“What is necessary to change a person is to change her awareness of herself”
– Abraham Maslow
I’ve been hanging around in Costa Rica these past few weeks, avoiding my responsibilities in order to make space to not work on my book, my truly terrible book, which future generations I hope will recognize as a technology for inducing confusion and narcolepsy in their enemies.
Costa Rica is of course famous for its lushness and biodiversity, and apparently part of that diversity is the diversity of the spiritual marketplace here, for it seems behind every howler monkey is a howler gringo promising some combination of bliss and deliverance with his or her unique brand of healing workshop.
So what’s bullshit and what’s not?
What’s the deal here? Do these modalities all work, or none, or only some? How much of this is the chasing of temporary peak experiences, and how much involves genuine growth? And what can a person realistically expect as they undertake these different practices?
Obviously a thorough investigation is a beyond the scope of this short post, but I want to suggest that if a practice does “work,” then it is probably tapping into a set of dynamics common to all practices, and that most of the flapdoodle comes when teachers or practitioners mistakenly credit their modality instead of those dynamics. They become, in a sense, salespersons for their own special external packaging, imagining the magic is in the wrapper, instead of where it really is: the dark chocolate interior (yes, I apologize, our metaphor is a chocolate bar).
So. This month at the CEC, we’ll explore:
- The notion that there may be a common set of principles or dynamics at work with meditation in particular, and psychotherapeutic and psycho-spiritual healing practices in general.
The very real pitfalls of chasing peak experiences – easy to induce, and easy to mistake as “progress,” even if they taste like licking a tasty chocolate man statue.
- And finally we’ll look at the candidates that really do seem to contribute to healthy change and growth over time: the weakening of harmful patterns, behaviours and views, the strengthening of favourable patterns, behaviours and views, and the gradual orientation to what is below (or, if you prefer, intrinsic to) all patterns, behaviours and views.
If the weakening and strengthening parts come under the purview of basic human learning, that third bit is definitely our contemplative extra, overlooked thus far by mainstream psychology, but not, fortunately, by human history and culture.
Oh yes, the blusterfucktwizzling is good
We’ll unpack each of these elements in both meditation and social practice, and then open the floor to rabble rousers who wish to perform Dharma Combat upon the bamboo mats of the zendo, where we’ll sweat Costa Rican macadamia nuts in our attempt to understand the blusterfucktwizzle of existence, while in the background the oompah band plays and dance partners languidly swoop and stride. For we are explorers, and the exploring, my friends, is good.