Saturday, April 12, 2008

Various States of Undress

It might surprise you to learn that teaching satsang for donation and blogging doesn’t pay the rent. I have to occasionally pop back into the real world of work and financial exchange. I’m really hoping the organization and business development work takes off for me, as I enjoy doing it and it seems like a viable way to pay the bills until I win the lottery or inherent money from a wealthy family member I didn’t know existed, but I had huge impact on as a baby. Last week, I hopped back into yester year’s costume and produced a photo shoot. Fun!

It was not a huge production, but it did involve a motor home, two photographers, eight models, two locations, and crew. We were shooting intimate couple scenarios, which essentially means we were shooting couples in their underwear making-out 100 different ways. This was not pornography. Think: generic Cosmo article about how to drive your boy friend wild in bed, and the pictures that represent that.

In one of our pre-production style meetings, our stylist, in recapping our discussion, said, “Various states of undress, right?” Right. I immediately crossed out Intimate Couples on the top of the paper I was holding and wrote: Various States of Undress.

Obviously, in order for the shoot to work, the couples have to seem authentically interested and excited about each other, and they have to be willing to play the game a bit. Needless to say, there is some warming up to do. This is generally easier for the boys than girls. Any normal and adjusted human male is ready to get down at the first flash of the bulb, but girls generally need time, even if they are excellent professionals. This means that a huge part of the day is about developing intimacy and interest among the cast members, slowly building towards liberating nudity.

We never quite got to nudity in this shoot, and we hadn’t planned to. I noticed though, that what was unfolding was becoming a great metaphor for awakening. The process of undressing, peeling off layers, and opening one’s self to another in an intimate situation is as rushed as one’s desire for the other person. Meaning, in awakening, the layers peel as fast as the desire to peel them is present. In a serious macking situation, the clothes, generally, seem to take themselves off.

“Oh my god, we’re naked,” I’ve said many times.

In intense and spontaneous awakening, the clothes fly off, without effort. It might be an effortful and even painful experience, but it’s the only thing one can do, so it takes little effort in initiating and enacting the process. Because it’s the only thing one can do, it’s an effortless process.

In a workshop Tara and I taught in December, I likened the process of awakening to undressing to get into a hot tub. Over the course of the ten-hour workshop, I took the metaphor to all sorts of strange and surprising places, but the major point was: we are already always naked. We are born like that. Suffering and delusion is as simple as believing that we are only our clothes without recognizing that we are always already naked; our work clothes, our home clothes, our date clothes, our spiritual clothes, our parenting clothes, our exercising clothes, (it was actually tee-shirts at the workshop) etc. Awakening is taking off these clothes, recognizing that you are were always already naked, and recognizing that everyone and everything is intrinsically naked. No one is his or her outfit. Everyone is naked. Outfits are for fun.

Sadly, though, most spirituality is about updating the outfit, making it appear more spiritual, developed, natural, connected, and lends to the appearance and pretension of freedom, but not the radical freedom of naked existence. Most spiritual teachers offer a few more accessories or, if you’re lucky, perhaps an outfit change, but not nudity. As you accessorize or change clothes, they tell you how wonderful you look, how good you’re doing, and how special you are. You, in turn, compliment them on how wonderful they look. Everyone goes home happy. All of this is fine, by the way. I don’t have a problem with this. It’s just not going to get the job done.

This is important. Spend a moment with this. Most spiritual teachers simply validate their students, so that their need for validation is reciprocated, and everyone goes home feeling special and validate. I’ve watched this unfold in almost every spiritual community I’ve been a part of since I was 8 years old.

It takes about two minutes of ego-less honesty to see this. If this is your teacher, and you’re serious about freedom, run away as fast as you can. If you experience this in our relationship (if we have one), run away as fast as you can.

I don’t do the validation thing. I do the destruction thing. If you’re serious about waking-up and you come to me, I am going to rip your clothes off faster than intoxicated high schoolers on prom night.

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