Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 6:06 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 6:06 AM

Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
Im in the process of planning some content with the aim of promoting the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and beyond. One of the rough topic categories is "what to learn" which would include things like a plain english guide to various types of meditation that I feel I know enough about to comment on.

An obvious counter point is what NOT to spend time on. i.e. "flakey spiritual practices" aka "the low arts". I have procrastinated over whether "slagging off" other types of practice is a) good for readers, b) good for my own sila and c) good for business (i make cushions and benches, so do I really want to piss off potential customers?) I've come to these tentative conclusions:
  • Yes it's good for people doing their first bit of research into meditation,
  • It wont damage my own sila if I am careful not to hurt individuals doing "flakey spiritual practices" but instead talk more broadly about the distinctions between worthwhile practice and "mucking around". Or maybe just let the omission of such practices speak for itself...
  • It may very well piss off potential customers, but 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Its not like I expect to become rich with my little business after all emoticon


What has really amazed me in the last 6mts or so is the sheer volume of these practices I would categorise as flakey! Once you start looking the entire web is full of them! (im sure many if not most here know this already..) What do I mean by "flakey"? Stuff like "channeling angels" and "5th dimensional divine feminine healing" etc. It seems that there is this whole industry of nonsense "preying" on peoples existential crises, grief, depression and stress. I find it quite appalling, and also sad for the people so wrapped in this junk that they start teaching it to others.

Mental.

I guess there is no real point to this post other than to invite criticism of my own views. If you think any of this stuff has true value I would really appreciate hearing about it. If you have your own experiences with "flakey spiritual practices" I'd love to hear that too!
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 7:06 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 7:06 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 343 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
I sympathize with your view, but I wonder what you hope to accomplish by dividing good practice from bad. I think somewhere there is a description of right speech to the effect that, if something is true but doesn't benefit the listener, the Tathagata is silent. So, why mention it?

Anyway, some of those practices may involve some benefit. I mean, look at some of the fringe-y things awakened people are into on this website. Constricting your anus and drawing sigils?! Stop the madness!

My 2 cents: stick to what you know and be an example. Also, don't undercut your business with ideology. (Keep the change ;)
Ona Kiser, modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 7:17 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 7:17 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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I think it's an interesting subject to think about. So these are just a few ponders, not meant to be criticisms of anything but more of an anthropological exploration...

-how many of the "flakey spiritual practices" could be just as well termed "comfort-seeking practices" - they appeal to people who feel unsafe, unconfident, fearful, alone, etc. They describe methods (of whatever worth) that suggest the person can find comfort, safety, confidence and not-aloneness in a way that is non-threatening, doesn't require significant renunciation or hardship, etc. Like pony rides for children these practices give a sense of doing something bigger and more exciting without much actual danger.

-how many of these practices are aimed at women? what does that say about the accessibility of "hardcore" practices to women? the number of women on DhO or KFD, for example, is miniscule. I would guess the number of men showing up at a "access your inner 5th dimensional inner angel via crystal waving" classes is probably low.

-it is useful to point out to people who are milling around looking for a productive spiritual practice that practices that only offer comfort are, well, comforting. But the real work gets done by moving into territory that makes us uncomfortable, through loss of things we are attached to and so on. So, just like a person can become a jhana junkie and bliss out for 20 years while gaining little insight, a "5th dimensional angel" junkie may find comfort and solace in their practice in a way, but is unlikely to move into deeper territory.

-of course it is quite likely that those who "need" to do some deeper work will eventually stumble upon a practice that will offer that. They may need to start out piddling around reading books on Buddhism for five years before they sit down to meditation; or they may need to diddle around with crystal waving for five years. I wouldn't necessarily disdain the diddling around - it may be the stepping stone some people need to find their way across the river.

Thoughts?
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fivebells , modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 9:19 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 9:19 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 563 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
There is no need to bring these practices up at all, and doing so is just asking for unnecessary conflict. Just talk about the benefits of the practices you will be teaching. That will provide the most benefit to your audience. If someone brings up a specific practice which you happen to have specific reason to believe to be harmful, slag away. Otherwise, steer clear. "I don't know anything about that and as far as I know it's not related to MBSR (or whatever you're teaching)" is almost always a good answer.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 10:06 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 10:06 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Jason:
I sympathize with your view, but I wonder what you hope to accomplish by dividing good practice from bad. I think somewhere there is a description of right speech to the effect that, if something is true but doesn't benefit the listener, the Tathagata is silent. So, why mention it?


I get your point. Though I think it could be argued that steering clear of 'fluff practices' would be to the benefit of the reader...

