My partner asked a couple of his lady friends from--well, not necessarily the parish church, but from church-related activities such as spiritual direction, servant leadership, etc.--to come to Amma's free public program on Saturday. One of them accepted the invitation, after asking what time we thought we would be home. The other just replied that she didn't want to get up early enough to meet us at the time I suggested, so she won't be joining us.
When I consider my observations of Catholics and Catholicism, both from earlier in my life and since my partner joined the church, it seems to me that it is a religion that fosters dullness, both in terms of physical sensibility and spiritual sensibility.
Last night at dinner my partner was saying that maybe we would have to have lunch at Panera instead of at the Amma program, because his friend doesn't like Indian food. I wish he would stop trying to micromanage situations that haven't even arisen yet. Maybe she hasn't liked the Indian food she has had in the past, but maybe she would like the Indian food that they will be serving at the program. Most likely they will have a Western food line anyway. They didn't get to be a multi-million-dollar spiritual empire by knowing nothing about public relations, after all.
And the beat goes on.
Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,
In my poking around online about Adi Da, I came across a mention of Georg Feuerstein's book Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, and Rascal Gurus. I ordered a used copy for cheap and am about 30 pages into it.
I think this is someone whose work I can hang out with for a while. He is someone who dropped out of academia (or at least took a break of some kind) to devote time to a spiritual community (to the consternation of his academic colleagues), and who eventually left his spiritual community to resume his career, and apparently to get his marriage back on track (to the consternation of other devotees in his spiritual community). The community to which he devoted himself for a time was Adi Da's group.
In some ways, he seems like a yogic counterpart to Jack Kornfield, but whereas I found Kornfield to be moralistic and dull (and failed to finish either of the books of his that I began), Feuerstein seems to have a bit of a spark. Like Kornfield, he's willing to talk about ethics and conventional morality, but there is also an adventurous side of him that seems to groove on the funky energy of extreme people, so he never lets conventional morality have the final say in his assessments of them.
When I look back over the last 20 years of my involvement with spiritual groups, it seems as if I have tried to challenge myself to have direct social contact with teachers and communities but just haven't found the right fit for me. So, rather than continue trying to push in that direction, now that my former enthusiasm for making that kind of effort has subsided, I think that it's time for me remove the pressure to keep trying in that way, and to take some time to digest the experiences I've already had.
When I think about what may have prepared me to accept the intensity and immediacy of meeting teachers like Nurbakhsh and Amma, it was probably my explorations of life outside of my home community and outside of academia: namely, the funky cross-section of people I met at the gay disco in my college town. I don't know how many of the people in my academic environment have met (and have slept with) some of the promiscuous party boys in town, or have known (let alone slept with and then roomed with) a teenage hustler. For someone from my white, middle-class American, suburban Catholic background, this was living on the edge. I prepared for it in some ways by indulging in my taste for intense literature when I was a teenager: Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Gide, Genet. I wonder how many high school kids read that stuff these days. (Probably not many in my day did, either.) By the time those experiences came my way, they had been prepared for imaginatively by the demi-mondes about which I had been reading.
Maybe this is why I lack patience for my partner's friends: when one has the opportunity to meet someone like Nurbakhsh or Amma, one doesn't ask when one will be getting home, and one doesn't complain about what hour one will need to get up in the morning in order to get there. One simply is open to the experience, come what may, or one is not.
In terms of whether such environments can become one's spiritual "home," I would have to say that what has broken the experience for me every time is my inability to find people within those groups (and among those teachers) who I really believed could be of any help to me during the rough patches that tend to come up for a lot of people who try to follow a mystical path. I have only been able to get through those patches by piecing together support from a variety of sources outside of the particular spiritual organizations, and then waiting for my overheated feelings to calm down. If I had any real basis for genuine appreciation for anything that I had actually received when I needed it that was actually useful and valuable to me at that time (and that remained valuable even now), then I don't think there would be any conflict over loyalty or commitment to a spiritual group or teacher. But since that hasn't happened, I'm unwilling to try to invent a loyalty and a commitment that has no basis in reality. Ultimately, it's as simple as that.
Having said that, I am--in a somewhat distant way--grateful for the flavor of the memories that I have from the experiences that I have had, and I look forward to trying to find more ways to infuse what I have experienced so far subtly into my work environment and in other social situations.
Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,