“To Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.”
- Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
grok: understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with; to empathise or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.
- Oxford English Dictionary
Well, it’s been quite a few weeks, to say the least. As I was making my tea this morning and reviewing the latest very interesting blogs, commentaries, emails, text messages and voicemails I have received I was aware that I felt quite weary and a bit hungover. I haven’t had any alcohol to drink in a while so I am assuming I have some undigested emotions and thoughts still circulating in my system. Writing is always good therapy, so here I sit, once again, to help the digestion and assimilation process.
I realized today that I have been holding (or attempting to hold) a certain kind of space around “The Anusara Situation” since Darren and I resigned and that effort has been both liberating and tiring. I think the tiring part comes from how personal it all feels to me and the effort required to sustain a sense of detachment when other people express how personal it feels to them. I am not someone who always has that sense of “thanks for sharing your truth” as a first reaction, especially when someone’s truth is in response or reaction to mine. I have a big psychological pattern of feeling different, misunderstood and accused. Being neutral and equanimous in the midst of emotionally-laden discussion does not come naturally to me.
So I have to practice that. A lot. I practice spaciousness in relationship more than I practice any back bend and more than I observe any dietary practice. Sometimes, it comes easily. Sometimes, not so much. Sometimes I am able to receive the other’s experience with gracious spaciousness. Other times, not at all. Most days, I am somewhere in the middle- I have what I recognize to be a patterned “first thought” and I am able to execute a more skillful and conscious second thought and outer action. Many times. Obviously, not always.
Because here is the thing- I value, perhaps more than I value anything else, in fact, even more than my opinions, which are many, as we know--honest self-expression. I value that we, as people need to know our truth and to express it directly and authentically. And I believe that an important circuit gets completed when that truth is received and heard by someone else. A friend of mine is a child development specialist and teaches parenting seminars. She told me that her mentor talks about how there are levels of intimacy between parent and child and the deepest level of intimacy is not love. The deepest level of intimacy is understanding someone else and truly seeing them, receiving them and meeting them where they are. The deepest intimacy is when we, in Robert Heinlen’s language, “grok” someone or when we are “grokked” by another.
So, all of you out there who do not like science-fiction, I apologize for the Stranger in Strange Land reference, I really do. But it occurs to me that, in some ways, that is exactly the situation we find ourselves in. In a way, this situation has made us strangers in a strange land. For some, there is relief as years of secrets they have kept are hitting the light of day. For some there is deep sadness as yet another dream fades. Others are feeling shock, outrage, anger, vengeful, and even spiteful as feelings of betrayal lead the way. It is a complicated situation that involves spirituality, ethics, business, social connections, personal loyalty issues, professional alliances, financial realities, and so on.
Some folks are coping by withdrawing. Some are coping by making jokes. Some are writing a lot. Some are reading a lot. Some people want facts. Others are reassured by feelings and insight and personal testimony. Some folks are yelling. Some are crying. Some are explaining. Some people, I would bet, are drinking a lot. Some are practicing asana a lot. (I personally have been going to two Bikram yoga classes a day just to get to a place of quiet. When all else seems uncertain in life, twenty-six poses done in the same order, taught with the same words, in the same hot room is oddly comforting.) But my point is that regardless of how we are coping and regardless of what the quality of our personal experience is, we are in a new world.
The cool thing is that while we may be in a strange land, we are not strangers to each other, although as the vestiges of now-outdated personality identifications are being swept aside, we may discover that we are more multi-dimensional than we once knew. We may find that the structures that defined us, those ideals, assumptions and associations that once provided tools for expansion, had hidden within them seeds of limitation, for that is often how it works. And so we have to grow. Life marches onward. The irrepressible Force of Grace beckons us - sometimes gently and sometimes brutally- to know who we really are, not just who we think we are. And regardless of circumstance, I also think that Grace is calling us to know each other more fully as well. Sometimes that means that you will see that I am more compassionate than I appear on the surface. I had student once say, “You are like an M&M, Christina- hard on the outside, sweeter inside.” Sometimes you may come face to face with the fact I am also opinionated, judgmental, ambitious, sarcastic and all the rest.
The thing is for me to “grok” you and for me to have the fundamentally healing experience of being “grokked” by you, it all has to be there- warts and all. Whether someone “stays in Anusara and works for change in the system” or “goes and creates something different outside the system" is not the issue, in my opinion. The issue for me is, as always, am I practicing yoga? And what, given all that I know and feel and intuit, provides me with the best situation in which to practice the yoga of my heart?
Of course, that begs the question of, “What does it mean to practice yoga?” Without taking up to much more time on this post, I am proposing that for me, in the midst of this, my primary internal practice has been what I already mentioned- practicing spaciousness in the midst of heightened emotions, volatile feelings, and this attempt to “grok” others and to allow myself to be “grokked.” I am practicing reading these blogs, comments, postings in all their glory with a keen eye on how they come into my emotional body and what impulses follow.For instance,I read some things and I feel vindicated. I read others and I want to explain. I read others and I want to shout, “Shut the f*&% up.” I read others and I want to cry. You get my point.
So, I keep going. I watch me wanting to do those things. I watch me chiming in- at times with clarity and at times with opinion and at times with sarcasm, etc. I watch my conditioned-self feel misunderstood, feel guilty, feel sad, feel self-righteous, feel apart from, feel proud, feel happy, etc. And, perhaps more importantly, I watch for another thread that lives beneath but is not separate from those first responses. There is a thread of wisdom, of discernment, I believe, that the yoga is aiming us toward. It has a flavor, a texture, a presence that is unique to it and when I glimpse it I get the “eye in the storm” feeling.
This storm is far from over, but it is a great field for watching oneself. I will write more soon. This is not intended as any complete kind of commentary. There is lots of grey area, obviously.