Can We Love Our Enemies Without Idiot Compassion or Shaming?

By Duff McDuffee on March 7th, 2010 1

Cat and dog, hugging (via clover_1 on Flickr)
For most of my life I’ve thought of myself as the kind of person who doesn’t have enemies. “Enemy” is a strong word, one that evokes thoughts of moral superiority if not hatred and violence. Surely I’m not a person who wishes the death or injury of others, or thinks I’m better than anyone, right? After all the work I’ve done on myself, I must be beyond all that. After all, I try not to be judgmental. I say, “to each his own” when I encounter unusual beliefs and ways of being. I listen to others and try to see from their perspective no matter how much I disagree. I don’t wish harm on any man…or do I?

If there is anyone who qualifies as being my enemy, James Arthur Ray does. In the wake of his terrible and reprehensible actions in November at his Spiritual Warrior Event workshop in Sedona, I have spent countless hours angry at him and what he represents. I have called him names in public and in private, most of which he probably deserves, but none of which have changed what happened (note to JRI’s lawyers: everything I’ve said and written have been my opinions only and not verifiable facts, thus my words and speech are fully protected under the law—just sayin’).

Speaking Truth to Power

When James Arthur Ray came to my home town only a few short weeks after his seminar injured and killed several people, my friend and I stood up suddenly while he was in the middle of a sentence. In a large hotel conference room with approximately 300-500 people, trembling with fear and anger, I looked James Arthur Ray right in the eye and challenged him to take responsibility and cease all his seminars immediately.

With less than four weeks having passed since three healthy spiritual seekers had died in his plastic sweat dome (befitting of a “plastic shaman”), James Ray was still hawking his expensive and dangerous programs—claiming his work was “too important” to stop. We protested that his “work” had lead to the deaths of four and injury of 18. Just recalling that B.S. line Ray spoke that caused my friend and I to stand up and speak out is bringing up anger in me now as I type these words (see the postscript below if you are interested in how I decided to work with these feelings).

My friend and I had brainstormed hundreds of different possible plans (I had even printed 150 flyers earlier that day)—all which went instantly dissolved when we got into that conference room and we saw there would be no space for civil questions and answers. The words that came out of our mouths—while people were standing up and yelling back at us and Ray’s bodyguard staff began surrounding us—were a mix of strong directness and awkward shouting. Even so, confronting this man directly, boldly, and nonviolently (we were escorted peacefully out of the hotel) just seemed like the right thing to do and I’m glad I did it. I hope anyone in my position would and will do the same…meanwhile, the assembled crowd cheered our exit.

Is Loving Your Enemies Just Idealistic B.S., or a Real Human Possibility?

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” ~Matthew 5:44

Growing up my family attended a Protestant church. I don’t necessarily think of myself as a Christian now—I find myself more drawn to Buddhist philosophy and practice—yet I have often contemplated the radical challenge from Jesus to “love your enemies.” When I’m feeling cynical, this famous Bible verse seems like an attempt to shame someone for their lack of perfect love, a manipulative tactic used to “blame the victim,” or even a condescending “I’ll pray for you” from an arrogant bible-thumper. Indeed, we human beings have come up with many ways to use teachings on love as a weapon:

At other, more optimistic times, I can see this outrageous challenge to love your enemies as an idealistic possibility—an ideal that might never be fully realized yet remains a worthwhile virtue to cultivate.

To what extent can we live this challenge of loving our enemies? By what specific methods can we reliably actualize this possibility while also loving ourselves and others? Is it possible to love our enemies while also fully pursuing justice and protecting ourselves and others from the perpetrators of violence? Can we explore this love without blaming the victim or shaming those who cannot or choose not to explore the same possibilities? And what would happen if I…and maybe you too…explore this with current enemy James Arthur Ray?

Loving-Kindness and Idiot Compassion

In Buddhist loving-kindness meditation as taught by Pema Chödrön, there is an understanding that one cannot actually feel loving-kindness or “metta” towards all sentient beings right away, fully and forever. This is an extreme level of attainment, the Olympics of saintliness, and perhaps just an ideal that cannot be fully realized by any imperfect human being. Chödrön emphasizes starting with people you already care about and naturally feel positively towards, and gradually extending your loving-kindness over time towards a wider and wider circle, embracing those whom you feel less positively kind towards, then neutral about, then slightly irritated by, and eventually towards those you intensely or even violently hate. One might never be able to say “May all beings be happy” and really, genuinely, totally mean it—down to the very last asshole on the planet—but the aspiration itself can begin to lead one down a path of more and more kindness as a character trait if practiced wholeheartedly.

In a short article on the Shambhala website, Pema Chödrön explains another concept called “idiot compassion” coined by her controversial Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Idiot compassion is exactly what it sounds like—thinking you are being compassionate, but actually being an idiot and “enabling” harmful behavior in someone else. “It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.” Malignant narcissist gurus often pull on the heartstrings of their followers and victims by attempting to elicit this kind of idiot compassion. The solution according to Chödrön is not to viciously attack the person, nor to enable the bad behavior, but to set boundaries or otherwise prevent the abuse from occurring. “It’s the compassionate thing to do,” says Chödrön, but “they will certainly not thank you for it.” I can still hear the crowd cheering as we were peacefully escorted out of that conference room on a cold, dark night in Denver, Colorado.

I don’t know exactly how much a person can love their enemies, but I’m curious to find out how much we can—while simultaneously pursuing justice without compromise, maintaining safe and healthy boundaries, and preventing abusive and manipulative relationships of all kinds.

Postscript: An Experiment in Loving-Kindness

The following is a stream-of-consciousness description of a process I did to work with my own anger towards James Arthur Ray which came about as I was writing the beginning of this very article. I used the method of Core Transformation created by Connirae Andreas which I consider consistent with Buddhist loving-kindness practices (this process is primarily focused on loving-kindness for all aspects of the self, however, not “all sentient beings” and thus can be seen as a subset of the complete loving-kindness practices).

The process below follows the specific steps outlined on pages 114-121 from the book Core Transformation, which is what I refer to when doing the process on my own. This postscript is included as one possible example for those who are curious about such practices of self-inquiry and personal development in the context of loving your enemies without succumbing to idiot compassion. This section is very long and will probably not interest all readers, so feel free to skip down to the comments if you wish to simply add your thoughts about the article above. I’ve included many details so as to assist readers in understanding how such a process might occur, although there is no “typical” session in that there are many possibilities for one’s experience whenever you do inner work like this.

Note: I understand that people who have been victimized by James Arthur Ray or other coercive gurus and groups may not want to engage in any such practices. Due to the nature of such abuse which often includes blaming the victim with demands that you “work on your stuff/ego/attachment/etc.” with the technique(s) of the group, it is totally understandable and reasonable to avoid any and all psychological and spiritual practices for whatever length of time you deem appropriate. In fact, I specifically recommend against doing this technique if you are a recent victim of James Arthur Ray for you may be better off with a cognitive-behavioral approach given his heavy use of malignant trance states and contorted logic (this is my guess, but does not constitute medical or therapeutic advice). That said, Core Transformation is my preferred method for deeply transforming my own emotions and I encourage interested readers to pursue further study.

This is also an example of a therapeutic application of hypnosis and NLP, as this transpersonal technique of personal change is derived from the methods of Neurolinguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis—which most people discussing the “death lodge” have equated with coercive persuasion, despite the many therapeutic applications of these methodologies when used in a non-coercive context.

My subjective experience to inquire into: An inner dialogue says “that is such bullshit–I will not let this man get away with such lies. He needs to be immediately thrown in jail and held to task to the full extent of the law.” The voice has an angry tone, a fast tempo, and sounds like it’s coming from the right and slightly behind my head (a common location for inner dialogue). My jaw is clenched, my throat is tight, my brown is furrowed, and my lips are pursed—I’m seething with anger. I feel adrenaline in my body. My heart is beating faster, there are buzzing sensations in my chest (left side predomantly) and belly. From time to time I take a deep breath and my body buzzes with vibrations along my skin, rushing down my hips and legs and up the sides of my neck and head. My sympathetic nervous system is firing, preparing me to fight. The intensity is perhaps a 5 of 10, but peaked at about an 8 and has dropped to a steady burn. I attempted to continue writing, but felt this angry state was influencing my article (especially given the topic) so I decided to pause and get to know this reaction better. I don’t always do so, and have only done this practice once or twice in the past month, but would probably benefit from more frequent sessions.

Identifying the part: I recognize this is an unconscious reaction. I am not consciously generating this experience–in fact I’d rather not have it for it is unpleasant and interfering with my writing. I don’t have this feeling all the time–I didn’t have it when I started writing this article, when I was feeling much more calm and peaceful about James Ray–so I recognize that this is only a part of me.

Location of part: It exists primarily in my chest and belly. My heart aches, my chest burns. The fire in my belly is ready for action, yet my throat is tight as if swallowing my tongue.

