Appendix E - Teal Swan |
During the centring this Summer (completion alignment etc.) I started using Teal Swan clips. Early on in the work I came across the concept of spiritual bypass, and she had done a clear video on this. I felt extremely uncomfortable watching this clip, but I listened to what she said and it made sense. I listened with my eyes closed, and then began to question this. She talks of her sexuality, and I realised even within this old man that was the source of my reaction. Confronting that helped me come to terms with how I was repressing my own sexuality, I’m not now although it is not likely to be seen in the life of a 67-year-old man. It has also become apparent to me later that I am like a Thai woman and resist spiritual advice from a beautiful woman – NOT NOW.
When I first wrote the chapter on chakras I wrote a long Teal warning that I have now withdrawn and replaced it with this appendix where I discuss why I am now a huge fan. Teal is contentious – intentionally so, and because she puts herself out there in such a contentious way she is knocked down. I love the way she is so contentious (although I don’t envy what she has to deal with) – especially when you compare her approach to the antiseptic dogma of the Buddhist world. But to protect my own integrity I have to say I don’t know her, I have never met her – am unlikely to do so, but what I do know of her so far I am happy to recommend. And I want to recommend because she is so contentious and out there. Her very presence confronts spiritual establishment, and I like that – even though I have learnt so much from that establishment. If there were conflicting teaching I would always listen to Ven Bdasa but the teachings tend to complement each other as Teal is concerned with the energetic/emotional side. The other reason I want to recommend her is that she says people are afraid to do so because they don’t want to be tarnished by association.
This fear is consistent with my view of the approach of the spiritual establishment, and my style of approach fits into Teal’s position. In my writing I want to be personal because I believe it makes what I have learnt more accessible. But then I meet the critics, usually unspoken, who are you, Wai, to write a book about the path? I have an erstwhile acquaintance. He is arrogant but represses himself by not saying anything arrogant – typical intellectual; it is clearly observable in other ways. He compared me to a know-it-all who sounds forth, implying that I sound off about stuff. The truth is I write about my experiences on the path only, I know about my experiences, because I know about my path, I know how important the path is and by writing I hope people will see this. I confronted the intellectual about his quiet arrogance, and he is now erstwhile because his ego doesn’t want to face his repressive arrogance and ignorance of the path.
Throughout my life especially with intellectuals discussing the ignorance they have hiding behind intellects has led to confrontation – usually ending with the intellectual being insulting. My favourite is the inability of the intellect to recognise insight, intellectuals cannot accept that insight is beyond intellect. The intellect cannot go beyond intellect so an intellectual questioned in this way struggles. The intellectual ego is afraid of being exposed and lashes out.
I have also found the spiritual ego even more fragile. My most recent was a man who is a self-named spiritual teacher, worked with the Bhagwan, has turned to drink and cannot talk with me. This reaction of the spiritual ego is relatively common. I met another spiritual man who was very unhappy, so I told him to follow the path then peace comes with meditation. The next time I met him he came to me and said that he knew far more than me, I saw his ego looking for confrontation and ran away. To this day I have no idea why he could make such a claim but his lack of meditation was making him unhappy. Another politico-spirito was unhappy. He studied “alternative esoteric knowledge”, and enjoyed conspiracy. His contact with me was disturbing him but I didn’t know it. I just talked of path and meditation but we found agreement about the 1%-satrapy. He wanted me to believe him including a belief in aliens I had never met, and one day under the guise of argument there was a psychic attack that shattered me for 2/3 days. He had forced me away. The spiritual field is full of egos of broken glass extremely difficult to navigate. It is now clear to me why. Lack of integration. The grip on spirituality is weak because it is not the whole detached self which is following the paricular spiritual path, it is only a fragmented part, a spiritual ego, a conscious fragmented part which then has to fight off the fragmented shadow through discipline. Such fragmentation is threatened by an integrated authentic path - beingness.
I have become spiritually personal in my style because of weaknesses I have met with orange robes, and Buddhism in general. I am going to be picky about issues I have met in contact with monks but bear in mind that overall I follow Buddhism and consider my teacher to be Ven Bdasa. Monks especially in Thailand see the path in terms of whether a person has taken up robes, Thai people have an almost reverential view of anyone in orange robes. By the very act of putting on robes, in Buddhism a person has found his home. Whilst I support people putting on robes it does not mean that people who have put n robes have found their home, nor does it mean that those who don’t put on robes have not found their home.
Sadly this finding of home is an ego. Many monks adopt the humility that Teal discerningly mocks but it is human nature to be proud (have an ego) of advances on the path that have been made – I am arrogant about the path even though I try to counter this with meditative work on humility. For monks the humility can mask the ego. Some monks adhere to dogma because it is safe, if the Buddha said it no-one will question you as a monk so quite often Buddhist forums are full of what I think of as sutta snap. However the path is concerned with moving beyond the dogma so sutta snap and other protective mechanisms do not enable the path – even though strategies such as the 4NT with the 8-fold path makes for better people. I note there is much learning in the suttas. I stayed in a UK monastery on a number of retreats, as a refuge they are great places, as a source of learning about the suttas they are invaluable, but are they always geared to the path? Are they content with being refuges? Genuine socialism is a compassionate sustainable system but following Marxist analysis does not bring with it compassion necessary for such genuine socialism - go beyond the dogma.
