Yesterday, someone was so triggered in my presence that they called me a “spiritual sham”, and angrily claimed that they were “not the only one” to think this.
I must say it is pretty unusual at this point on my path to attract such volatile insult…. And I must confess that at first it stung my ears and my heart, and I felt defenses rise, in being someone who cares deeply about integrity, and about truth, and about embodying love with authenticity, accessibility, ruthless honesty and realness, about the courage it takes to truly walk my talk in this world.
And then, later, as I examined it, my heart less inflamed, I silently inquired: “what part of me is attached to not being seen as a ‘sham’?”….”what part of me still deeply cares what others think, how they perceive me, and is hurt by the thought of being misunderstood, or judged, or criticized for boldly sharing my own heart?”
I remembered Byron Katie’s invaluable work around projection, inviting us to fully unwind and unravel our own projections, and those of others onto us, to find what is true inside it all; to find the place of radically taking responsibility and ownership for it all. I remembered my spiritual mother Gangaji saying to me so many years ago “People will love you, Jesua, and people will hate you, and you must learn to not take on either one.”
And I thought about my recent experiment of consciously walking head-first into the field of a stranger’s silent, palpable, wrathful judgment of me, instead of scurrying in the opposite direction. And how, just as an experiment, I sat down inside it next to her, feeling her sense of threatened hatred about my physical appearance, about what my beauty meant in her inner world. And how I just decided to be with her in it, feeling the waves of her projection and judgment intensify, entering my body, as I received without resistance the ‘negative’ energy, until it dissolved. And how she noticeably softened, emptied, and I stood and walked away, unscathed, both of us transformed by this willingness to not resist what comes towards us.
I looked up the definition of Sham. It reads “something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.“
And innocently, openly, I considered: what could be true in this? What do I ‘purport’ myself to be that I am not? I suppose there are moments walking through the world, when my heart is actually aching or grieving in some way, and it is skillful to not be entirely transparent in this, while, for example, paying for my groceries. Do I put on “a happy face”? No~ I’m actually pretty terrible at pretending; most of the time my children report that I am transparent to a fault.
Do I ‘purport’ myself to be a perfect mother? Oh please, dear God, I hope not! I am so far from perfect, my children would quickly boldly attest to this, right alongside their loyal adoration. I make mistakes all the time as a mother. Truly: I find parenting young humans to be the steepest, most humbling spiritual path on the planet.
Do I ‘purport’ myself to be more awake or evolved or resolved or together than I am? I don’t think so, do I? I am a whole being, a human being, and as such always learning, evolving, growing through my edges, just like all of us. And as such I experience such a diverse spectrum of truth: dark and light, pleasant and unpleasant. And I am blessed to have directly realized, a very long time ago, the unmoving ever-present ground of being from which it all arises. The deepest truth of my being is an unmoving awareness of what never comes and goes. And the full spectrum of human experience certainly comes and goes from that, in me.
I guess the interesting thing is the combination of these two words: “spiritual sham.” What do we mean by ‘spiritual’? What is ‘Spirit’? What does ‘Spirit’ not include?
If the true meaning of ‘Spiritual’ were to mean in opposition of humanness, of reactivity, of the presence or arising of anger, trigger, or fear, or sorrow, or boundaries…then Yes, I could be called a “spiritual sham”, as in my humanness I admit everything still arises in moments: anger, fear, frustration, loneliness, grief. If “spiritual” was exclusive, and certain aspects of humanness were not included, then it’s true: I’m a guilty sham.
But what feels most true to me is that “spiritual” is not a look, it’s not a way, it doesn’t wear particular clothes or only say certain words or refrain from certain human activities or emotions. I once looked into some of the most beautiful, luminous eyes of Love I had ever seen, of a woman who was serving in the form of a toll booth attendant, and as I handed her the $5 and she saw me see her, astonished by her light, she winked at me from the heart of God. There are secret ‘spiritual’ agents, everywhere.
I heard of a guru once who lived in a tree and despised his devotees, angrily throwing fruit at the people who tried to come and worship him! Great spiritual teachers, sharing invaluable wisdom and insight who were also chain-smokers or alcoholics. Or the great sage Ramana Maharshi, when people would come to him where he lived at the foot of the great mountain Arunachala, and would tell him the painful stories of their lives…he would weep! He would weep with them, sobbing for all they had suffered. He had not transcended his own empathy, his own deep human feelings.
All is included in “spirit.” Spirit is Life. Am I a Life sham? I must be, in some way, in being all. Sham gets to be included too, I suppose, in this that I am. Can I be generous enough, to include sham in my heart’s knowing of myself? Yes. But closer than this, deeper and truer than this: I know that I am nothing at all. And as nothing, I am love; fierce love, true love, love in all forms and all directions.