Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Dick Cheney Is My Spirit Guide"

An amiable photo of the vice president

Football fans may recall Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Bill Romanowski. He was one of the most aggressive players in the NFL, fined numerous times for illegal hits and unsportsmanlike conduct. Romanowski was universally known as a dirty player. He was the guy you wanted on your team, not a guy you wanted to play against--except that being his teammate didn't exempt you from his brand of mayhem. In training camp, he broke his teammate Marcus Williams' orbital eye socket during a fight. Romanowski played dirty off the field, too. He was implicated in the BALCO steroid scandal, although he and his wife managed to wriggle out of any legal consequences. Romanowski did admit later to having used steroids throughout his career.

The week after 9/11, a friend who had recently received a peacemaker of the year award from the United Church of Christ told me he was glad Dick Cheney was in office. "We need someone really mean to fight these people."

Mr. Cheney is the guy some want on Team America. I'm not going to turn this post into a Cheney-bashing session. Critics far better equipped to skewer his record have already done so.

A few months ago, I attended a meditation intensive at the ashram where I receive my yoga training. In discussion group, one of the teachers said, "Dick Cheney is my spirit guide." Everyone burst into laughter.

"No, I'm serious," she said. "He is always teaching me things about myself."

Vajrama is one of the most benevolent people I know, obviously devoted to spiritual practice, and also a medical doctor who heals peoples' bodies. I could not imagine that this spiritual master would have anything at all in common with Mr. Cheney. There wasn't much discussion beyond that, which is the teaching style there. Teachers will frequently make provocative statements with very little explanation, leaving students free to puzzle over them.

And puzzle over it I have. I thought a spirit guide was supposed to be helpful and kind, like a fairy godmother getting you ready to meet your beloved. Definitely not Dick Cheney's MO. I think of him as a spirit guide of the underworld, leading to the heart of darkness.I am painfully aware that this says more about me than it does about him. In rejecting him as a fellow human being, I am denying my own capacity for inhumanity.

My favorite photo of Rudi. I pray to be so relaxed and joyful.

Swami Rudrananda, the root guru of the ashram, wrote, "The expression of hate, negativity, or any unhappy thought, feeling or state results when you reach a level of resistance and do not work through it. Any tool that is effective cuts through the material it contacts. Any hesitation in cutting through negative material, any verbalizing or other indulgence in negative feelings, takes force from your work."

I'm embarrassed to admit how much time and energy I've wasted in enumerating Mr. Cheney's sins.(And not just his. I'm often so busy removing the speck from the other guy's eye I barely notice the log in my own.) I do so to forget about my own troubles for a while. It's my resistance to Mr. Cheney that needs amending. None of my bitching has made any difference whatsoever in Mr. Cheney's conduct, nor, for that matter, in mine. He is nothing if not irritatingly consistent. In fact, he seems like he's just fine with the way he is. That is, I hasten to say, exactly like me. It's not that I actually think I'm OK the way I am now, but as soon as someone complains about one of my personality quirks or something I've done, I defend my right to stay the same.

Now I'm beginning to see one of the things Vajrama was pointing to. Dick Cheney has a brilliant talent for self-justification. Just like me. How many times does conscience, the ability to know right from wrong, fail me? I know when others are wrong, but I have little to no insight into my own wrongdoing. I work from a premise that my decisions are correct and justifiable, even if a decision was ill-considered and hurt others. I show no sign of wavering, as if that were a solid declaration of strength, when it is only the worst kind of stubbornness. Apology and other expressions of conscience weaken me. At the root of self-justification is a fear of appearing weak.

The tool I take to my egotistical fear of appearing weak is courage--the courage to admit when I'm wrong and to take corrective action. It's not just a mental exercise. I meditate and pray and put myself in the presence of people like Vajrama and Baba, who have been crafting their lives with tools that cut through negative material for far longer and more effectively than I have.Being in the presence of masters is the most important piece of my practice. I have received numerous graces from each of my teachers there.  

Our beloved Baba

While I stop short of claiming Dick Cheney as my spirit guide, I feel more kindly toward him. I'm glad he got a new heart and a new lease on life. May he use it well.

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