Generalizing the behavior: I recognize that this is a reaction I’ve had before, specifically when I saw James Arthur Ray in person. I was trembling with a mixture of fear and excitement and adrenaline, unsure what I was going to do. I would like to generally feel more resourceful, free from this fight-or-flight response when I encounter James Arthur Ray’s hurtful and deceptive speech, or anyone else I encounter in the future who communicates in a similarly coercive manner.

Welcoming the part: Recognizing that this anger and the accompanying inner dialogue and physical sensations are not consciously generated and not always present, it’s as if this experience is being generated by an unconscious part of me. While I don’t know exactly why that is yet, I think it may be most useful to explore the reasons with the attitude that this unconscious part has a deeply positive purpose for me in doing so. Turning towards my experience instead of habitually reacting to unpleasantness, I put my hands on my chest and belly…and breathing in and out I begin to welcome this part of me, appreciating it for bringing me this mysterious message (even though I don’t necessarily like how it’s choosing to communicate).

Discovering the outcome chain: I ask this part of myself, “What do you want? What do you want for me by giving me this angry response to Ray saying ‘the work is too important?'”

The first outcome it responds with is “Justice. I want Ray to Pay. I want his victims to be fully compensated, his seminars to be shut down, and for the man to be incarcerated for a very long time.”

I thank this part of me for this response, which I also consciously agree with (although I’d like to be less vengeful and reactive).

I then invite this part of me to imagine and experience what it would be like if I get this first outcome, fully and completely. I then ask, “if you get justice, fully and completely, what do you want through having justice that’s even more important?”

The second outcome I receive is “I want nobody to ever again suffer from anything like this, from a New Wage guru or anyone else. I want safety and protection for all.”

Again I thank and appreciate this part of me for wanting safety and protection for all. Sometimes parts of me want less refined and mature initial outcomes. I have sometimes had parts respond that they wanted to kill or hurt, or pursue selfish and destructive activities (I’m glad I repressed these parts and didn’t allow them to act on their whims!). This part of me is responding in a more evolved way (perhaps because it knows you’re watching? 😉 ), and I am appreciative of that as well.

I ask “if you have safety and protection for all, in your imagination (even if this isn’t possible in the real world), but if you could really experience what that’s like to have now, what do you want through having safety and protection for all that’s even more important?”

Stepping into safety and protection for all, the next outcome is “to know that all is well” accompanied by the breath relaxing with big inhales into the upper chest, a softness in the face, and my jaw relaxing. A feeling of sweet sadness comes over me, and my legs are buzzing with tiny vibrations as if waking up from having fallen asleep.

Again I thank and invite this part to have what it’s wanting in my imagination, and ask what’s even more important. The answer is “to be OK and loved.” I feel sensitive and quite sad, curled slightly inward as if to comfort myself. Appreciating the outcome, inviting having it (I feel enveloped in a Cosmic Mother’s arms), and asking what’s deeper I discover that the buzzing sensations in my chest and belly cease and the room seems suddenly silent—but then I realize it is just the silence of my own mind. I drop into some state of absorption and clarity—an indication I’ve probably reached a Core State. A flying ant suddenly lands on the glowing screen of my Macbook–a synchronicity? I try to blow it off gently but it persists, so I accept the presence of my winged guest as perhaps containing a lesson I don’t yet understand. It paces back and forth across the top of my laptop as I continue to investigate.

How to name this state which feels beyond words? Emptiness, peace, Being come to mind. None fully capture it, but any will do. It’s not too strong or intense—in a way, nothing at all special—but definitely has a sense of the unconditional or the transcendent. I decide Being will do for now for a label, and with that my winged companion walks off across the kitchen table, exploring the world beyond the glowing rectangle I’m usually engrossed in. My words seem unusually poetic to me.

Reversing the outcome chain with the Core State: It’s as if this part of me had a strategy for getting to this state of Being by getting angry in the hopes that this anger would lead to justice, then justice would lead to safety and protection for all, then I’d know that all is well, which would make me feel OK and loved, and finally I’d reach this state of Being which is beyond conditional logic! That strategy hasn’t been working all that well, as I’ve more often simply gotten angry about this whole James Ray thing and been stuck there for hours at a time (often until I’ve done Core Transformation). States of being don’t necessarily come from achieving or doing anything in the world anyway. This kind of conditional logic is more often a prison that keeps us from such experiences—at least that’s what I’ve found. Moreover, it is probably more useful to begin with this state of Being, since it doesn’t depend on actually changing anything in the outside world to experience it (it can be very handy to have access to deep inner resources like that!). James Ray is still tweeting along and my feeling angry about it doesn’t seem to be stopping him. But perhaps I can act from this experience of Being in an ongoing way if in fact I simply step into it and have it.

General reversal: I now invite this part of me to just step into Being and have it, as an ongoing way of moving through the world, a place from which my actions can ideally just flow forth from. It probably won’t always happen this way, but why not imagine this as a possibility for my life. I ask my part, “How does already having this ‘Being’ in an ongoing way make things different?” I feel much buzzing and tingling in my head and lower legs as my breath comes in and out more fully now. I feel freer somehow. The buzzing anger in my chest and belly has dissolved. My throat has relaxed. The big breaths keep coming, and I’m even feeling a bit lightheaded. I ask again. My mind is calm and clear. My heart feels open and “large.” If I can keep this Being in an ongoing way, I expect I will naturally be more compassionate, less reactive, more kind to myself and others. I sincerely intend for this to happen, and humbly ask my unconscious and any other forces that may exist to help this to occur. “May all beings be happy….” Somehow things seem simpler from this state, and some of the mysteries of life make intuitive sense, but I don’t necessarily have words for what that means—it’s just a feeling that everything’s going to be alright, as cheesy as that sounds, even to me.

Specific reversal: I ask my part, “how does already having Being in an ongoing way transform or enrich ‘to be OK and loved’?” I hear “I am already OK and loved, deeply so.” This doesn’t necessarily make much sense rationally, but my heart tingles with warmth and the big breaths come upon me again.

I then ask, “how does already having Being in an ongoing way transform or enrich, ‘to know that all is well?'” The answer comes quickly: “I do know—and feel—that all is well.” “How does already having Being in an ongoing way transform my experience when I’m getting ‘safety and protection for all’?” I can rest in that safety and feel secure. “How does already having Being in an ongoing way transform my experience when I’m not getting safety and protection for all?” I can more easily take swift and effective action to get that safety for myself and others while being more resourceful and centered. (I wish this for anyone in a situation of coercive persuasion like that deadly sweat lodge—may we all have the spiritual, physical, and moral courage, the “banality of heroism” of those who dragged out the wounded.)

“How does already having Being in an ongoing way transform or enrich this outcome of justice? How does it transform what was a desire for vengeance, to ‘make Ray pay?'” Lots of big breaths and sensations of “energy” flowing through my legs, arms, and head occur in response to these questions. I still want justice, but now I feel I would like justice to be served fairly and without vengeful punishment. In my ideal fantasy, I would like Ray to plead guilty, accept full responsibility, liquidate all of his assets (including any hidden ones if such exists), cancel all of his seminars indefinitely, and voluntarily do whatever he can to make up for his destructive behavior, including giving every penny of his assets to those he has hurt and repenting day and night to whatever higher powers he believes in for the entirety of his prison term…without seeking any early release or special treatment. For what it’s worth (and this and 50 cents will buy you a Coke), I pray that this or something like it may come to pass.

Finally, I ask this part of me, “How does already having Being in an ongoing way transform my whole experience of James Arthur Ray, his harmful actions, and his response to the deadly outcomes of his behavior?” Many big breaths again, and more moving vibrations on the skin of my legs, head, and arms. I feel some sadness arising as if tears want to come. This whole situation just seems terribly tragic to me, and I’m sorry that it happened. I feel sad for the victims of James Ray and all other coercive gurus and groups. I also feel sad for James Ray—I also feel some disgust when I think about him. This process has not made me a saint, free from all moral disgust (I feel somewhat relieved by that). I have the thought that there could be an opportunity to investigate this disgust in the future, but I’ve done enough processing for one evening, as it has now become very early in the morning.

I ask the question again to see if there is anything else. I imagine being back at his free event in my home town, and him saying “the work is too important not to continue.” I feel a rush of energy, warmth in my arms and chest. I observe myself subconsciously shaking my head “no.” My sympathetic nervous system does seem to be firing off a bit, yet it lacks the “looping” response and so the sensations slowly fade, although my jaw is now a bit tense. I ask again, connecting back with the sense of Being. “He knows not what he is doing…or maybe he does know—I can’t know exactly what’s going on in his head, can I.” A feeling of sadness again washes over me in waves of vibration corresponding to deep inhales and exhales. This was a tragedy. I hope justice is served. I feel more at peace, but not exactly free from sadness or other emotions, yet the buzzing reactivity in my chest and belly are now very calm. I quickly visualize having this Core State of Being throughout my entire body, as well as my past and future as to help solidify this resource as an unconscious and automatic response. The effect is brief but intense, and totally not something I can comprehend consciously, yet feels somehow deeply healing.

I conclude with the insight to give my Core State to James Arthur Ray (I don’t necessarily believe that this actually does anything in the physical world beyond my own psychology and how that affects my communication, but you never know, and it is an interesting thing to try internally). I imagine being back at the free talk Ray gave. I stand up and I’m in Being. I imagine what looks like a field of heat waves flying out from me, carrying this state, and going into his body up on stage as I hold eye contact. I see him breaking down, crying—this time not crocodile tears, but honest tears of a man who recognizes the harm he has caused. This time in my imagination I say nothing and the room is quiet. I hear in my head “may you be happy…may all beings be happy.” More tingling and sadness washes over my body….

As I return to rewriting this blog post, more waves of anger, disgust, and despair come and go…. More opportunities for healing perhaps, but all in it’s proper time.

About the Core Transformation Method

This session was not especially powerful or unique except that I took much more precise notes than I ordinarily would. This kind of result is a reliably common one with this method, or so I’ve observed (nothing is 100% effective of course). Yet Core Transformation is but one psycho-spiritual technique for welcoming and transforming emotions and behaviors—others prefer EFT, focusing, CBT, vipassana, or one of many other methods of healing. I prefer Core Transformation because I’ve found it to be very reliable in actually getting to the bottom of things, comprehensive in it’s approach to welcoming all parts of one’s being, both very gentle and very deep, and precisely laid out such that one can learn to do the technique on your own or in a workshop without dependence on a therapist or guru.

This method may be too deep and intense for some people, so be careful. Core Transformation seems to work more at levels of unconscious processing and emotion than rational cognition, and I think is therefore complimented by an approach like cognitive-behavioral therapy (or just solid critical thinking—the “meta model” in NLP). This technique is also not a replacement for actions in the world—feeling more centered about doing your taxes for example is not quite the same as actually doing them. Nor is personal psychotherapeutic or spiritual work—however profound—a substitute for changing unjust structures of power within groups of people. And we should always be on guard for the possibility of our using love as a weapon. With those caveats, I strongly recommend learning more about this technique. It is not yet widely known but deserves to be so in my opinion, as it is a wonderfully gentle yet powerful method of cultivating loving-kindness and a fearless sense of one’s innermost Being.

(Full disclosure: I work for the author and publisher of Core Transformation, and am in the process of becoming a licensed trainer. My views expressed in this article however are strictly my own. I have a small private practice facilitating this method with clients. I receive no commission for sales nor compensation including any wages for the writing of this article, but marketing is a part of my job role. I was an evangelist for this method several months prior to even knowing there was a possibility for me to work for the publisher, and would practice and promote this technique regardless.)

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74 responses to “Can We Love Our Enemies Without Idiot Compassion or Shaming?”

  1. elaine says:

    Holy Crap! This is what I do that leads to profound life changes. Between therapy and yoga, I've learned to do something like this. That is, when I'm brave enough to go there. It's not for the faint of heart, but facing what's going on within keeps me from returning to deep depression. That and drugs, which only help keep things less extreme. I still have to stay vigilant with the work.

    Having said that, on the terms of enemies, I doubt I'll ever be so evolved I'd be able to love them. Mostly I strive for them not affecting me so deeply. I have no problem judging others. Some really are, for lack of a better term, evil. They are few, but they do exist.

    I had an experience a couple of years ago where I was the target of some pretty evil people. Won't bore you with the details but at the time I could have pressed charges. I considered all the pros and cons of doing so. There were tons of reasons to press charges, and only one not to. So at the time I didn't. What stopped me? I was so angry and wanted so much to see them pay for what they did, it scared me. I needed to get to the place where I pursued charges because it was the right thing to do, not from the place I was at.

    I still believe pressing charges would have been the right thing to do, but I am also very glad that I did not do so at the time. By the time I got to a better place, it was too late for me to go back,needed to move on. Do I have "love" or "compassion" for them? No. But nor does the thought of them bring the level of anger and fear it once did.

    The only thing that changed was me.

    • Drugs are useful too sometimes. I didn't really get to "love" for Ray in my experiment either—less reactive anger, and underneath that a feeling of disgust. But hey, it's a small improvement.

      Excellent example you gave too. I don't know if one can always love one's enemies, or even if that is a good idea. But I'm inspired by examples like the Dali Lama and this it's something worth experimenting with at the least.

  2. I think "love your enemies" can only mean have compassion for all humanity and make every effort to get outside your own biases and see the other side of issues clearly. To get this point across both Christianity and Buddhism have to exaggerate to make a point.

    But I don't see how it could even be an ideal to allow bad people to continue to do bad things. That's surely a misreading of the principal. So we can feel compassion for the inner torment which causes a mass murderer to kill, but we still have to lock him up and hate his acts. We can have humane prisons without condoning the acts of the prisoners.

    Bob Weisenberg

  3. Rational Thinking says:

    Fascinating post. Something I try to do is to mentally separate the 'actor' and his/her 'acts'. This is impossible for me to do when I'm angry, so I normally have to cool off for a day or two before I can attempt it. Once I can do that, I can try to see it a little bit in terms of familial love – you can love the person, and deeply disapprove of their actions. The idiot compassion idea is very helpful, too. Funnily enough I was reading about that quite recently. And it occurs to me, reading your post, that one could see it as a form of 'enabling'.

    In the case of 'moral outrage' at a person's actions, possibly that emotion can be helpful, if controlled, in allowing us to express our disapproval of their actions? I think what you did in confronting Ray directly, was courageous. I hope I would do the same.

    • Separating the behavior from the person (or the actor from his/her acts) is impossible for me too when I'm angry. I find it helpful to have step-by-step methods for cooling off, as sometimes the angry state just seems to continue looping. I'm also a bit of a geek and really appreciate (and sometimes require) the fine details of a process so thoroughly explained.

      Idiot compassion is an important notion within the context of religious and spiritual groups, especially with coercive leaders, for the message of love is all too often used to control followers, enabling the neuroses of the "perfect" guru.

      I do think moral outrage can be very helpful and appropriate at times. I hope that what I and my friend said when we stood up fits that category.

  4. ellen says:

    Bravo for what you did confronting James Ray.
    Regarding loving your enemies, I will briefly relate my experience. I am far more familiar with hate, I grew up with it and can cheerfully say that it kept me alive when nothing else would have sufficed. It was an important survival tool for me but it outlived its usefulness and I began to consider its flipside. I started with Sun Tzu "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer" as that made sense from a strategic point of view–the more you understand them the better you can counter their moves.
    'Understanding' is an interesting word, true understanding entails entering into the worldview, as much as is possible, of the person you are trying to understand. Not a good move if that person is a true sociopath.
    As you point out in your piece, the feeling of compassion for another may not actually reach that other and may have no effect, so it became of interest to me whether cultivating the feeling of compassion is a worthwhile pursuit apart from giving myself a warm little glow as a compassionate person.
    I decided it wasn't for me and that compassionate behaviour was a better route to follow and to disregard my lack of compassionate feelings.

  5. ellen says:

    I have great respect for Trungpa, whatever his personal failings he knew what he was doing as a teacher of this path, and the idiot compassion quote is illustrative of this.
    I came to see through this behavioural practice that my feelings on anything didn't matter much apart from being an immediate mechanism of alerting myself to my own state of mind and a lot of the emotional charge receded from even the feelings of hate.
    Its ultimately more important in the moment to do the right thing, whatever it is, than to agonise over whether or not I have the 'appropriate' feelings. I have no control over the feelings anyway, they are going to chug away regardless and I have learned that feelings of hate are essential from an evolutionary/survival perspective. What is important is that I do not act from the feelings–and that includes unthinkingly acting from idiot compassion, unless I am in a life or death situation.
    This last I learned from studying my dogs, who do not stop to think about whether to feel compassion in any given situation but instinctively follow their feelings and are rarely caught out.

    • Its ultimately more important in the moment to do the right thing, whatever it is, than to agonise over whether or not I have the 'appropriate' feelings.

      Yes! I wholeheartedly agree. I also notice that long after the situation is over, I sometimes still ruminate in unhelpful ways. This is when I find a process like Core Transformation helpful.

  6. ellen says:

    I'm going to have a go at your core process as I like to experiment with these things, but I won't waste any compassion on Death Ray. He is fully absorbed in himself already, why should I give such a narcissist more of the attention he craves?

    • Indeed. It is an utterly absurd existential stance to give compassion to a malignant narcissist. Personally, I choose to do it anyway…when I'm capable.

