Monday, January 23, 2012

Being human

We are not just humans learning to become buddhas, but also buddhas waking up in human form, learning to become fully human. -- John Welwood

Buddhism, where we sit in silence, looking at our own minds, might seem like the most solitary of spiritual practices. But really it's all about relationships. That's what it means to be human. Once, on a weekend retreat, the teacher how many of the people there had come to Buddhist practice after a bad break-up. I was the only one who didn't raise a hand. I had 99 problems, but that wasn't one.

Generally, we come to Buddhism because we realize the truth of suffering. And what shows us suffering better than a broken relationship? Nothing.

The problem with that, says John Welwood, is that we may use Buddhism to assist us in avoiding further relationships (ie attachments). Welwood, a psychotherapist and Buddhist who blends east-west approaches, coined the term "spiritual bypassing" 30 years ago to describe this phenomenon. It means adopting the attitudes of a more spiritually advanced person without doing the work to make the realizations authentic.

In terms of human evolution, non-attachment is an advanced teaching, I'm suggesting that we
need to be able to form satisfying human attachments before genuine non-attachment is
possible. Otherwise, someone suffering from insecure attachment is likely to confuse
non-attachment with avoidant attachment behavior. For avoidant types, attachment is
actually threatening and scary. So healing for avoidant types would involve becoming willing
and ablet to feel their need for human connectedness instead of .spiritually bypassing it. Once
that happens, non-attachment starts to make more sense. --

Welwood in an interview with Tina Fossella

(Avoidant types are those who avoid human attachments because they have had painful

experiences in the past.)

So we sit, and we look at our minds, and we look at the patterns that repeat over and over in our
lives, and we look at whether they are useful. Or skillful. Or accurate. And we go out into the
world with fresh eyes and raw hearts, willing to brave the tenderness of being human.

Tangent: "Being Human" is a series on SyFy on Monday nights, in which a vampire, a werewolf,
and a ghost live together in "normal" society. It's based on a BBC show and the premise,
according to Wikipedia, is that they are "attempting (as much as is possible) to live ordinary
human lives despite the pressures and dangers of their situations. They are constantly
threatened with exposure or persecution, with pressure from other ... creatures, and with
problems caused by their attempts to deal with their own natures."

That pretty much sums it up ... even for us natural beings.

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