A number of years ago, a close friend of mine was dating a man in the “spiritual community.” I have to admit, the first time I met him I got a bad vibe. He seemed arrogant and pretentious, and I was worried for my friend. But as you do in those cases, I kept my mouth shut and hoped for the best. Telling your friend you don’t dig the guy she’s mooning over is a recipe for trouble, and a great way to alienate someone who’s probably going to need to lean on you in the not too distant future. Plus, it was only a dinner, and I was hoping I was wrong. Maybe he’d been nervous, or didn’t do well in social situations. Maybe there was a whole side of him she was seeing that I couldn’t have glimpsed in such a short meeting.
About six months later, he went to an ashram. She called me a few times from Chicago, saying she had an intuition that something was off. He happened to be passing through L.A. on his way back home, and she asked me to have lunch with him, which I agreed to do. At lunch, he told me he had “connected” with a woman at the ashram, and had a deep, spiritual experience. When I asked him if he meant he’d had sex with her, he laughed and said, “Yes, if you need to be so crass about it.” When I asked him how he thought my friend was going to feel, given that they were in a monogamous relationship, he said he was a “mysterious and enigmatic creature”, and that he’d had to “honor the truth of what he was feeling.”
This was not, and is not, the only time I’ve encountered this kind of thinking amongst those who talk about being on “the path”, and it’s one of the things that gets me fired up. “Honoring your truth” doesn’t mean you’re justified in doing anything you want, it means you acknowledge what you’re feeling and communicate it when necessary. You sit with the feelings without acting on them, especially if doing so will hurt other people. If it turns out your feelings are an expression of a deeper truth, then you make changes so that you’re free to act on what’s pulling you, whether it’s another person, a new job, or a different way of being, but you act with compassion and consciousness. Sometimes it means you understand it’s just not something worth doing, that the cost will be too great.
Sitting with your feelings without acting on them is a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity. It’s a recognition that you are not your feelings, that feelings are not facts, or as the beautiful Pema Chodron puts it, “You are the sky; everything else is just the weather.” Lots of emotions feel overpowering, especially rage, jealousy, lust and despair. But you don’t have to be ruled by those feelings, and you really can’t be if you’re trying to live your life in a conscious way. I get sad about this, because I think many people who are seeking some healing run into this kind of thinking and either follow it, or are turned off by it (as am I). It’s twisting a beautiful practice into something ugly, and it’s a good reminder to be discerning about where you look for healing and guidance if you need some, and not to think one stinky apple ruins all the cider! Sending you a ton of love, as always, Ally Hamilton