Today we are in Bilbao leading a course called Adios a la Culpa which means "Goodbye to Guilt" but which carries (in Spanish) an undertone of giving the guilt to God since goodbye in Spanish is adios which is "to God". We are staying in an old monastic building in the city of Bilbao.
- reflecting on yesterday’s events in Paris we can see how tit-for-tat retaliations can go on in a way that makes it almost impossible to unravel the original fault, responsibility or mistake.
- hatred does not cease with hatred, hatred ceases with non-hatred, but such restraint can seem very difficult to do in the heat of the situation.
- does the guilt belong with God as creator who made things this way?
- The Catholic culture imbues people with a feeling of guilt
- Guilt is something that one feels in the body as well as something that tortures the mind
- Sometimes one feels guilt even though one had no responsibility objectively. An instance is, perhaps, from the life of Buddha in that his birth occasioned the death of his mother.
- Sometimes the sense of guilt is productive and useful motivating reform
- We all have situations past or present in which we have experienced the feeling of guilt and these are not easdy to talk about
- When we reflect on guilt feelings and situations it is often as though there is a block that is difficult to get through
- We are aware of the Buddhist idea of letting go, but how do you do it?
- How is one to manage the powerful feelings of guilt experienced by many clients?
- When is the guilt feeling too much - sometimes it becomes disabling.
- One can feel guilty simply for being different from the people around one. This is not guilt for any particular act, but a free floating guilt that is a background to life.
- Many guilt feelings arise in a family context: children toward parents and vice versa, marriage partners toward one another. Sometimes such feelings are played upon or amplified by the continuing dynamic in the relationship
- The whole subject is tender and difficult to address and often there is a natural resistance to going into detail.
EVENTS IN THE NEWS: Terror & Tonglan
While we were preparing to go into the course this morning we started to receive the news of the terrible attacks in Paris yesterday and the ensuing chaos and pain. Lama Wangmo, wife of Cedric Lemery, member of this network, has posted a prayer, in French, about using the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen in response to the feelings that arise now: http://racinesdelapresence.com/reseau/respirer-dans-la-souffrance-e...
Differences between monotheistic & Buddhist (especially Far East Buddhism) culture:
- the idea of error rather than sin.
- easier to accept that we all make errors than that we are all sinners.
- sin refers to judgement day whereas error merely leads to particular proportionate consequences in the natural order of things.
- the idea of facing an ultimate judgement - saved or damned - is momentous and causes fear which in turn can lead to repression
Rules and commandments often amount to instructions to not be what one is. Humans are destructive, deceptive animals. It is not inhuman to do destructive things or to cheat - humans have been doing such things since time immemorial. Our religion has tended to tell us that whenever we find anything sinful in us we must immediately and totally root it out. This means that we are required to look as though we have done so and this in turn leads us to hide our deeper nature.
In therapy, the task includes examining and exploring our deeper nature - the terrorist within. The therapist, therefore, has to create the kind of ambiance within which such an exploration is possible. This means receiving the client’s confession in a way that is kindly, objective and matter of fact. Such a manner invites the client to be objective too. Rather than thinking what is good and what bad, one simply examines the evidence of what is true. in order to provide such an ambiance, the therapist needs modesty and humility about himself. Unless he is willing to investigate his own shadow he is unlikely to be able to help the client to do likewise.
Such an objective exploration leads one to an understanding of universal human nature and such an understanding gives rise to fellow-feeling (compassion) as we realise that we are all in the same boat.
The therapist is in a privileged position in that the many clients each hold up a mirror for him or her. The therapist is a mirror for the client and the client is a mirror for the therapist. The therapist having looked into so many such mirrors gains a confidence in the process of exploration.
Investigating one’s own real nature is not easy. In Buddhism, the occurrence of dukkha may provide a doorway.
We looked briefly at alternative ways of interpreting the Four Truths. Should we take the eightfold path as a set of commandments?
Does anybody believe that he himself or she herself is being sinful or wicked at the time? If we do something, we do it, generally speaking, because at the time it seems like the best or necessary thing to do. Terrorists believe they are serving a high purpose. Those who burnt people at the stake believed that they were preserving God’s religion and civilised life. Similarly, in the small things of daily life, we generally feel justified even when we know that we are hurting people.
There is a difference between conventional rules or laws on the one hand and the sense of morality on the other. Rules are sometimes immoral. Is it immoral for starving people to steal bread? Is it an issue of morality when one parks one’s car in a no parking zone or is it simply a question of social administration? When is the feeling of guilt a real sense of having done wrong and when is it rather a fear of being found out breaking a social convention?
We did counselling and communication exercises. A theme was the question of how to communicate without creating or sustaining a culture of guilt. Frequently, rapport is established between people by agreeing to blame a third party and/or by sharing and affirming prejudices and opinions. Such opinionatedness is made up of fixed judgements and these judgements imply or dispense blame and guilt. In counselling, the therapist seeks to communicate with the client in a manner that is both deeply honest yet free from such judgementalism. This goes against a lot of social conditioning and so is not easy to learn.
Another theme was the difference between counselling and conversation between friends. One might have a friend who is capable of taking communication to the same depth as should happen in counselling, but frequently what happens is that friends implicitly agree and settle for a level of communication that is not too threatening to either of them. Each senses where the other’s limit is and thus arise no-go areas. Such limits may be kindly meant. Perhaps the communication goes to a point beyond which one party might be distressed and the other then backs off or offers comfort, but this is substantially a means of preventing either party from going deeper. In counselling, however, the aim is to go through and beyond such limits, but to do so without generating more guilt.
The limits that we impose on communication are closely related to the way we handle our own sense of culpability. What we cannot face in ourselves we project onto others.
We cannot “get rid of our guilt” by something equivalent to taking a pill. We have to explore deeply our real nature and come to terms with it and thus discover that it really is essentially the same nature as everybody else.