    • I will also add this:

      Only unconditional love can break unconditional narcissism. To love all beings except the narcissist is to single him out for being special! To love all beings without exception, equally is to make James Arthur Ray totally irrelevant. If I love him regardless, he is no more special or less special than any other.

      • ellen says:

        Have you tried this with another human being? I'd be interested in hearing how it went, not to get too 'Dr Phil' about it.
        For me it sounds too much like a theoretical position that looks good on the page but does not translate to reality.
        James Arthur Ray IS no more or less special than any other man, regardless of how you feel about him–I'd start from there.

        • By unconditional love I don't mean something that doesn't translate to reality, I mean very simple, down-to-earth stuff here. For instance, continuing to treat everyone with the dignity of a human being regardless of how they've treated you…but of course also holding appropriate boundaries, etc. So yes, I have done this with another human being (several in fact), and have had several very powerful experiences breaking through an intense conflict by unconditionally loving the other.

          I was once living in a community house with 13 people. 2 factions had formed which had different values and ideas. The group I was a member of constituted the older members of the house who valued quiet hours, cleanliness, drug-free living, and working through conflict verbally. The other group valued anarchy (literally–that was their explicit political philosophy), recreational drug use, loud parties with many friends brought over to the house, and basically letting everyone do whatever they want. The rules were explicit already when they moved in that drugs were not allowed, quiet hours were understood, and parties required approval from other house members.

          Anyway, the conflict was heavy and nonstop, especially with the man who was the most outspoken voice for the other group (he had started several anarchy-based communities before–not surprisingly, they didn't hold together). We had tried many ways to end the conflict, but he wasn't budging. I found myself *very* angry, as did many others in the house, at this one particular man. I had tried many techniques to try to overcome my anger so that I could just talk with him and try to work things out, but nothing had worked.

          One night, this guy comes home at like 2:30am with 5 or 6 other folks (on a weeknight), totally smashed drunk and starts yelling, right outside my door "Duff is an asshole!" and other such insults. (I had never said anything like that to him or anyone else in the community.) I sit down to meditate to try to work through the anger that is arising for me. I suddenly realize that everyone has a past…what happened to him to make him so abrasive/abusive like this? I imagined him as a child, and imagined that someone may have been abusive to him, controlled him. Perhaps his parents were alcoholics. I pictured him being hurt and abused, and I melted, crying about the cycles of abuse that so many of us experience…even if this wasn't exactly what happened to him.

          I walked out of my room and went up to this man, who got inches from my face and was screaming insults at me. I waited until he paused and I said, "Whew. Hold on. This is really intense." as I was feeling a LOT of emotion running through my chest, and my heart was pumping pure adrenaline. I'm not sure what I said after that but something like "it's ok" while looking at him, his drunk friends surrounding us looking embarrassed. He yelled at me some more, saying I had done some things that weren't true, like that I was plotting to kick him out of the community. I said "That's not true, but I can understand why you'd see it that way."

          He stopped yelling and shook my hand saying "you're alright man" in a drunken slur. One time after that he yelled at me again, in front of other community members and I also relaxed and was able to see him–as a hurt child–and really empathize, which melted the anger. Soon after he left the community, peacefully.

          I won't say I was sad to see him and his friends leave the community, but I was glad that things happened this way, nonviolently. Clearly we just had different values and it was a poor fit. I hope he can form a community that better expresses his values and fits his needs.

          • ellen says:

            Ah, communication glitch there. I wouldn't describe that as unconditional love myself. Maintaining your boundaries is very conditional to me as I started out without any. I would describe your stance in the story as detached, centred, compassionate in a quite tough way. It is far more about how you internally at the time are than about the other guy.

  7. julietaustin says:

    Thanks for this post, Duff!

    While I totally understand the level of outrage that has been expressed toward James Ray, I was starting to feel that some other perspectives might be helpful here as well. Anger is a natural response to such a huge injustice, but I think working towards finding that balance between "Idiot Compassion" and "Shaming" is a useful endeavor–if one is ready for it. And that balance will be different for everyone and can change over time.

    For almost 30 years I have been inspired by the Dali Lama. As a result, I have found that I heal more quickly if I can find at least some compassion for those that have hurt me, while still holding them accountable for their actions.

    Of course for the families of the James Ray tragedy, this approach may never be possible–or at least not for a long time.

    PS To Duff's readers: I have done some Core Transformation work with Duff and have found it to be a gentle and uplifting way to deal with emotions.

    • Interestingly, RevRon (Cosmic Connie's man) independently from me posted something today giving a new perspective on James Ray as well:

      I totally agree that the balance will be different for everyone and can change over time. And I too am inspired by the Dali Lama.

      For the families of the victims, I wish them peace and healing, but recognize that this is something that may take a long time, but I'm also open to being surprised.

      And thanks for the plug!

  8. elaine says:

    Maybe it would be helpful to define what we mean by "love", "compassion" , "hate", etc. so, at least I know that we are on the same page.

    I would certainly agree, that at the time I went through my thing, there was a small bit of hate, but it was more fear and anger. I find fear and anger great motivators, though I am the first to admit, learning to act rather than react is an ongoing process for me.

  9. Evan says:

    Thanks Duff, I think having the transcript of your working through this stuff is incredibly valuable. Many thanks.

  10. Toby says:

    It seems to me that there is an implicit assumption underlying this post that anger is: dangerous, toxic, unwanted, something to be worked with so that it can be disposed of. Maybe I'm misreading it, but that's the hit I get.

    I wonder though if anger is actually a great gift — a gift that we often throw away before it performs its proper function. Physiologically, what happens with anger is that we are flooded with adrenaline and that causes the discomfort that we want to get rid of. But I believe that the flush of adrenaline is there for a purpose — to give us the energy to bring forth justice in the world. (It's the energy that fuels fight or flight — energy that we need in perilous situations).

    In the case of James A. Ray, there is a guy who killed 4 people walking the streets a free man (and tweeting like a madman!). Our bodies are doing us a favor by pumping us full of the energy we need to confront and bring this man to justice. I think the key is to use that energy and direct it towards a good outcome. Once James A. Ray is locked up behind bars for life, THEN we can talk about how we dispose of any leftover anger. But until then, it seems to me premature to even begin talking about working with our anger because the anger arises to protect us and our families from harm.

    It seems to me that the fear of anger and the willingness of so many to be rid of anger robs popular movements of the very energy source they need to achieve justice. As such, the desire to stop being angry serves the status quo. It seems to me that anger is a horse: you can ride it to a destination or you can never ride it or you can ride it too far and things start to break down. I choose to ride it toward justice and deeply thank it for getting me where I might not be able to get to otherwise. (-:

    And maybe that's what you are doing with Core Transformation. Maybe that's the point of this post — figuring out how to ride that horse?

    • One issue here has to do with how one deals with the anger, the specific technique used. If I am feeling angry, how specifically do I get rid of it? I can attempt to suppress or repress the feelings, usually by subconsciously tightening muscles or holding my breath. This saps my energy, making me the slave of whomever I'm angry against.

      If I instead desire to channel this anger, how do I do that exactly? Lets say I engage in an activist effort, but much of the effort is wasted because I'm so mad I can't concentrate, and have repeated thoughts again and again of vengeance. What I write lacks clarity because of my reactive state, so I get into all sorts of irrelevant battles. Again, my enemy controls me and weakens me by my own reaction, distracting me from the main issue of injustice.

      On the other hand, if the anger is *not* leading to lack of concentration and dispelled energy, then no need to investigate it. It isn't causing any suffering. Usually I experience this as having a kind of clarity, feeling much more like raw power. I felt much of this when confronting Ray live. Indeed, anger was a gift in this context.

      Core Transformation, unlike ideological positive thinking, does not say what you must experience or think at the end of the process, nor does it determine when and where to use it. Barbara Ehrenreich's critique of the American ideology of positive thinking still applies, and would apply if Core Transformation ever became an ideology ("thou shall transform all anger into states of Being"). Interestingly, Ehrenreich objects to the rigid ideology "cancer is a gift," but would probably agree that in her case (since she believes her cancer may have been iatrogenic) that her anger was a gift! At other times, the cancer is indeed the gift and the anger is the problem, for it is anger at God as in "Why me, Lord!" The meaning is contextual, and the appropriate response cannot be determined in an rigidly ideological way.

      Often after working with Core Transformation, I've become more angry. In fact, I initially decided to work with CT to become more gentle, and in doing so unleashed an enormous amount of repressed anger, making me much more harsh! This made sense in the light of other aspects of my psychological history, but was the opposite result that I intended. The results of this particular inquiry are paradoxical.

      Personally, I don't think it is absolutely necessary for me to be caught up in anger that I can't find respite from in order to fight for justice with regards to James Arthur Ray. I don't think anger coming and going is at all problematic, and I expect I will still feel anger for him. Getting stuck in an emotional pattern I cannot cease, having obsessive thoughts and arguments in my head even after expressing them, and basically running myself in circles causes undue stress and saps my energy for the real battles for justice…which I believe can be fought with a non-vengeful, peaceful strength.