Ona:
-how many of the "flakey spiritual practices" could be just as well termed "comfort-seeking practices" - they appeal to people who feel unsafe, unconfident, fearful, alone, etc. They describe methods (of whatever worth) that suggest the person can find comfort, safety, confidence and not-aloneness in a way that is non-threatening, doesn't require significant renunciation or hardship, etc. Like pony rides for children these practices give a sense of doing something bigger and more exciting without much actual danger.


I love the term "comfort practice". It's much more diplomatic than "flakey" and a more accurate too. You are right of course.

Ona:
how many of these practices are aimed at women? what does that say about the accessibility of "hardcore" practices to women? the number of women on DhO or KFD, for example, is miniscule. I would guess the number of men showing up at a "access your inner 5th dimensional inner angel via crystal waving" classes is probably low.


From what I have seen, all of them. You're right about the ratio of men:women here and KFD but Im not sure if this place counts as inaccessible? The obvious appeal to men is the technical nature of the discussions. Whereas "finding your inner heart through crystal wiggling" makes my stomach turn just thinking about it. (I'm a tom cat..)

Ona:
-it is useful to point out to people who are milling around looking for a productive spiritual practice that practices that only offer comfort are, well, comforting. But the real work gets done by moving into territory that makes us uncomfortable, through loss of things we are attached to and so on. So, just like a person can become a jhana junkie and bliss out for 20 years while gaining little insight, a "5th dimensional angel" junkie may find comfort and solace in their practice in a way, but is unlikely to move into deeper territory.


I think this is how I will frame my argument. It's makes much sense and is quite inoffensive. Thanks emoticon

Ona:
-of course it is quite likely that those who "need" to do some deeper work will eventually stumble upon a practice that will offer that. They may need to start out piddling around reading books on Buddhism for five years before they sit down to meditation; or they may need to diddle around with crystal waving for five years. I wouldn't necessarily disdain the diddling around - it may be the stepping stone some people need to find their way across the river.


Well I certainly don't disparage Yoga practice for this very reason. Apart from the physical benefits of practice, or the benefits of practicing within a buddhist context, pretty much all the yogic meditation stuff I've seen just looks weak, incomplete, superficial, tacked-on. From experience of talking to many customers over the last year and a half though I've confirmed at least anecdotally that these lightweight practices are indeed often a stepping stone to more serious investigation.

Even in the context of a stepping stone I would find it hard to condone, even indirectly, "channeling angels"...

Great points Ona, thanks so much for sharing them!

Fivebells:
There is no need to bring these practices up at all, and doing so is just asking for unnecessary conflict. Just talk about the benefits of the practices you will be teaching. That will provide the most benefit to your audience. If someone brings up a specific practice which you happen to have specific reason to believe to be harmful, slag away. Otherwise, steer clear. "I don't know anything about that and as far as I know it's not related to MBSR (or whatever you're teaching)" is almost always a good answer.


I agree that naming specific practices would not be helpful. Hell, who'd hae the time to track them all down to start with? Excluding such things from a list of "worthwhile" practices seems the way to go. I am not proposing to actually teach anything by the way. Though Im no doubt pretty advanced compared to your average lay person, I know enough to know I don't know much! Maybe some basic anapana instructions on the site with pointers to more detailed references at most. Im proposing to write a guide, specifically to point people to what I think is worthwhile, and away from what I think is a waste of time, or harmful.
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 11:14 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/29/12 11:14 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Bagpuss The Gnome:
Jason:
I sympathize with your view, but I wonder what you hope to accomplish by dividing good practice from bad. I think somewhere there is a description of right speech to the effect that, if something is true but doesn't benefit the listener, the Tathagata is silent. So, why mention it?


I get your point. Though I think it could be argued that steering clear of 'fluff practices' would be to the benefit of the reader..


...Assuming you have that much sway.
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The Xzanth, modified 9 Years ago at 2/7/13 11:27 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/7/13 10:59 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 71 Join Date: 12/28/12 Recent Posts
The only way to join the flaky world (I hate that term btw) is to fully embrace flaky-ness yourself (I really hate that term). It is also a good rule of thumb when travelling. And a nice flaky thing to teach your students. I taught exactly what you seem to desire to teach, for 10 years. (It was great, good money, and I might go back to that) I liked to called it Introduction to Yoga. I did it with heart, no one was hurt and everyone benefited; as far as I know.

Sanskrit Mantras are lovely. When sung correctly. Especially when people get to know about the symbols behind them. Throw in some sincere dancing and everyone has a wonderful healthful evening. Don't be surprised to see good things come out of it, despite apparently base intentions.

Yeah it is 'appalling' but I suspect some of it is sincere too. It would be presumptuous for me to believe for an instant that because I value, "Sitting very still and paying attention to sensations as they rise and fall within the context of the body" that I am in any shape or form better or worse objectively than someone who "channels 5th dimensional beings" We've read different books but both are dealing with reality as far as we currently understand it.

