Feeding your Daemons III - Lesson on Heart of Self-Compassion
One finds the pathways to teachings one needs in different places. They do appear as we are ready to receive, and in retrospect, they are often repetitive of themes and topics we are drawn to.
About two decades ago I was introduced first to the practice of Tao Shiatsu by one of the Shiatsu therapist friends, Alex Pereklita, who went on to become a prominent figure in Canada's Tao Shiatsu community. Tao Shiatsu, developed by Master Ryokyu Endo, a Buddhist priest, and a pioneering voice in Shiatsu therapy, revolutionized the classical approach to the body's meridian system by integrating the views of the impact of contemporary lifestyle on body energy systems. The extended system introduced, named “Ki body”, includes the spiritual dimension of system organs to create a better opportunity for influencing the subconscious mind and "treat patients with utmost faith in the Tao and power of the Heart... By healing of one person, the healing of all beings will be positively influenced."
Despite the limits of my explanation of how the "Ki body" system is intended to work, the practice of achieving the ideal unification of the mind and heart required to be successful with this practice is extremely difficult. In addition to theoretical understanding, the practical aspect of the training assumes a continuous feedback loop. For example, after each point of pressure (tsubo) is applied, the client is asked if the therapist gave the 100%, which measures the openness of the therapist's "Heart". This self-monitoring tool for both, the client and therapist, helps participants to stay rooted in the reality of present experience (connected to the "Tao"). The most fascinating part of observing or participating in the process is that, almost without exception, the perception of the giver and receiver is identical, presumably based on a shared but unidentified reference point. It is also almost frightening to see how hard it becomes to fool each other if we decide to work together in a unified field. Advanced practitioners of Tao Shiatsu can reach the level of full awareness of the energy where language-based human feedback is not needed but is received through the body's direct responses. This practice, when mastered and fully developed, is Shamanic in a sense of speaking to and influencing the subconscious mind directly and unapologetically.
My early interest in shamanism began in my early teens when I was first introduced to Mircea Eliade’s Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1951). The basic concepts of “initiatory sickness”, shamanic costumes, language, and drums suggested that Shamanic is all that speaks directly to spirits and our subconsciousness. The daring concept of the ability of shamans to reach inside the individual the sub-consciousness plane to resurface and heal in Eliade's work excludes women. However, in many cultures women, in particular, played the role of tribal healer, herbalist, and rituals and vision quests guides. Chödmas (practitioners of Chöd), for example, stayed completely immune to gender bias, and for that reason, many Chödmas of the past were, indeed, women, as well a s many contemporary women became attracted to Chöd because of a strong female lineage. Chödmas are Shamans, and as Shamans, they are superb communicators. The Dharma Fellowship of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa points out that the advanced Chödmas are not only able to invite but also manage a variety of complex beings compassionately and skillfully, based on their benevolence, function, and purpose:
“The higher beneficial spirits, she may commune with for healing disease, and to do so she will establish a relationship of peace (Tib: zhi-wa, Skt: santika) between herself and those which come within the sphere of her influence. She may establish a similar relationship with the ghosts (preta) of the dead, but the more confused or troubled ghosts of the spirit world she must help to guide and, as it were, "raise their vibration" (Tib: rgyas-pa byed-pa, Skt: paustika) if she is to free them from their suffering. Tormented spirits, and elementals, have to be subdued (Tib: dbang-'dus, Skt: vasya) and directed. The evil entities she must learn to dominate, exorcise (Tib: drag-shul, Skt: marana) and ultimately liberate. All of this the yogini (or yogi) accomplishes through the means of her Chöd-practice.”
The level of skills required to quickly switch from one approach to another based on "who shows up in the room" is considerable as it is the compassion Chödmas have for all entities that were "not able to obtain human birth" and are kept in these invisible realms.
And here is, perhaps, where also the weakness of the Western approach to mental health lies. Definitive categories, labeling, and specialization have limited ability to transcend our inner journey to self-compassion in comparison to the use of therapeutic storytelling, meditation, and art therapy (instruments, dance, voice). More than half a century earlier, Jung noted that Western psychology will be effective with illnesses but ineffective in our search for well-being. Aura Glasser, a dharma teacher, clinical psychologist, and author of Call to Compassion: Bringing Buddhist Practice of the Heart into the Soul of Psychology elaborates this further:
”Jung noted the unfortunate absence of such methodology and called for his colleagues to find a bridge to self-development… In Tibetan Buddhism, this conflict between inner and outer science does not exist… the same term "Chitta" is used for both mind and heart.” (2005, p.15).
The good news is that both freedom/empowerment and self-compassion arising from the nature of "our pure and compassionate heart"/Chitta are within our reach. And, this is also precisely the gap where practices like FYD (related blog) fit in beautifully, as tools for creating new stories for ourselves about ourselves while maintaining our mental health and well-being. This might not lead us to the immediate discovery of pure and permanent bliss (Samadhi) but it might give us a good foundation for learning how to dialogue with our subconscious mind effectively, and how to keep our hearts open safely. Eventually, the automated Self will be replaced with a more authentic version of Self delivering the self-acceptance and self-compassion we crave.
All these realizations, plus another - that we were not able to deceive our hearts, not in the past, not now, nor we will be in the future- might change our perception of the world that suddenly became just a little bit less frightening.