      But I would not want to proscribe any particular emotion for anyone else in this situation. Others may find that anger fuels their focused activity (anger is one useful way to concentrate attention, although I find that mental clarity is often better), helps create safety for themselves and others, or even helps draw them out of depression and into action. Within CT we assume these are strategies for meeting deeper needs. Are they the best and easiest ones available? Maybe, maybe not. Even if not, there is no necessary reason that one must change to a more effective strategy.

      I also totally agree that there is a fear of anger and a willingness to be rid of anger (which usually means a willingness to be passive, to give up one's involvement in the fight for justice). I have been wrestling with that very fear in myself in the past 8 or so months! It is very real. I would post a scathing critique and then get an angry comment, and find myself frozen in fear and hurt. I've used CT specifically to investigate those emotions of fear and hurt and my experience is that it's made me a better writer, for now I can focus even more clearly on the issues of justice, avoiding any side roads and diversionary tactics. I can stay the course and say "no bullshit–just answer the question, Mr. Ray."

      So in conclusion to this master's thesis :), I think Core Transformation and related technologies of transformation, when not rigidly ideological about what one must feel can serve the cause of justice and aid in the fight to get things done in the real world of structural and personal violence.

      But that's just my 2 cents of course. Your mileage may vary!

      • Toby says:

        Great reply Duff! Thank you. As always your thinking is very nuanced. I really like how you describe CT as NOT a one size fits all practice but rather a process for experiencing and sorting, with the results never predetermined.

        These sentences in particular really landed with me:

        "On a related note, sometimes I've done Core Transformation with an unpleasant emotion and nothing has changed. I take this as a sign that there was nothing that needed to change about my emotions, despite my not liking it!"

        "Core Transformation, unlike ideological positive thinking, does not say what you must experience or think at the end of the process, nor does it determine when and where to use it…. The meaning is contextual, and the appropriate response cannot be determined in an rigidly ideological way."

        and this:

        "But I would not want to proscribe any particular emotion for anyone else in this situation. Others may find that anger fuels their focused activity (anger is one useful way to concentrate attention, although I find that mental clarity is often better), helps create safety for themselves and others, or even helps draw them out of depression and into action. Within CT we assume these are strategies for meeting deeper needs. Are they the best and easiest ones available? Maybe, maybe not. Even if not, there is no necessary reason that one must change to a more effective strategy."

      • @mrteacup says:

        Ideology isn't necessarily dogmatic. In fact, it increasingly appears as flexible and open-minded. Unlike what happened to Ehrenreich, when someone expresses anger, it's very unusual for someone to say outright, "That is not an acceptable emotion!" in spiritual circles. Spiritual teachers constantly say that expressing negatively to someone else's negativity is a bad thing, the proper enlightened response is empathy, etc.

        But this is the real ideological move. Officially, all emotions are acceptable, the spiritual teacher doesn't shame or discourage people from expressing anything; but this very reaction is what they use to control their students. If someone stands up and asks a question with a particular emotion the teacher doesn't like, the teacher only has to respond with this characteristic compassionate equanimity and the question or emotion is effectively stigmatized. It's almost a form of discipline, like public shaming, because the questioner is made to look unspiritual in the eyes of the other students, like they don't get it. If this is truly compassion, then why does the next person to ask a question do everything they can to avoid experiencing it?

        What makes this truly ideological is that it's impossible to critique this kind of control–the teacher's power is rendered invisible, they falsely present themselves as mere facilitators. Exactly like the Montesorri teacher who says "We don't correct our students, we just provide self-correcting toys" — the obvious question is "Yes, but who chose the toys?"

        • Then asking "who chose the toys" exposes the control, making it possible to critique, no?

          • @mrteacup says:

            Well, not really. Consider that many people choose Montessori schools because supposedly non-authoritarian and "child-centered", compared to traditional education. And New Age spirituality is appealing because it appears non-authoritarian in comparison to traditional religions, like Christianity.

            If you tell people that forms of control exist that appear to us as freedom, they will disagree you, because their notion of power is determined by the Big Other, which is why they feel guilty for exposing themselves or their children to an authority. These guilty feelings are no different from what a Catholic feels when they break one of the 10 commandments, except the demand of the Big Other is different. Instead of demanding obedience to moral precepts, today's Big Other demands that we rebel against authority, free ourselves of external influences and authority, and choose for ourselves.

            The fact that people can't ever really live up to this demand is what leads them to turn to controlling spiritual gurus, who preserves the appearance of freedom while secretly relieving his or her students of it.

          • Well certainly many people don't want to believe that Montessori teachers make decisions and frame the classroom experience, even if you point out the obvious. But I still do think that this is the line of critique one must follow, to point out that power structures always exist and the ramifications of such. Is there any alternative?

            That said, choosing which toys to play with isn't necessarily a problem. Hypocritical yes, if the ideology is that children are free to choose. But I'm not sure it is problematic in every context to be hypocritical, nor to decide for children or have some sort of decision-making structure in an organization or society.

            In the context of therapy and hypnotherapy in particular there are many debates about this. On the one hand you have authoritarian approaches, where the hypnotherapist just gives direct commands to the client: you are relaxing, you feel better, your problem is gone, do this, etc. Milton Erickson is known for his permission-based hypnotherapy where he said things in ways that a client couldn't object as easily: a person can relax, I don't know if you will feel better as you walk through that door or when you wake up tomorrow, etc.

            A debate rages as to whether this more indirect Ericksonian style is less or more manipulative–on the one hand, it gives apparent choices, but on the other hand whichever choice you choose you are obeying the therapist and following his/her directives. Some pick-up artists and sleazy salesmen have picked up on this and advertise Ericksonian hypnosis as a way to be MUCH more authoritarian and get whatever it is that you want from people.

            Meanwhile, Erickson himself used a combination of authoritarian and permissive styles. It's also been argued that some clients demand that the therapist tell them what to do and feel, so it is actually authoritarian and manipulative of the therapist to deny the client's wishes for such a style!

    • A related issue is the fact that we are dealing with what appears to be a malignant narcissist in James Arthur Ray.

      Narcissists present a double-bind. What a narcissist craves more than anything is narcissistic supply, i.e. attention. If he can get love, that's great. But if not, he'll take hate instead.

      To despise James Arthur Ray is to feed his unconditional narcissism. To love him as his follower is clearly to do so as well.

      The way out of a double bind is to take a strong, paradoxical stance that violates both poles. In this case, we must take a stance of unconditionally seeking justice and and a stance of unconditional love.

      Only unconditional love can break unconditional narcissism. To love all beings except the narcissist is to single him out for being special! To love all beings without exception equally is to make James Arthur Ray the man totally irrelevant. If I love him regardless, he is no more special or less special than any other.

      This is the solution to the problem. It must be an absurd choice, a leap into the void. One cannot take a stance because it is better for justice, because it is more likely to convert Ray, etc. It must be taken for no reason at all, equally as absurd as Ray's post-bail tweets except in the opposite direction.

      • Toby says:

        Great point!!! Great read of the situation too! I hadn't put that together but really, James Ray feeds off of a reaction, any reaction, that's his drug in a way (amongst others). And you are right to point out that even if our emotional reaction (anger in this case) is genuine, we still might want to examine how we choose to express it given the context and the circumstances. Nicely done.

      • ellen says:

        Duff, who says you have to love all beings? And what is unconditional love? This sounds impossibly idealistic to me, like constructing an apalling obstacle just so that you can be defeated trying to climb it.
        Some things we like, some we don't, why let anyone, or any ancient creed dictate what we should like or not, should love or not.
        When I am furiously angry and having that raging internal debate, I shut myself away until the matter is settled and I have a reasonable grip on myself–then I act using that anger. Sometimes my raging debates go on for years, it doesn't matter, I am sorting out something that won't be done til its done. I know that if I try to trick myself out of any feeling it is a short term solution, and I know I am tricked, the feeling will return.

        • Duff, who says you have to love all beings?
          Not me! There is no *requirement* to love anyone–EVER. Love can never be required, forced, coerced, or demanded. To do so is to use love as a weapon.

          I say NEVER let anyone dictate to you what you should love! I say destroy all creeds, books, teachings, and teachers that say you must love! Burn them all in the fires of ignorance.

    • One last thought re this:

      It seems to me that there is an implicit assumption underlying this post that anger is: dangerous, toxic, unwanted, something to be worked with so that it can be disposed of. Maybe I'm misreading it, but that's the hit I get.

      I'd call that shaming, i.e. saying "anger is bad–stop feeling that way." Is there a way to love one's enemies minus this assumption that anger is bad and the associated shaming?