If I have, by some miracle, fallen upon the recipe to Pain on Earth then Holy Gee! I've found something to share. Until then. I am but a bumbling fool. correction: a stubborn bumbling fool.

Back to your teaching situation. IMO If you actually want to build a class it depends on your intended clientele. There is a way to teach them something useful no manner their initial intention, expectations, current physical, mental health, etc. Teach something you believe in even if it is really basic.

I'm a believer in HardCore Darma. But personally must accept that I am not, at this moment, a realized anything. (am subject to the same aches and pains, fears, and complexes as the rest of the world) It would be flaky for me to try to to teach HardCore Darma. Not until a permanent change occurs. (and only if it is good) Would I feel comfortable teaching this.

As for what I would teach. All the preliminary stuff. Morality. Lifestyle. All the legging that it takes for practice, or for a practice that I know very well and would jive the the target audience. Asana, Basic Pranayama. Informing students that we are not currently undertaking serious introspection just preliminaries.

Don't forget art! People love that stuff... and lot even believe that it is good for us to contemplate it.
Lara D, modified 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 10:31 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 10:31 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Bagpuss The Gnome:


Ona:
how many of these practices are aimed at women? what does that say about the accessibility of "hardcore" practices to women? the number of women on DhO or KFD, for example, is miniscule. I would guess the number of men showing up at a "access your inner 5th dimensional inner angel via crystal waving" classes is probably low.


From what I have seen, all of them. You're right about the ratio of men:women here and KFD but Im not sure if this place counts as inaccessible? The obvious appeal to men is the technical nature of the discussions. Whereas "finding your inner heart through crystal wiggling" makes my stomach turn just thinking about it. (I'm a tom cat..)


This part made me wonder a bit. Why IS is that there aren't more women on this site? Maybe it's the color scheme... ;)

But more seriously, there definitely does seem to be a gender divide. Maybe the term "hardcore" scares women off? Maybe it's that some women have already been through a lot of hardship due to sexism and aren't necessarily interested in practices that seem to promote more pain and hurt? That could get back to the "comfort seeking" hypothesis. I dunno.

It's a bit surprising to me, though, because I've read that women tend to be more naturally religious/spiritual than men (not sure if that's absolutely true). But perhaps even in the context of worship and spiritual practice, women tend to go about it in a different way. Perhaps due to having children or certain other societal factors, getting away for long retreats, going off on spiritual journeys, or doing any form of "extreme" practices are just not feasible.

It's also probably demographic based. The appeal of Buddhism and meditation may be cultural. It also goes without saying that racism is also probably an issue for some folks. Just imagine... you might be fully enlightened and have a wide breadth of knowledge to share with the world, but your chance of having your voice heard is diminished simply by virtue of what color your skin is and how people see you. Personal transformation can only get you so far in a dysfunctional world.

Then again, these are some of the ills that spiritual practice tries to fix. Societal changes are simply not gonna be possible until we have a significant shift in our perspective. Here's hoping that we're slowly on our way!
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The Xzanth, modified 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 12:45 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 12:45 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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For better or worse we are conditioned at least in part by accepted gender roles. I can't imagine being a dark night primary care giver.
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Jake , modified 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 2:15 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 2:14 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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The Xzanth:
For better or worse we are conditioned at least in part by accepted gender roles. I can't imagine being a dark night primary care giver.


Actually I've found it kind of nice and good for my practice, applying the same lessons that were obvious interpersonally between my infant and myself to myself and myself emoticon
This Good Self, modified 9 Years ago at 2/9/13 2:28 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/8/13 8:23 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Bagpuss, channeling angels could be quite legitimate form of spiritual practice for those able to access high jhana states. And if your stomach turns at the mere thought of any heart-centered approach, that probably means your heart is completely closed off (and vulnerable).

I understand what you're saying about useful and useless teachings, but the part of your mind that wants to separate legitimate from flakey, the proper from the improper, the technical from the comforting.... that's the ego wanting to assert itself. I know this because I do it myself. Being right gives me a 'quick and dirty' ego boost, whereas letting go of my opinion, while initially a bit difficult, is longer lasting and gives more peace. There's no peace with an ego boost..

