Updated: Jun 23, 2022
In one of Holger Hubbs’s "Spiritual Concession" Zoom meetings, someone suggested that the only reason to be there was to solve our problems. It seemed that he couldn’t understand why anyone would come to the meetings and be silent, not participate, not air out an issue in their life. (This is a summary to the best of my memory; it may not exactly reflect the speaker’s perspective.)
As I thought through this topic, I could see two issues: first, do we really solve our problems by discussing them? And second, is that the only reason for attending the meetings?
I’m not sure of the answer to the first question. I remember going to a retreat in a remote mountain area in New Mexico when I was in my 30s. It was led by some guy who had written a book about overcoming childhood trauma (which I assume we all have to varying degrees). His perspective was that we had these traumatic experiences in a cultural setting, in our relationships with people, and it was only through relationships, or cultural interaction, that we could resolve them. He said you could not overcome these issues by dropping out, rejecting society.
I think this is a viewpoint among some in the psychology community. Social constructionists seem to believe that we are really made of our language and beliefs we gained from our culture. Piaget’s and Lev Vygotsky’s child psychology theories seem based on that. (I’m no expert, though I studied this when I studied rhetoric.) The philosopher Wittgenstein claimed, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
I think that perspective is a materialist view: We are made of our culture and our language. “Consciousness” evolves from culture and language; without them, there is no human awareness. We don’t exist until we are shaped by our culture. Of course, as non-dualists, that’s not how we experience reality. When we are aware, consciousness comes first, and it’s the origin of all we are.
Over the years, I’ve gone through therapy a few times, talked about my problems. I’ve talked about my problems with friends. But mostly, I’ve avoided social groups, including churches. I’ve adhered to the adage of the spiritual teacher Groucho Marx, who said, “I wouldn’t belong to any group that would have me as a member.” But generally, over my 74 years, I’ve never solved my social or personal problems by discussing them. Of course, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. And I certainly don’t want to dismiss therapy. Rupert sometimes recommends it for dealing with trauma.
Personally, my separate self perceives plenty of problems, plenty of issues to overcome. I never felt I had a clear path to dealing with those issues until I began to listen to Rupert’s videos and attend his Webinars. Before that, all my efforts were muddled. I was tied in many psychological knots, and thinking and talking never really untangled those knots. The non-dual experience has not untied them: It is helping me cut the cord from my Self to my past, where the knots reside.
So why do I go to the “Friends of Rupert” Zoom meetings? I’m not entirely certain. I don’t attend to solve “my problems” (or what appear as problems). And I don’t speak very much. When I’m in groups, there are often too many “mirrors” swirling around (reflections from too many people) and too many thoughts bouncing around. My thoughts get tangled up, or disorganized. Writing works better for me. However, I read this passage in Nisargadatta the other day:
Questioner: A friend of mine used to have horrible dreams night after night. Going to sleep would terrorize him. Nothing could help him.
Nisargadatta: Company of the truly good (satsang) would help him.
I thought, “That’s one reason I go to those meetings. This is the closest thing I may ever have to a Sangha.” Also, I sort of long for the experience of belonging I had at the Garrison retreat, though I know that any desire to repeat something is counterproductive.
I generally listen, watch my reactions, observe my thoughts and feelings. I often try to practice “witnessing,” as Nisargadatta recommends. Sometimes, I’ll have an urge to speak. I often ask myself, “Am I reacting to something? Do I want to be noticed or recognized? Am I speaking from true awareness?” By that time, the conversation has typically moved on. I’m not as much at ease, not flowing in and out of the interaction, as many are. I admire those who speak clearly from the heart, or from the true self. I observe my judgements of some people. I try to feel connected, even in silence. And I do feel connected to many people.
Someone said, “There’s a difference between the silence of ignorance and the silence of knowledge or awareness.” I would agree. Of course, there is also the sound of awareness and the noise of ignorance. But in our meetings, I mostly experience the silence of knowledge and sounds of awareness. That helps me in my effort to stay fully present during the week. That’s why I attend.