      • Chris Edgar says:

        Hi Duff. My sense is that loving our enemies is the result of learning to embrace all of our experiences (finding equanimity as it's sometimes called). It sounds like Core Transformation is directed toward this — for me it's about taking a meditative attitude into my "real world" existence, and allowing my thoughts and sensations to pass away without resistance, including the anger I may feel at someone else.

        I think a lot of people run into frustration around an idea like loving our enemies because they see it as a rule to follow in order to obtain eternal salvation, and they try to obey it, as if it were a speed limit. But loving our enemies is really a "symptom" or "manifestation," I think, of being at peace with all our experiences — not the cause of that peace.

        • Yes, I agree. Embracing all our experiences, we embrace all those who would injure, abuse, insult, or attack us as well. I think the exact same thing can be achieved with a "meditative attitude." As a geek who is kind of dense about matters of the heart, I find the step-by-step ABCs of self-love written about in Core Transformation useful to achieve that meditative attitude of acceptance and understanding.

          I can see loving one's enemies as cause and symptom of peace, actually. But again, it depends on the very specific methods and context involved, which is why I provided a detailed example.

        • elaine says:

          Thank you Chris, I've never thought of loving one's enemies in terms of a manifestation or result. I like that….

        • Frank Schoenburg says:

          "I think a lot of people run into frustration around an idea like loving our enemies because they see it as a rule to follow in order to obtain eternal salvation, and they try to obey it, as if it were a speed limit."

          This articulates what I was having trouble figuring out in my head. I'll add that the concept of we should love our enemies can be used to manipulate us into having us feel something we either don't want to feel, can't feel, or maybe shouldn't feel. At the same time, loving our enemies can be a more advanced response than being angry, plotting revenge etc.

          Remember when Dick Cheney had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago? I really wanted him to die. Then I thought that was to good for him. Suffer and then die is still to good for him. Eternal damnation in the lowest rung of hell is more like it. I'm not going to love him or forgive him.

          The great thing about this site is that I think this audience is OK with my stand. We'll see.

          • the concept of we should love our enemies can be used to manipulate us into having us feel something we either don't want to feel, can't feel, or maybe shouldn't feel. At the same time, loving our enemies can be a more advanced response than being angry, plotting revenge etc.

            Yes, I totally agree. Hence the question whether we can love our enemies without shaming others, using the teaching on love as a weapon.

  11. Eric Normand says:


    Thanks for sharing your process.

    I had heard of core transformation, but hadn't ever used it. I think I'll have to try it now.

    On the subject of loving your enemies: I was recently reading a book by philosopher Iris Murdock on morality. She was arguing that love (and good) have everything to do with proper understanding. In that sense, loving James Ray would be about trying to understand him and his actions. I think you've gone a long way to doing that, but it's hard to understand something when you've got anger clouding your judgment. The core transformation looks like a good step.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Proper understanding–yes, I think that's so important. It's tricky with a narcissist however, for they have a tendency to say "you don't understand me, and if you did you wouldn't judge or stop me" which is half true, but ends up being a game of manipulating emotions. I don't know how much it is possible, but I'd like to explore the direction of understanding while being strong, pursuing justice, and protecting ourselves and others from destructive behavior. I think Core Transformation is a useful process for helping us to get there more reliably.

  12. […] more general information on the Core Transformation Method from Duff McDuffee, click here and visit his […]

  13. ellen says:

    No, keep the books, they keep us thinking–just don't assume we have to automatically obey their dictats.

  14. I admit the slipperiness of a word like "unconditional" which can get us in all sorts of semantic tangles! Hence why the specific examples are important. Glad this makes more sense given an example or two.

  15. That said…can we take a similarly detached, centered, compassionate stance towards James Arthur Ray? How specifically? Can we also generalize this stance towards other malignant narcissists, gurus or otherwise? Can we additionally teach such a stance to others, or provide ourselves as an example?

  16. Good point. I love books too much to burn them anyway. Well, at least most books–there are a couple of self-help books on my shelf I'd like to burn.

  17. ellen says:

    Reword that last, we just don't assume…….;-)

  18. You know, when I think about it now, my CT session detailed above actually was more of loving my enemy as a result of loving and understanding my own reaction first. Giving JAR my Core State of "Being" was a symbolic act of loving my enemy. Funny that I didn't see that before.

    You've hit the nail on the head there Mr. Edgar! 🙂

  19. Duff,

    First of all, thank you for sharing a very personal part of your process in a way that is both illuminating and touching (and yeah, verging on poetic at times!). What rare honesty and boldness.

    There is so much to consider here (in what you’ve written), and probably more that I could respond to in a future post. For now, I’ll respond to the core question, and still, it will require (apologies in advance) a two-part post…

    I think of anger (and any other emotion) as a sign marking a waypoint. As I reflect on my own inner process, it seems I can sometimes get stuck at that emotional waypoint, but the anger is signaling me all the while. What’s it telling me?

    Now, I might perceive that message that if I could just fix this or that person or this and that aspect of the world, my anger will go away. I am free to do that. I might choose to harness my anger to propel me into what I consider righteous action. In rare instances, this action might actually be appropriate (rather than righteous, and much more preferable, IMHO).

    Unfortunately, far more often, anger propels to “righteous” action — or rather, we miss the mark of *appropriate* action. E.g., I could spend my whole life in the righteous exercise of trying to fix other people, and other stuff in the world, based on my parochial beliefs (though I might imagine them as more universal, LOL) and in the process create MORE anger, and more problems. All the while something is gnawing at me. Maybe it’s the feeling that I’m drifting further and further away from my personal power and the life I could have, as I become more and more a puppet of a cause based on an emotional response to a single event. Ouch. Was the action appropriate? Regardless, am I moving toward what I wanted to create, or further away from it?

    OK, let’s try judgement. I *could* think that anger is telling me to judge a person, place, thing or event as bad, box it up, and that will make me feel like things are tidy and now I can go on…

    Hmm… it works to a point, but I cut off some life again. As soon as I judge, I stop experiencing. I’ve shut the door to further evolution and further understanding of the object of my anger, my emotions, me.

    Third perception/choice…better put a blanket over this and smother it. Anger is “bad.” Anger is especially bad when I express it towards someone I love or who loves me. I’ll choose depression instead. (Painful and further from Inner Self/Divine connection even, than anger is).

    Another perception: I hear the message as follows: “Your thoughts are causing you to separate from your inner self, and by extension, your Divine connection, and that is damned uncomfortable.” (Wow, now I am listening).

    End of Part I, Part II to follow…

  20. Part II of II posts…

    I agree with Ellen about never questioning the appropriateness of one’s emotions. They are always appropriate in that they alert us to exactly where we are on something, and relative to whatever it is we are feeling about, and our *beliefs* about it. They alert us to how our larger self perceives, by showing us the distance between what the higher self perceives, and where we are, based on how uncomfortable we feel.

    But what do we do next? Your steps of core transformation are certainly in the right direction, IMHO. Still, you ran into your own road block of sorts. Is there another belief or understanding that could create a breakthrough?

    When I hit a wall like that, then where I go for my breakthroughs is into my belief system. Why do I believe I must do something about a perceived injustice? Why am I not trusting in the way the Universe works, even if that means others make choices that are different from my own — even when these choices may mean that they will transition from this physical life to another?

    What are my beliefs about death? Do I consider it final? Do I consider it, as Walt Whitman suggested, “…far luckier…?” What can I believe about me, or life, or reality, or others that will free me and empower me further, rather than constrain me and others? What do I really *believe* is the path of true love here, and why?

    After I answer some questions, I might decide that we have punished people and warred against wrongs for eons, yet we still have what we consider criminals and wrong deeds. No shortage of either, in spite of all our best efforts. As soon as we get rid of one, another pops up to take the place left behind.

    I might consider that the only way to take a criminal out of the equation, is to empower the the would-be victims. I might perceive that either create our own reality, or we are always victims — of both pain and pleasure.

    Anyway, in my case, I decided that my loving response empowering those seeking out teachers and teachings was to create a woo-woo test that would serve to coach New Age consumers on making very conscious choices regarding their choice of psycho-spirituality, metaphysics, gurus, etc. So far, it has met with positive response, and hopefully has assisted some folks to better choices.

    Now my full disclosure: I see empowering others through coaching them to present, conscious, deliberate choice as the way to assisting them in reclaiming authority given away to this or that representation of love, safety or salvation.

    I am going to end it there. Duff, thanks, as usual for the honest, thought-provoking post.


  21. Jamo says:

    This whole self-help thing is bullshit. And this is coming from a guy who had several hundred SH books on his shelves, and used to be a psychotherapist (I'm so glad I quit). Life is so much better when you quit analysing everything. I don't need to "love my enemies". It sounds like you enjoyed going after Ray (I respect what you did). I do too. What's wrong with that? BTW religion is retarded crap too and I don't care if I offend any one with that.

    Self-help is a trap of "there is something wrong with me — I need to figure out what it is and change it". The whole process drives us crazy with confusion and makes us worse.