With my technical hardcore approach - I AM RIGHT.
With their flakey, softcore crystal and purple robe approach - THEY ARE WRONG

Duality and separation has been created by the mind. And I am better than them.

edited +
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The Xzanth, modified 9 Years ago at 2/9/13 5:17 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/9/13 5:15 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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I did 3 years at a New age holistic healing school where I studied everything from nutrition to vibrational medicine to developing one's intuition. I met many gifted psychics (mostly of the medical diagnosis type... very accurate) and developed my own intuitive abilities (they considered me a gifted psychic but in my opinion I'm not that great). I studied cranio-sacral therapy and was quite impressed. I practiced sending and receiving energy through the hands. I was initiated into Reiki (personally never observed anything at all with this healing modality but others had different experiences) and a whole host of other treatments and therapies. I studied my dreams from a Jungian perspective. In short it was a great time and a good place to begin meditating.

I did not find anything flaky while I was there.

Now the scams on the internet... that's a while different ball game.

Oh... I worked as a phone psychic for a while. I quit because I kept sensing that everyone calling me had financial problems not easily solved with 3.99$/minute psychics. lol
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 7:19 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 7:18 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Bagpuss, don't do it! You're going "Plastic Bag" Vortex (11:45).

Seriously, cosmos (samsara) is vast. Who would say what form exists and does not exist in this? In my opinion, this line of thinking-- what is, what is not, what is flaky, what is worthy-- senselessly snags a person for too long (oh, yeah, that's a Plastic Bag ref., buddy!).
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Fitter Stoke, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 7:53 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 7:45 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Both of my dharma teachers have been women. One woman guided me through the first two paths, and another guided me through the remaining two. If I didn't post here, I wouldn't even know there were men doing this besides me.

Maybe women have better things to do than post on DhO?

More serious thought: Women seem to be expected to take up the burden of interconnectedness, being nice, that sort of thing. This is especially burdensome in geeky or technical fields, where the men are often even more socially clueless than elsewhere. Also, the way we practice awakening is very much as a solo sport. I could see how that might attract more men than women.

I still think it's more a feature of this particular online community than the institution as a whole, though.
Lara D, modified 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 12:39 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 12:39 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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Fitter Stoke:
Both of my dharma teachers have been women. One woman guided me through the first two paths, and another guided me through the remaining two. If I didn't post here, I wouldn't even know there were men doing this besides me.

Maybe women have better things to do than post on DhO?

More serious thought: Women seem to be expected to take up the burden of interconnectedness, being nice, that sort of thing. This is especially burdensome in geeky or technical fields, where the men are often even more socially clueless than elsewhere. Also, the way we practice awakening is very much as a solo sport. I could see how that might attract more men than women.

I still think it's more a feature of this particular online community than the institution as a whole, though.

You've definitely brought up some good points. I think I may have been generalizing too much in my last post, but I guess the idea that I was trying to get at is this:

How does someone's personality and background experience effect the way that they go spiritual practices?

It's a huge topic, I know, and it could go way beyond just Buddhism.

In regards to the women on DhO bit, it could be that there -are- more women, but they just aren't posting. Or, for whatever reason, they haven't found or sought out this community... in which case it probably is related to the whole solo vs team sport mentality. It's not really possible to know precisely unless we can actually seek them out and ask.

In regard to the bit about social connectedness and the like: yes, you are probably on to something there. I used to post on an autism forum and there was a similar discussion there once about women, empathy, and social skills. Very interesting stuff. Notably, the women tended to go undiagnosed for longer and they also tended to be perceived much differently despite identical symptoms. Behavior that is considered normal in males, like preferring alone-time or having strong hobbies or interests, was considered abnormal or unfeminine. It could be that these same social pressures are one component of why women tend to be more "group" oriented or more likely to take up the "be nice to everyone" mentality. I know I do it to varying degrees. But this is all just speculation...

I guess in the long run it doesn't really matter. emoticon All roads lead to the same destination, if the intent and dedication are there.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 1:44 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 1:44 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
It's worth pointing out that this is quite an old thread. It was recently resurrected by Xzanth.

After talking about it the first time round I completely dropped this idea for content.

On the subject of women and Dhamma.. On all but one of the retreats I have done so far the women outnumbered the men quite significantly. This place doesn't seem particularly representative, most likely due to it's geeky nature as pointed out by others above.
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The Xzanth, modified 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 7:58 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 7:58 AM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

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No one had tried to answer your question. We were all mostly just reacting to your choice (most likely sarcastic) of the word 'flaky'.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 2:46 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 2:46 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
Yeh, no worries Xzanth, and thanks. The second life of this thread has been just as good as the 1st emoticon
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The Xzanth, modified 9 Years ago at 2/18/13 1:37 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/18/13 1:37 PM

RE: Flakey Spiritual Practices

Posts: 71 Join Date: 12/28/12 Recent Posts
...yeah I've been all kinds of 'flaky' in the past... but I must have also been doing some real work cause all kinds of phenomena were occurring. I'm not much into fireworks today... looking for something a little more life changing than just kewl and sparkly.

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