Sunday, July 27, 2008

How do you get your kicks?



I spent the afternoon yesterday with an old friend, one of the few relationships still intact from my life as a Wiccan priestess. My god, that was another life!

Like me, she made the decision on her own to leave the community because the practices didn't mesh with her values. Even though it was her decision, it's still painful for her, leaving it all behind. I remember vividly the sense of loss and the deep grief I felt when I let go. It took years for my heart to heal itself from that split. Whew. All spiritual communities are complicated societies. Leaving a spiritual community can be tremendously difficult, even when it's the healthiest choice.

Every time I hear what's going on in my old community, a renewed sense of relief and gratitude that I'm no longer involved washes over me. One of the revered teachers in that tradition, someone I was very close to once upon a time, has taken to kicking her students when they fall asleep during meditation.

Why are people attracted to abusive situations? Can anyone explain this to me? Of course there are many spiritual teachers who abuse their students, always have been. But ... how can that be good for anyone, teacher or student? I don't get it.

It's not just in spiritual communities that people welcome abuse, of course. I can think of several restaurants in San Francisco where the waiters are famous for being rude to the customers. I never understood the attraction, but there are lots of people who loved to go eat at those places. Maybe it's entertaining - I'm not sure.

Though bewildered about why it's a good thing to be kicked while meditating, or insulted while eating dinner, I'm very clear about why I left that particular tradition. Many thanks as always to the divine wisdom that awakened me (without any kicking) and helped me get all the way out of it. Oh yeah!

9 comments:

Merle Sneed said...

Reya, sometimes I think people accept abuse because they just don't want to be responsible for themselves.

Steve said...

I've heard apocryphal stories about some Zen traditions where teachers are quite stern with students. (I'm not sure if hitting is involved, but I guess it might be.) In our Zendo, we have a "stick" that the monitor will hit students with on their shoulders as they meditate -- but the students has to ASK to receive the stick. In other words, it's an empowering jolt of energy, not a punishment. I suspect the teachers you're referring to are thinking along those lines, but it sounds like they're going about it in the wrong way. (IMHO)

Barbara said...

I can't imagine being hit while meditating. It's all I can do to concentrate on my breathing without being jolted by such a blow. Ouch!

Reya Mellicker said...

I wasn't trying to say I think it's "bad" to get kicked or tapped or hit during meditation. That kind of behavior is commonplace in spiritual communities, in the military, too, of course. Officers making the privates drop and do 40 push-ups, etc.

All I was saying is that I don't get how that's helpful. I don't believe it would help me learn anything, including (and especially - thank you, Merle!) self responsibility.

It would teach me to obey the teacher. Is that good?

Reya Mellicker said...

When I heard the story, the picture that popped into my mind was of a nun rapping the knuckles of some unfortunate student. In my mind's eye, she's hitting him with one of those old wood and metal rulers.

The people I know who went to Catholic school never benefited from all the bizarre physical punishments that were once a part of that experience.

Reya Mellicker said...

In my heart of hearts, I'm against hitting and kicking, always, for every reason.

Lynne said...

Hey, I got rapped on the knuckles by a nun. Also had to put the gum I was chewing during class on my nose for whatever time remained of the class. It had the opposite effect on me, wanting me to be even more of a rebel.

And yes, the ruler was wood and metal. I don't know why they felt they had to be so nasty ... didn't work here—still a rebel to Catholicism. :)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

hmmmm...never thought of it but maybe it was the physical reprimands from nuns that made me stray.... must say I also received my share of ruler rapping ....but really, it was much deeper philosophical schisms that had me search elsewhere for my spiritual home.... but did get a chuckle out of lynne's comment ...

Reya Mellicker said...

So they did use those things. Wow.

Hitting and kicking are cool by me in sports. I especially love watching martial arts sparring. Very cool! So I'm not totally against it. But ... I like a level playing field when hitting and kicking are involved.