I withdrew from “a Buddhist church”. Through good work an English monk had established a regular meeting in which we met monks and met together. If I were to be judgemental it was a bit social but meeting good people is always good. Two things finished this for me. The monk had encouraged me to take up the teaching of monks – something I wanted to do at the time. We went to the institution and he invited me to see him teach as he knew I was a retired teacher. I agreed with the proviso that it would also be a teacher observation – he readily agreed. Overall the teaching was good but as a professional teacher I noted certain things. I presented them in a report in a non-threatening way, a methodology I had used regularly in school with “lay teachers”. I got no thanks, and in retrospect I see that as a monk he could not accept advice from a lay person.
I gained this understanding from an incident that occurred soon after. There is a phrase “monks live in cloisters”, and it means that, amongst others, because of the courteous behaviour lay people usually give to monks they do not always know the way of the world. Tony Blair had just written his memoirs, and the monk write an article on his website (read by all “the church”) speaking favourably of Blair’s decision-making. I was horrified as then, and now, I consider Blair a war criminal; his criminality is more accepted now than it was then. I commented on the article in a polite tone, and offered to do an appropriate historical analysis of the imperialist situation in Iraq. In his reply it was clear he did not like his position to be questioned, made some offhand comments about me and education, and dismissed future comments by jokingly saying Blair was not on my Xmas card list. I had no wish to confront him, or detract from the way others saw him, but the two incidents together were enough for me to withdraw from the “church”. The website stayed up a number of years but the interchange had been taken down before it was closed.
I consider this monk to be a good person and a devout monk. I consider the work he did beneficial. But there was an ego that placed his teaching ability above the experience of a retired HOD, and his ego allowed him to write an erroneous article in favour of a lying war criminal. This is an institutional as well as personal failing.
I remember an incident at one of the retreats clearly. I enjoy writing and journaling, and the abbot invited us to write about Buddhist themes. One the first theme I write more than 5 pages – just waxing lyrically, and it included discussion of my first time in Bangkok. At that time I was considering living in Thailand and hopeful of a relationship. The beautiful ladies impressed me – including those who were “working” and bringing their partners to the wats. For some reason the theme encouraged in me discussion of this. The length of my discourse effected the rule that discussion of a theme was limited to one page!!! (As a teacher I understand the “marking”). In retrospect I think the abbot saw me as having a fixation about women at the time – monks have to control their sexual interaction so perhaps they don’t welcome discussion. A few years later he and a nun were giving a dhamma talk. For some reason I had to give her something – I can’t remember what, and there was a huge look of fear on the abbot’s face as I came up to them to give it. I think it was concerned with contact, a male does not touch a nun. There are all kinds of rules about sexual contact. Sexual desire in a monastic situation has tremendous disruptive potential – I was later told the biggest cause of disrobing was starting a relationship. Through centring I have just realised that the important thing about your sexual practice is being comfortable with it. In the monastery desire is controlled, but where is the comfort?
Let me reiterate that I am being picky. What I have learnt through Buddhism and staying on retreats is invaluable. But it is legitimate for Teal to be critical of spiritual institutions in a constructive way. I think she is constructive, I wonder whether Ven Bdasa would have said the same; if it came from a man who was a monk it might be more acceptable.
Now to Teal. She is not a Buddhist and there are some differences but they are not significant, I think. When I say Buddhist I always means Buddhism as the Buddha and suttas interpreted by Ven Bdasa as Buddhism is such a broad religion with all its proliferations. Teal is involved with completion and other emotional work, whilst I can see how Ven Bdasa could be seen as incorporating this work there is very little specific teaching on emotions. Ven Bdasa’s practice is described in anapanasati LINK, and within that there is scope for emotional work.
In the Treatise I talked about the 3 tenets:-
There was not much work done on energy and emotion but quite rightly it is most significant in the manual. My emotional work fits in with what Teal talks of but I was only guided by her with the chakra videos, completing the ridgepole fits in with her approach but I did not use what she wrote as a method. This is not an important distinction to me.
I have mentioned times in my life when being on the path has led to confrontation. It has to because the path is wiping away egos which are always trying to survive. Transcending to the path can be a tempestuous process, confronting egos was not a successful strategy. People learn about the oath when they are ready, and an appropriate guide turns up when people are ready. If it is forced in any way it can be counter-productive. When I think back to my upheaval it was a huge change in my life, and I needed the support of the Arts Centre. If a person is not ready and they are confronted, is sink or swim enough? In this video clip a lady attended a seminar in Chicago and was confronted by Teal. Was the Asian lady able to cope? Was she given additional help after? I doubt it. Did she come out of it OK? I don’t know. Was it harsh and possibly dangerous? When younger I would have jumped in and said “sink or swim”, now I ask if it was too harsh? The lady chose to attend, she chose to lay herself open to Teal, but was Teal harsh? To anyone reading this appendix I ask you to be circumspect about how insightful and incisive Teal is. If you had an abusive childhood and seek completion, do you need help and support? My completion process in this book was emotionally intense, and I have done similar before. Please be careful.
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