"Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which brings happiness to both self and others. While ritual and prayer, along with the questions of nirvana and salvation, are directly connected to religious faith, these inner qualities need not be, however. There is no reason why the individual should not develop them, even to a highest degree, without recourse to any religious or metaphysical belief system. This is why I sometimes say that religion is something we can perhaps do without. What we cannot do without are these basic spiritual qualities." The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium
For those of you who noticed, I haven't gotten back to my 3-part series around toxic spiritual teachers and programs, being safe out there, and my personal experience of leaving a recent Kripalu yoga teacher training. I found myself deeply impacted by what happened. I since did some in depth research while holding conversations with others around toxic teachers, unsafe programs, and what it means to be a teacher or leader.
What do we do when a teacher, such as Chogyam Trungpa (and then his son, Mipham’s) sell a powerful spiritual program, and "is recognized for playing a pivotal role in the transmission of genuine Buddhadharma to the West," do not live by what they teach? In fact they abuse students and their role as teacher. I do explore this in my next blog since there are too many examples of yoga teachers, and other spiritual and self-help teachers who lived in significant contrast to what they claim to be teaching.
Because my latest book, The Clue of the Red Thread delivers a clear message on the importance of the inner journey for those in leadership roles, I found myself deeply saddened by a promotion of inner work at Kripalu with what I considered a serious lack of attention to honest conversations and shadow work. There are an overwhelming amount of yoga teachers and other spiritual teachers that not only do not walk their talk, they abuse their roles. And there is a sickness of silence that is encouraged in certain programs because they don't believe they can sell their product (yoga classes or spiritual development) if they own their shadow (past and present).
"Pema Chödrön responded by stepping down from her clergy position. In a letter posted to the group’s news service in January, Chödrön said that she was 'disheartened' by Mipham’s (Chogyam Trumpa's son) announced return. She had expected him to show compassion toward the survivors of his abuse, she wrote, and to do “some deep inner work on himself.” But it was the support from the board, she added, that distressed her more. 'How can we return to business as usual?' she wrote. 'I find it discouraging that the bravery of those who had the courage to speak out does not seem to be effecting more significant change in the path forward.' from, Survivors of an International Buddhist Cult Share Their Stories: An investigation into decades of abuse at Shambhala International By Matthew Remski , September 28th, 2020
The research and conversations I have had over the past few months will show up in (I hope my next) blog (now enough material for a small book); I just haven't felt ready to share. Part of my reluctance is that we are all dealing with so much difficulty and suffering with our climate crisis, the PANDEMIC, divisive politics, racial injustices, hate crimes, gerrymandering and voter suppression, and the very present-day threat to women's rights. (I will say here that because we have all these difficulties, teachers and leaders should be held to to the highest accountability and integrity).
So in the meantime . . . know that there are remarkable souls who are showing up and offering true paths, who are breaking the silences and speaking out to power (be it to a board of a spiritual center or to the local legislators) and who are doing their own inner work. Who recognize that there is always shadow work to be done. Always.
In the meantime know that there are new species being discovered, that there are farmers farming, that there are immigrant stories to celebrate, that generosity comes in many diverse packages, that there are many simple ways to connect, benefit others and add to the beauty of this shared world.
In the meantime, take care my dear friend. And let me know what you are up to so that I can share that in my next blog (2 of 3!) in our Community Conversation section.
You Know When It's Time to Go
when it’s time to go:
what only looks
like a movement
in the broad
to hear the
such a clear
of what you
Even in the midst
never be ready
you have never
a single speck
in what you want
lifted your ear
to the morning
out the door,
down the road
round the corner
and on your way.
–From David's forthcoming book of poetry, Still Possible. To be published in winter 2021. © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
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