    There is nothing worse than believing something is wrong with you because you attack yourself for it. The only thing maybe worse is "trying to fix yourself" because it makes you analyse everything about yourself, second-guess it and attack yourself for it. It is crazy.

    If we stop all this we change much quicker and naturally or not but at least we live a mentally free life and maybe we can find that there is nothing wrong with us. And that is a tremendous relief when that happens. Self-help crap is a huge impediment to that. It only keeps you stuck on focusing on what is wrong with you and how you need to control yourself to change it. Like I said that is a viscious trap that you can't escape until you drop all selp-help techniques and endevors.

    • Self-help is like home improvement….

      "The whole home improvement thing is bullshit. This is coming from a guy who used to remodel homes for a living (I'm so glad I quit). Life is so much better when you stop going to Home Depot all the time, thinking about the newest kitchen sinks, watching all home improvement makeover shows, etc. I don't need to "makeover my home". It sound like you enjoyed tearing out that moldy old wood floor. What's wrong with that? BTW landscaping is retarded crap too and I don't care if I offend anyone with that.

      Home improvement is a trap of "there is something wrong with my home — I need to keep up with the neighbors, be totally organized, and install a bear claw tub." This whole process drives us crazy with competition and makes us broke.

      There is nothing worse that believing something is wrong with your home because you can't ever just rest in it. The only thing maybe worse is "trying to fix your home" because something is always breaking or could be newer. It is crazy.

      It we all stop this we either have a good enough home or not but at least we live a life where we can just live in our home without constantly being under construction. And that is a tremendous relief when that happens. Home improvement crap is a huge impediment to that. It only keeps you stuck on buying more furniture and how you need to make more money to buy it. Like I said that is a vicious trap that you can't escape until you drop all home improvement shows, magazines, and stores."

      • Jamo says:


        Yes they are pretty much the same thing. They both suck if you are obsessed with them. Great analogy — thanks for that. I got a kick out of it.

        The same goes with the body. We are trying to do to our minds what Michael Jackson did to his face. He became unrecognizable, and so do we. The more we do it the more programmed, stuffy and politically correct we become. Boring and self-demeaning. It is not fun and it is actually what people want to escape from in first place. They just think that "fixing" themselves is the answer when in the end it becomes the problem. At least that was my experience.

        Perhaps with people who are really srewed-up, like convicts etc, some type of self-help might have some value. Like AA….it helps in the beginning and then many report a huge relief after they stop going.

        Nice that you stood-up to Ray. I would have been proud of myself had I done that. I would have been happy that I none of the stupid self-help concepts I had learned, like "love your enemies" or "stay in your own business" prevented me from confronting the jerk.

        I feel freer now that I don't adhere to all these "shoulds" that are crammed into SH and religious books and were crammed into my head. I get to act naturally and find-out what I really believe, like it sounds like you did when confronting Ray. Maybe I will have the balls to do so too if he ever comes to my town.

        • Good point re: the body. It's only gonna get crazier with genetic engineering and nanotechnology. I once signed up for Second Life just because I thought it would be interesting. After an hour I was still creating my character–in fact I hadn't gotten below my neck yet. I said to hell with it! I don't want so many choices about how to be.

          I've had a similar experience with self-help/personal development. It can become an obsessive narcissistic hobby. Sometimes you just need to stop entirely to step out of the madness, especially if you are surrounded by other people who are also obsessed with self-help.

          I've been finding that there are still some good things there, just as sometimes you actually do need to rip out a broken toilet and replace it in your home. But stepping away for a while we can see the proper place of fixing things in the balance of one's life. And there is no obligation to engage either–I live in an apartment for a reason! I actually do hate landscaping and home improvement (although my girlfriend would love to buy some new furniture…).

          I hope that you can confront your equivalent of James Ray–if not the man himself–when given an opportunity. It's pretty fun, actually! 🙂

    • I tried to give up self-help cold turkey, but it was too hard to do on my own. So I joined a self-help addicts 12-step group. Really nice people–you might like it.

  22. Jamo says:

    Duff, you sound like a super-kind guy naturally. Why do you need to work on all this kindness stuff? Like you said your reaction only happens when you are in the presence of Ray or intensely think about him. Why see that as a problem? The same thing happens to me and I enjoy it as part of my being human. Being a little worked-up over Ray is not bad for me at all. I rather enjoy it, that's why I seek-out new info on the case. When I make it a problem I go against my human nature and now I have a problem that I need to fix. And I know it is a problem because I read some book that describes some guy that is able to have loving feelings toward everyone on the planet. Now I have found the solution to my imagined problem — I just need to become like him. And I am in luck, he provides detailed exercises I can do to become the way be claims to be. The only problem is they take tons of time, and energy. They don't seem so bad at first but after a couple of months of intense effort they start driving me batty. And worst of all it doesn't seem like I am making much headway. But of course that is because I haven't practiced hard and long enough. That's right, he said it was a life long practice. But if I do so I will become just like him and have loving feelings toward everyone on the planet and then I wont have to feel these feelings when I think of James Ray. And I know this guy really feels this way because it is written in a book. The only solution is my life-long intensive practicing.

    And by the way when that happens everyone will be attracted to me and I will get a lot of stuff easily because people will see that I am "special" because I have all this compassion. They might even call me enlightened. I probably will be. And I know that enlightenment exists because I read it in a book and saw some people who seemed to be that way. Just like James Ray. Many people thought he was enlightened, but of course he is different because he really wasn't. He was just faking, But there are other people out there who are not faking, like this buddhist guy. He is real and can really do that because I read it in a book. And I can't be tricked like people were tricked by James Ray.

    The other problem is that as I firmly entrench this "should" of always having compassion I start getting more pissed at people who are obviously not compassionate, like they should be. And lose some spontaneity, and my family and friends notice that I am less fun to be around.

    As you put it "to be OK and loved" is what we really want. Well if we think it is a problem because we get pissed at James Ray then we are not OK and it starts the search for a fix. I say it is great to get pissed at James Ray and it sucks big time to try to fix it.

    • If getting a bit riled up about James Ray isn't a problem for you, then it isn't a problem! Continue as you wish. For me, I wanted my mind and emotions back. I still follow the case, but not as closely, which is what I was wanting. I don't feel love for Ray, as I described explicitly above. I feel disgust!

      Enlightenment doesn't give you anything at all, at least in the model I subscribe to. Daniel Ingram has an interesting discussion of the matter in his book:

      Turning compassion into a "should" is shaming, using love as a weapon.

      • Jamo says:

        I am speaking generally here Duff. This isn't an attack on you, I just want to share some realizations I have had in my process that may or may not be helpful and interesting to others. You seem like a great guy, and I identify with your process.

        "I wanted my mind and emotions back". That is an assmption that you don't have them. Really what you are saying is that there is something wrong with your mind and emotions and that you want them to be different. Really what this boils down to is your concept of "enlightenment" because if you didn't think it was possible to love a bastard like Ray you wouldn't take it as a goal. You would think it was normal that you are pissed at Ray and not give it a second thought. And maybe then it wouldn't even be painful to you.

        You certainly would not try to do practices to try to change or eliminate your anger. Maybe these practices make your anger worse. You ever think of that? First of all they can be grewling and secondly they make you hypersensitive to your anger. They magnify your anger and make your ability to dectect the slightest anger incredibly acute. But most importantantly of all they make you feel like shit because the premise of these practices is that there is something "wrong" with your anger and therefore something wrong with you when you have anger. So you find yourself off on a wild goose chase to find the holy grail of enlightenment which is the "solution" to your problem which may not even be a problem.

        Do you think that scams are a modern phenomenon? One thing we know about scams is that they sell and bring in tons of money. They say "you have this problem and I can sell you this solution". Maybe the concept of enlightenment is an ancient scam made up by the Indians, or whom ever. Maybe it is totally impossible to attain the states that they describe except for fleeting moments.

        We see someone who talks the game, looks the part and has charisma with groups like James Ray. We take that as evidence that the states they describe are possible. And we have confirmation from books and Oprah.

        What I have found is that the process of "seeking" kills us. It reinforces the idea that we are really screwed-up. And like you say all we really want is to feel "OK".

        Google "tony parsons". Fascinating guy who agrees with a lot of the stuff I am saying.

        • I didn't see your response as an attack on me.

          I've found that this process in particular does in fact transform anger, and makes me more tolerant of anger in myself and others.

          Your critique is good, but honestly, it doesn't apply to me!

        • By the way, this debate we're having is a classic one between a formless approach like Dzogchen or neo-Advaita and a transformational approach like Tantra (at least in the Buddhist tradition). It is very much a *religious* debate, the debate between "what I can change" and "what I can't" in the Serenity Prayer.

          My lady is more of a formless gal herself–we debate this same sort of thing back and forth all the time!

  23. Jamo says:

    I enjoy the conversation too.

    I don't know that much about Tony Parsons….never read a book, just visited his website, but what really I like about his approach is that he says that "liberation" can only be realized when ALL seeking is stopped. That really resonates with me. It has been a really powerful practice to stop all seeking and it has brought me deep levels of peace. It is because seeking assumes a problem and when you stop you can see everything you already have within you and that you are completely whole and complete — you always have been but you just didn't realize it. You feel "OK" (in my case to a level I had not experienced since very early childhood).

    I know this is not a new idea….you could probably tell me more about that.

    Good point about the serenity prayer. That's why I mentioned enlightenment maybe a scam. If it is impossible to achieve those states in a sustained way by those methods (meditation for example) then that would be very good to know. Then it would fall into the catagory of "I can't get that from that" so why bother trying.

    It depends on what your goal is. My goal is to feel "ok" with myself all the time and to feel free and happy. Ceasing ALL seeking has very, very much helped with all that.

    And by the way I have tryed a lot of practices in the past but I won't bore you with the details. None really worked, and the cumulative effect seemed to have screwed me up more. I have myself back now through "not seeking" and I am grateful for that.

    • There are many ways to get to "non-seeking mind." The process I describe in this blog post is one of them, and it works well for me…at least sometimes. At other times I do some other practice, or practice dropping all practices altogether.

      Personally I don't think there's any state that one can feel all the time, including non-seeking or OKness. But at the same time, I do think we can train or cultivate states of being to the point where they are so frequent it is as-if they are continuous–but if we really check, it's just that other states are infrequent. Or at least that's my experience.

      A different way of constructing your story could be that all those practices *did* work in that they lead to non-seeking or OKness, a deeper level of complexity than changing things at more gross levels (e.g. trying to cultivate positive affect). Most people I know that are into non-seeking/Neo-Advaita disregard the large number of practices, many years of meditation, etc. as inconsequential and a mistake, that the truth of Being is always accessible and requires no practice or time (instant realization). Other traditions like Theravada Buddhism emphasize these things as earlier stages in a predictable path, that progression and practice in a disciplined way eventually get you to a place beyond discipline and practice.

      Half empty or half full, either way there is 500ml of water in a half-filled 1 liter bottle.

  24. Jamo says:

    "I don't think there is any state that one can feel all the time" — we agree on that. That's why anger is totally OK and cool. And that's why any teacher that says that they are in a state of bliss all the time, or never get angry or have a negative reaction are LYING.

    That's all well and good but it is extremely destructive to the student. Byron Katie (among others) for example says over and over that she hasn't gotten angry once for over 20 years. The people around her beg to differ. She describes her "incredibly fantastic" state in detail and says that if you do "The Work" long enough you can reside in the same state. Nobody ever has so the "carrot" remains in front of their nose which keeps them doing The Work and forking over money to her.

    Having said that, I agree with you that it is possible that my having done The Work and other practices for many years may have contributed to my instant ability to fall into "OKness" when I ceased all practices and seeking. That is not to say that it is impossible to discover your "OKness" without having to go through all that effort and austerity. I believe it is, but I had to take the long route.

    "I do think we can train or cultivate states of being to the point where they are so frequent it is as-if they are continuous–but if we really check, it's just that other states now occur very infrequently".

    My take on this is that it is not about "cultivating states". That is the big fallacy — the big carrot (wonderful state) that will forever remain in front of your nose with you chasing it because you can't achieve it, and you will judge yourself for it continue to do what you believe is the answer — more practices. The more we chase, the more we try to fix, the more we seek, the more impossible it is for us to see that we already have what we have been looking for.

    My "OKness" does not judge the states I am in. It is all-inclusive and that is the power of it. "Cultivating" it is the antithesis of it and will garantee that I don't feel "OK".

    • From reports of former insiders in her organization, Byron Katie is lying about not getting angry in 20 years. Apparently it is very common for her to rage at her staff and/or be extremely passive aggressive. From what I can tell, she is running a cult-like Large Group Awareness Training seminar company that is extremely coercive. Eckhart Tolle says similar things about his experience, but I think he's full of it too. He also seems to be in the business of selling endlessly more books, talks, and very expensive workshops.

      I do think "the path" is about cultivating states, but only the states of Being which are meta-states to the primary emotions/affect. You could say instead that it is about cultivating a different relationship to experience, one that is more clear, precise, compassionate, and equanimous. I think this perspective is the same as yours, told in a different way. It also recognizes that there is nothing to get or ultimately achieve, yet by practicing being with our experience without reacting, clearly observing what is happening with compassion, we can be at peace with what's happening.

      But again, it's just words. You are clearly practicing cultivating OKness by my observation, but to give you the instruction "cultivate OKness" would trigger seeking mind, so instead you prefer the opposite instruction "don't cultivate anything" which is to say cultivate OKness in different words, based on a different logical level of experience. Same thing.

      For example, see this excellent summary from Shinzen Young on "What is Mindfulness?"

      Shinzen Young by contrast does $20 "at-home retreats" (that have scholarships available too!). I'm not saying he's perfect, or that there aren't alternative formulations of spiritual practice that are legit, but if you watch a video of him and compare to Byron Katie, I think it's obvious that he's not on the same kind of guru trip:

      My take on the instant realization/gradual realization is that yes, OKness and states of Being are available at any moment, as close as your own breath. Yet they also take time to cultivate as a way of being, for we tend to find them and then lose them, over and over again. Being and Becoming or Being and Time exist together inseperably. Tolle's "story" is that he woke up to Being one day and that was that. I think this is an equally romantic story that keeps people locked into the guru circuit, the dream that "one day I will just totally wake up and never forget my OKness/Being." I think this is basically bull, even in Tolle's case, for he had a long period where he was totally non-functional and could basically only sit on a park bench. This is not recommended for most people who have families and jobs, etc., who if they "woke up" this way would be committed to a mental ward for catatonia (and I think some mental patients are in fact experiencing things like this that they don't know how to integrate…and the psychiatric staff doesn't know either).

  25. Jamo says:

    "Cultivating" means you are prefering one state over another, no matter how you say it.

    I think I understand what you are saying and it sounds similar to what I am saying but the semantics are where the similarities end.

    Your way sounds complicated. My way is simple…cease all spiritual and self improvement practices as a start. That is a lot simplier than what I think you are saying.

    It may sound like a fine distinction, but it isn't, it is an enormous one. I will repeat again, when we try to fix or change something in us we are separating ourselves from our "OKness" which is the very thing that we are the trying to achieve with the practice. It is a radical idea, I understand that, and it is very difficult for the ego mind to understand. The ego-mind is the "doer" and when you let go of seeking there is nothing for the ego to do. Therefore it is not necessary for the ego to exist. Likewise all the complicated "thinking" becomes unnesessary.

    To be OK in this moment, no thinking is necessary. I don't even need to know my name. If I am not OK then tremendously complicated thinking is necessary to figure out what the hell is wrong and how can I fix it.

    When ever you are "doing" something to fix yourself, that is seeking. Like I said this is a radical concept and it doesn't sell. The more arduous you make a practice, the more it sells. If I told people that they had to wake up at dawn and meditate for 3 hours every day to be happy, they love that. But to tell them to do "nothing" that is not attractive. Because it leaves their ego with nothing to do. The ego, or the "doer" is the source of unhappiness. It contains within it all the stories of pain and lacking. It is the "I". Your story of who you think you are. So when you don't do any practices, you don't get to engage your "you".

    I am not advocating that anyone stop seeking, but it has been great for me and I am happy to get this infomation out there. If this is the way for someone, they will come to it eventually. And like you said some practices might help toward that end.

    So the difference between what you and I are saying, Duff, is that you are saying that you can "do" something to "cultivate OKness". I am saying that if you "do" anything to cultvate it, your "OKness" goes down the toilet in that moment. And if you believe that you need to "do" something, than you have an underlying established belief that you are not OK as you are. And that can only be experienced and realized, not explained. I didn't find it that hard, so if anyone out there is interested, give it a shot and let us know what happens. As you can see, you don't need a teacher, a therapist and it is free.

  26. SaltyDroid says:

    Good stuff.

    I read the core transformation bits even though that's well outside of my normal "practices."

    Can we love our enemies? I say we can. Why hate? It's just a waste. We're all part and product of the same strange system. Intolerable actions cannot be tolerated. Intolerable people on the other hand … we are totally stuck with.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mr. Droid! Yes, I agree that actions != people, which is why forgiveness is often possible.

      That said, every helpful technique (including Core Transformation) can be distorted into its opposite when in the grips of psychopathic tendencies of human beings. Hence vigilance is important.

  27. Reja_CIMS says:

    Thank you so much for your POST.

    I have posted a reply at this location since it was too long to post here. 🙂

    Sent with Love,
    ~ Reja
    My recent post New Theme- Tapestry

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