Today is one of the last ski days of the year. The sun has stolen integrity from the snow. It is reduced to grey puddles dispersed through white slush.
I sat in a crowded lodge at the top of the ski hill listening to the thud of boots against the floor as people passed me with their junk food. I watched families on vacation, observing the standards of social expectation. I love the idea of families skiing together. It would have been beautiful to watch if it were not for the emptiness in people’s eyes. Almost everyone in a lodge full of hundreds of people had nothing more than a surface relationship with the people around them. The only two in fact that I watched demonstrate emotional intimacy was a man who was built like a football player in his early twenties who was feeding a little boy from Africa who was adopted. When the two smiled, they smiled into each other instead of at each other. Watching both the miracle of that scene and the background contrast of pain made me even more committed to exposing what is ‘real’ instead of what is considered socially right.
A while back, fellow Spiritual Teacher Ralph Smart and I did a podcast where we boldly invited people to “air their dirty laundry” (an expression that means put the stuff you want to hide about yourself out in plain view) so that with that transparency we can create a better world. As time goes on, I become more and more convinced this is the practice that is most needed in the world. There are heavy consequences to pay for authenticity and realness in a world that calls for pretense and social convention/control. I have paid many of those prices. Some people on this earth treasure privacy and other people treasure openness. And it seems we continue to find ourselves in a stand off where each ‘camp’ thinks the other is essentially mentally ill for their attachment to their preference. But this “stand off” and all the conflict that has come into my life as a result of my commitment to openness has given me so much time to think about this topic.
This blog is essentially an online journal. As you may already know, it is a main pillar of my career because it is the area of my career that is giving rise to the most expansion in people. I am the first spiritual teacher to expose their humanity alongside their divinity in such a way; the first to intentionally air my dirty laundry in public while still teaching. It has made me wildly controversial. Believe it or not, I actually care a lot whether or not I hurt people. In this world, you cannot take a step outside your door without causing suffering to something. We are all a part of the contrast that causes expansion on this earth. This is why many of us on the path of awakening have taken a vow to reduce suffering, as opposed to eliminate it entirely. But I must confess that the idea of causing suffering to someone, makes me writhe inside myself.
We can debate the philosophy of what is real and what is truth all day long. I’m going to save my ideas on that subject for another time. What I am concerned with today is that in the end, a journal is a reflection of what is real or true for you at the time you write it. And sometimes, exposing what is real or true within you doesn’t feel good to other people. Especially when it relates specifically to them.
The fate of anyone around a public figure who is transparent is that they inevitably end up exposed vicariously. It is a kind of exposure by association. This is why so many parents pray that their kids will not grow up to be writers or actors or comedians. Speaking of that, just take comedians for example. Their jokes come from their real life. The people who they stand on stage and talk about in front of audiences of thousands are real people. And no one minds until it is them being talked about. I dare you today to go watch one stand up comic and imagine that the person they are joking about is you. This is the kind of potential pain that belongs to people who are associated with open public figures.
I see this pain. I get that it is real. There are steps that I have taken to reduce the threat to them and honor their anonymity as much as I can without silencing myself, which causes me pain. For example, I don’t use their names unless they specifically tell me I can. I do not give away anything about them that could help people identify them or where they live. I do not use pictures of them, unless they specifically tell me that I can. I try to be as conscious as I can be while writing and I am not a vindictive person. This means I do not write these blogs to hurt people.
Therefore, I am conscious to state facts (what happened). For example, if a chicken crossed a road, a fact would be ‘the chicken crossed the road’ and not ‘a pig crossed the road’. Then, I simply talk about my feelings and perceptions about the fact and then some teaching or process that comes as a result of those feelings and perceptions. I question myself for a long time so as to be as conscious as I can be before going ahead with things that could cause pain. But even so, they still cause pain.
In today’s world, with the technology that exists, no one actually has privacy. Privacy is an illusion. I can do nothing about this fact. I can’t make someone unsearchable on Google or Facebook. But people really worry when they appear as a part in my journals that they have lost anonymity. They become extremely reactive as if they have been exposed. But it is not the case. No one really cares who the characters lending to the story really are. It isn’t personal. They care about the story. But the people who appear as part of the journals care. They care because unlike everyone else, they know who they are. So they’ve lost personal anonymity. Meaning they are anonymous to everyone except themselves.