in fact "God moving through your body," I was--again--disappointed that spiritual teachers do not at least point the way to this potential within us all, one which in many ways carries us to new levels of inner realization. And then I realized that he was delivering a message for a general audience on the exoteric level, and that kundalini still remains, for many, a very esoteric topic and practice.
Kundalini is still little known and is still viewed with suspicion by many. In this regard, it is (in my view) akin to homosexuality, which until recently was forced to remain a hidden realm. The homosexual was silenced by society at large, and lived largely in the shadows, invisible to all but a few intimate friends. The whole subject was (like kundalini) surrounded by myth and misinformation. One could not easily discuss one's experience with family or friends. Hence one was indeed marginalized, pushed to the outer bounds of "conformist" society. Thus homosexuality, too, was truly an esoteric experience, even when it arose from the most common of human needs, the wish to love and be loved, perhaps to make a lifelong commitment to a congenial partner.
Often those experiencing kundalini awakening are disturbed to discover that they are now much alone in their process, that there is no one to guide them or even offer a sympathetic ear. Frequently, they are deeply disturbed to find that they are now "outsiders," persons whose life experience simply does not "fit in" to the dominant paradigm. Perhaps those of us who were more accustomed to exclusion through our "sexual preference" (think "emotional preference") could adjust more easily to the isolation of the new state. And--for me at least--both states were invaluable parts of the journey, ways of leading the self to its true identity.
(Note: the image at the top is of a plaque on a bench in Golden Gate Park, near Stow Lake. I did not know Doreen, but I always pause as I pass to say hello and pay my respects. This "artist/activist/lesbian/therapist" was obviously much beloved by her friends. And I am grateful to live in an area where her full nature is openly acknowledged.
There are, of course, many ways of being marginalized, to be seen as "the other," by society. But being a lesbian is the one which I drew as my life card, and thus it is the one which I know the most about.)