[Since I first posted it, this post has been slightly edited due to questions of privacy relating to others in the Dave group.]
The careful reader will have noticed that the hundred posts of “What is Embodiment” trace a developmental curve, or what’s known in Hollywood as “a story arc.”
The series was begun in response to a suggestion made by Dave O after the summer 2014 retreat. I was meeting Dave and some other participants in a Chinese restaurant. On the way there, I’d had a really pleasurable experience walking about Helsinki, listening to music on my mp3 player and feeling just right in my body. I told Dave that I thought a better word for what I was getting a taste of than enlightenment was embodiment. He suggested I do a post every day for the next hundred days on “enlightened embodiment.” The rest is (bla bla).
To begin with, I drew on notes I’d made from a previous Dave retreat, including direct quotes of things Dave said as well as my own occasional comments or observations. Once my notes ran out (around post # 24), I started re-listening to old Dave online classes and paraphrasing things I found there, always keeping close to the letter and spirit of Dave’s teachings.
Then came post # 43, “Asteroids in Space,” written down while listening to Dave talk in an online group meeting (making it the first direct Dave quote). Around that time, I had an email exchange with Dave in which he questioned whether my repeating things he had said counted as things I had “learned.” In Dave’s view, learning entails bringing forth inner wisdom and knowledge, not receiving it from the outside.
The exchange reminded me that my original intent with the blog series had been not to quote Dave but to direct my attention inward, to see what insights came up in relation to Dave and his teachings. I decided that was what I would do, and began warming up to it with post # 45, “The 1000 Eyes of the Body.” I moved into full solo flight mode at the halfway point with post # 50, “Whom Does the Enlightenment Transmission Serve?”
For the almost three-week period after that (up to and including post # 68, “The Upside of Irritation,”), I was riding high on the wave of “ET service.” As I commented at the blog, at the start of that period:
“I have been keeping the focus on Dave’s ‘enlightenment transmission,’ even though I am not a hundred percent comfortable with referring to something I have such limited experience of. On the other hand, doing so has been a way to more openly serve the ET, and thereby come into a more intimate, trusting, relationship with it. I hope the posts themselves will successfully testify to that relationship.”
Then something happened. On Saturday, September the 20th, I had a consciousness-altering experience during an online meeting with some of the participants, a meeting which Dave showed up to halfway through. Without going into too much detail, the experience hit me like a ton of bricks, and I found myself questioning my relationship with Dave, the other participants, and the so-called “enlightenment transmission.” The question of what was spiritually correct behavior was the focus of that call.
The first post I made after that meeting was post # 69, “Spiritual Failure.” The series of posts up to # 82 (“The Desert”), over the next two weeks, describe the internal struggle I went through, parsing out the noise of externally focused value-judgments from the signal of my own internal sense of what was real. During that period, my feeling of alienation and of let-down continued to grow. Dave had often made the claim that he wanted us all to develop spiritual autonomy. Now he seemed determined to clip the wings of anyone who tried to fly out of the nest, to rely on their own power.
On the other hand, if he really wanted me to become independent of his influence, what else could he do to facilitate that process, besides resisting all of my attempts to do so?
A hundred words I didn’t post during that period:
How do spiritual groups operate? The same way all groups operate: by mimesis.
A spiritual group depends on shared values. Whoever most embodies those values is group leader.
Where there’s a leader, there’s hierarchy.
Those in the group who best imitate the leader rise to the top, at least until they become a threat to the leader’s authority. The rest of the group then band together to remove the offending party, now the designated scapegoat.
Alternatively, there’s mutiny, and/or a split, and a new group is created, with “reformed” values.
The original cell has now divided, in order to replicate.
During and after my painful process of separation/individuation from the spiritual flock, I was no longer riding high on the wings of the ET. I had been unceremoniously dumped back in the desert of my own solitary landscape. The content of the posts accordingly became somewhat “darker,” as my old preoccupation with trauma resurfaced and was integrated into the larger embodiment discussion. It was like my old self was merging with my temporary new ET-server self, erasing both.
Post # 98, “Turning Towards the Dark,” represented a final embracing of (what I see as) the necessary truth of individuation, as undergone in the previous few weeks. To be spiritually incorrect—to resist all external pressures to align with any system of values—is the only way to embody one’s own truth.
This was what was behind my rejection of the words (values) of Dave’s teachings in later posts, and my (clumsy but I hope also playful) attempt to replace them with my own terms.
From another unpublished post:
Enlightenment transmission vs. embodiment cheesecloth. Two sides of a single hair?
A transmission has duration, beginning, middle, and end. It comes from a source (transmitter) to a destination, receiver. Enlightenment has either happened or it hasn’t.
Cheesecloth has no precise dimensions, in space or time. It’s just there, invisibly, seemingly incidental to the cheese. Embodiment is a spectrum, an ongoing process, a fluctuation, a journey between two states.
But this isn’t really the point of splitting conceptual hairs.
[This is:] “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”
The process implicitly revealed by the WIB? series of posts is still ongoing, despite the end of the series. Underneath it is an underlying conflict within my own psyche, a conflict between the desire to participate with a larger group or community, and the need to preserve a solitary, self-determined existence.
This meta-appendix isn’t an attempt to tie it all up in a tidy, Hollywood-style ending (Western hero rides off into the sunset), but only to provide some additional context to the story (the backstory) that may reduce the possibility of misunderstanding. The truth is I don’t really know what happened during the course of this series, and yet I have done my best to make a coherent narrative out of it—that being just what we do.
Why do people follow spiritual teachers and join spiritual groups? Because they are seeking an alternative to “the world.”
Part of this is due to a genuine sense that there’s more to us than the world can ever acknowledge or permit us to express. But a perhaps larger part is that we just don’t want to have to deal with the horror of the world—and especially not face up our own, deeply conditioned affinity with it.
Isn’t spirituality, however balanced and grounded it may be, still just a more elaborate equivalent of going off to a mountain cave?
The goal isn’t to take the body off to a more soulful place (retreat). The goal is to bring the Soul into a more embodied state—to become not less but more worldly, so that spiritual awareness can have some traction—some practical appliance. Advance!
The goal is for the rubber of the soul to meet the road of the world.