Indigo Washing

My colleague Michael and I have been in a several years long discussion on this topic. I believe we are all quite familiar with the term 'green washing,' where an endeavour of some kind tries to paint itself in a favourable and popular light by aligning itself with an environmental ethic. So too, it follows, that those aligned with a spiritual ethic can fall prey to "indigo washing."

Where in green washing, the central issue may well revolve about profitability versus what is of value, I'm going to postulate that in the case of indigo washing, the central issue is one of intimacy.

Rudolf Steiner, suggested that in time we will need "spiritual scientists," people who would be willing to put scientific and empirical rigour upon the subject and experience of spirituality. I mistakenly argue that I Ching is an empirical endeavour, as Michael has pointed out quite rightly that some people would oppose my use of empiricism in this case. So... perhaps "primitive empiricism" might due for the time being.

The complexity of this issue is that spiritual experience is open for all to take of, bask in, or neglect. ACDC, as I often say, is as much of a valid spiritual pursuit as meditation an Metallica. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and at some point, one's world view will be challenged: At some point, one's level of accomplishment, or understanding, or skill, is going to be challenged by new information and new experience, and the skin of the former attainment will be shed. Plumbers, artists, philosophers, and beggars... no one is immune.

Where I think those of us who strive to have a practice must stay alert, is whether or not we are using the practice as a mask, or if our search is genuine. And here's the trick:

At some point the practice will become a mask by necessity.

Just as an artist must have a high esteem of their own opinion - by necessity, in order to just have an opportunity to sell their work - so too must a spiritual scientist step out on a limb. The question must be asked: who is going to care about this, and why? Vulnerability, is a necessary tool, which can be difficult to appreciate regardless of which side you are on in any given moment. The method to proceed deeper and deeper into practice - or not, and to remain as one is - makes itself very pronounced by the presence or absence of discipline and attention to detail. This discipline, permits the vulnerability to find certainty, like a young writer 'finding their voice.'

Generally, after the first peak experience, a person is going to be in a sort of a vulnerable reverie for some time. I do not know enough about the use of drugs to be their advocate or opponent: I do believe, however, completely, in Life, and I believe our innate rejuvenative powers a fine place to orient a sense of faith. However, this reverie makes a lot of people nauseous. To their credit, it is difficult to be around people who are speaking on things one may have difficulty relating to, as people need - very dearly - to feel important. Amid new knowledge, those just off of the peak experience may well be using said knowledge to shield themselves from an otherwise 'mad' world. It is at those points where contention can set in. I believe we need to feel important because we have so many fundamental, potentially unanswerable, questions on our plate from the moment we are born; and from this central need, we tend to avoid reminders of the unknowns in our midst because they challenge our perception of a calm, comfortable, confidence. Conversely, by flaunting these reminders that 'all is not what it seems,' is not necessarily the best option of spreading ones personal gospel.

If we are to become a compassionate culture, I do think such situations beg the question: what does the uncomfortable behavior serve? Rigid behaviour amid contention points back to the notion of intimacy, and being able to generate meaningful discussions. The claimant of a peak experience is a call to action by presence alone, but this does not excuse the person from respecting the social mores into which they are situated. Such awkwardness, after a peak experience, generates an ensuing vulnerability abundantly. All kinds of random behaviour can follow as a means of dealing with this contention, and the potential detail and mutual learning can be swept under the nearest rug: 'being one,' or 'in pursuit of enlightenment,' or 'following abundance' are easy maxims to grab onto to either protect oneself, or dismiss someone in pursuit of these things.

But contention, like anything, cannot last. If the behavior allows a person to grow better into their well being, and garner the ability to articulate the causes of well being, then the person most likely was attending to something in their life which demanded rigor and responsible awareness.

And therein lies the key: responsibility. I think it is easy to sit upon a truth, or an identity, and consequently have its affective territory shrink over time. To take on a practice like yoga or meditation is to willingly enter something bigger than yourself, and to become an ambassador to the tradition whether one wants to or no. These practices are a "place to go," (Thomas Cleary) and by going there, to that 'place,' though one risks being vastly misunderstood, outcast, and ridiculed, if one remains true to their initial curiousity, perspective will continue to bloom - intrinsically and extrinsically.

Which is why cultural growth is difficult: who wants to risk social isolation, the dinner on their plate, the idea of gain, a career, and even the roof over their head to pursue something which may have no real guarantee? Yet any long standing artist can tell you quite quickly that to "turn your back on your bliss" (Joseph Campbell) is to essentially say no to Life.

Life is an invitation. Every heart beat. Every first moment of waking on every morning: The little bolt of thunder which reaches down from our skull and sends its gentle instruction to the heart to keep going, is the greatest invitation I've ever paid witness to.

I would like to recommend that the next time you have the opportunity to witness one person condemn another with the platitude 'so-and-so is just crazy,' or, 'people like that are so x-y-z...' to take a moment and reflect on that key question: what, intrinsically, is this behavior serving? Eventually, you can witness reciprocal behaviours in yourself, too. And should you find that the person to be in pain or distress of some sort, do you have the courage to ask them such? What then is the nature of compassion if not at least one part courage; and what is the cause of the behaviour which would otherwise condemn? Are not these two distinct choices linked?

These quick agreements we make - condemnations, complaints, criticisms - may well be some of the most powerful forces known to us. And as I say, I think indigo/spiritual endeavour is very much a matter of intimacy: an invitation of constant calling.

Food for thought: