Guruphiliac: Speaking On The Squat

Monday, June 15, 2009

Speaking On The Squat

File under: Gurubusting and The Siddhi of PR

Tonight, our pal Doug Rushkoff had us on this radio show. Check it out here.

At one point in the interview, we take a stand against the "pathologization of thought" as represented by the ideas of Eckhart Tolle. For those who care, we're not denying the existence of pathological thinking, we are simply pointing out that the act of thinking itself does not impede the flow of awareness; it's attachment to thought that subverts.

At any rate, thanks to Dougji for the opportunity to spread the Gp gospel a bit.

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At 6/15/2009 9:46 PM, Anonymous Duff said...

Great--glad I can check out the recorded show. And glad to hear that our Twitter conversation re: Tolle made it onto the airwaves.

I'm appreciating your blog today too. Never really checked it out before, but now I'm a subscriber. So very important to keep a critical eye on the gurus as part of a balanced and sane spirituality.

At 6/15/2009 9:51 PM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

Good to have you, Duff.

I've sort of been neglecting the blog. I used to scrape things off Google, but it's always the same three notes. I was hoping I'd have an extensive network of inside informers by now, but that's not how it's played out.

At 6/16/2009 2:54 PM, Anonymous ellen said...

I liked the "cut and paste" analogy regarding direction, it's more helpful than trying to shoehorn yourself into someone else's idea of 'the path'.

At 6/16/2009 3:52 PM, Blogger stuartresnick said...

It's interesting to stop all thinking sometimes. It makes it clear that thoughts come and go. Then, when thoughts appear and disappear, it's no problem; there's no delusion that the passing thoughts define "me."

It's like... if you wore the same shirt all the time, never taking it off, you might fall into the delusion that the shirt was part of your body. Take off the shirt even one time, and it's clear that the shirt isn't attached to the body. After that, you can wear this shirt, that shirt, or no shirt according to the situation, and there's no problem.


At 6/16/2009 3:52 PM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

I liked the "cut and paste" analog

It's pretty much what everyone is doing anyway. It's just that some sample from the same data set, and some sample from many data sets.

At 6/16/2009 6:36 PM, Anonymous ellen said...

'It's interesting to stop all thinking sometimes.'

My understanding of the discussion was that Tolle appears to be labelling thoughts/thinking as undesirables. Given his general, inexperienced audience, not a very helpful starting point.

I tried to stop thought by will until I gave up in exhaustion--it can't be done by willing.
Giving up on the willing allows thoughts to subside naturally--easy to say, not easy to do.

Easier to do, maybe, if thinking/ thoughts were not labelled undesirables in the first place?

At 6/17/2009 2:29 PM, Blogger stuartresnick said...

ellen said...
Tolle appears to be labelling thoughts/thinking as undesirables. Given his general, inexperienced audience, not a very helpful starting point.

Thinking can lie at the root of our suffering. Thinking can also be used to find ways to help people. It's not good or bad in itself.

Inexperienced people may have suffering, and try to deal with it entirely by changing other people or the outside situation. It may never occur to them to examine their own thoughts, to understand how they may be creating suffering by clinging to particular ideas.

If Tolle says, "Thinking is no good!" I can imagine it could direct some people to at least pay attention to their thoughts, perhaps more than they ever had before. Recognizing the power of thought may be incredibly useful.

Teachings are like tools or medicines. It's not that they're good or bad in themselves, but rather that they may be handy in fixing a particular type of mind-created suffering.

Even though Tolle's teaching isn't anything that I'd use personally, it's fine that it's out there, since for some people, it may be just the thing to help them start directing attention to the power of their own thinking.

For people who don't need or want Tolle's particular medicine, there are fortunately lots and lots of other medicines available. For people who aren't attached to thinking, then no medicine is necessary.


At 6/17/2009 4:42 PM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

As one who has been beset by obsessive, self-destructive thinking, I can say that it sucks. Demonizing it only cemented it in place.

Instead of saying which thoughts are "wrong" and then expecting people to excise them from the mind, Tolle should be teaching simple mindfulness, which doesn't judge content. It's the judging of the content that causes so much pain. By suddenly hearing its bad from a spiritual authority figure, folks are just going to have that much more shame about it.

But by simply watching and noting, the underlying mechanism eventually unravels much more quickly and easily.

Thoughts are good or bad relative to who's having them. The real truth is that there's nobody having them, leaving these distinctions just as empty.

At 6/17/2009 4:50 PM, Anonymous ellen said...

'Inexperienced people may have suffering, and try to deal with it entirely by changing other people or the outside situation.'

Inexperienced, suffering people may also try changing their own thoughts if those thoughts are labelled undesirables by an influential figure who supposedly knows what he is talking about.

'Destroying the ego'- a poorly translated and much misunderstood concept- is still a much touted meditation goal taught and sought by many.

Thoughts and the empirical notion of self need to be validated and accepted before identification with those concepts can be safely relinquished. Invalidating an already shaky sense of the empirical self can only compound psychological problems.

A good example is the best teacher. Tolle seems to me an example that it would be wise not to emulate.

Tolle seems to have come through his 'enlightenment' experience/psychotic break as a reasonably functional person but peddling that as the way to go for his followers-- who may not be so lucky-- is irresponsible.

India is full of holy fools who have not come through such an experience with much functional ability.
Seeking 'enlightenment' has long been recognised as a risky undertaking. Responsible teachers make the risks explicit and constantly monitor and test the students abilities. In return, the student is expected to be very picky with regard to a suitable teacher.

Some teachers are just bad teachers.

There is an implicit responsibility, a duty of care if you will, when a teacher--the one in the power position--undertakes to teach a student. The student is submitting--a surrendering of power-- to the presumed greater knowledge and authority of the teacher.
There are responsibilities on both sides but the main burden of responsibility is on the teacher since the teacher holds the power in the relationship.

Attempts to avoid this empirical responsibilty by claiming a non-dual exemption is a manipulative con designed to exploit and a con much loved and used by flim-flam gurus everywhere.

Tolle is a good teacher inasmuch as he is a good example of what to avoid.

At 6/30/2009 5:06 PM, Anonymous Bruce Morgen said...

Finally got around to giving the show a listen -- good job, sensible and enjoyable as usual.

Much love -- Bruce


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