Reconnecting with Life. An article for the Viha Connection, May 2020
Reconnecting with Life
In 1984 psychologist John Welwood explained that he used the term “spiritual bypassing” “to describe a process I saw happening in the Buddhist community […], a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” In other words: denial.
Denial (“It didn’t happen, it’s not happening to me…”) is not a bad thing. It is simply a mechanism devised by the wisdom of nature to “cope,” to make the impact of strong emotions more bearable for a while. It’s a way of diluting the realization of loss or hurt without collapsing under it. It is much the same on an emotional level as when we get physically hurt and our body produces more adrenaline to temporarily anesthetize us. Denial has its function, but just for a while, until we come back to ourselves and are able to address the emotions that lie buried underneath.
When we get too comfortable in denial, what we have not felt or expressed hides in our unconscious. We react to the unfinished past instead of responding to the present. We hurt ourselves and others with behaviors that have no direct connection with what is happening in the moment.
This can be a big problem on the path of meditation. With meditation, we embrace the whole of reality; We watch and include everything that is happening. With denial we exclude part of our reality. We do not feel any anger, any grief, any despair, just because we have split off from our sensations both on the physical and emotional levels. In a certain sense, we are in a “blissful” disconnection from our bodies…it feels strangely good, but also a bit numb and lonely. We lose our capacity to interact with life.
In the world of Osho therapy there are many methods to go beyond denial. Each one of them resonates differently with different individuals. But the main factor remains the same: to reconnect, to become whole.
Once feelings are “out in the open,” the real work starts, which is embracing them. In that embrace, anger can alchemize into gratefulness and forgiveness, sadness can become compassion, depth, and kindness…
The experience of Osho leaving the body is an example of this whole process for many of us. That night the news spread like lightning through what we called the ashram in those days. The waves of shock, pain, and disbelief were rippling through everyone, while we stumbled to reach what is now the Buddha Grove, to receive the official news of His departure. Some of us were crying. For me it felt like losing a Beloved, someone I was attached to with heart, body, soul, and being… I remember that in that sense of utter loss I did not know what to make of my/our future.
Then Osho’s physician came to the front of the podium and told us that in His last moments Osho had said to him, “Don’t cry…” We all took it as a general guideline and stopped crying. I remember entering a kind of soft bubble of denial, in which pain and loss were pushed back. It felt soothing in a way.
Osho’s body was brought into the hall covered in rose petals. We all started singing and celebrating, which was extremely touching and uplifting, and then we all moved to the burning ghats to place the body on the funeral pyre.
As His body started burning, many of us felt how the fragrance of cool universal love was spreading through us, the crowd, as a tangible blessing. I am absolutely sure I was not imagining. In that suspended, shocked, out-of-the-body space that I and, I guess, most of us were in, there was a gap, a breach into another, more universal reality, in which we could experience the essence of our beloved Master’s presence, much larger than the body that had been containing it up to that moment. That was the funny thing: Denial and transcendence came hand in hand. Being disconnected from the physical and emotional pain was creating an opening into a spiritual dimension.
For a while, though, only for a while.
As the evening wore into the night the reality of my small, embodied world came back. I remember suddenly “needing” a cigarette, and the shame and bewilderment that in such a momentous situation I would think of such a cheap compensation. I went home numb and achy, feeling again the loss and a general sense of meaninglessness. How were we, how was I, going to take it from here?
The following morning Premartha, my beloved, and I woke up after a couple of hours of agitated sleep. He was leading a Tantra group, and I was leading the Mystic Rose, right in what later became the Samadhi.
When we arrived in the Resort, everything was running even better than usual. Breakfast was served, and it was more delicious than ever. Everyone was in a very soft and ethereal space.
At the Lao Tzu Gate, 60 people were waiting to start their daily three hours of meditative therapy. We were on the second day of laughter, and miraculously it went very well. Carried by that transcendental wave that we all had experienced the previous night, the laughter was ecstatic, mixed with an occasional furtive tear and lots of silence.
The problem began when the seven days of tears started. None of the participants could cry. Crying meant admitting the loss, and nobody could. People remained frozen under their sheets, and no matter what tear-wrenching music I would play, nothing moved. We held on to “Osho is now everywhere” for dear life. In that frozenness, I started developing tachycardia, and some people became reactive, wanting their money back for the day we had lost due to the death celebration. In seven days, the tears never came.
We were all trying to bypass grief and jump to the “next” level, the universal level we truly had experienced in that spiritual moment at His funeral pyre: The Master had become even more present than within the limited confines of His fragile body. And this was not a lie, just a partial truth.
In the years that followed, I remember the surprise and relief when, at the end of a session I was giving in Germany, I looked at Osho’s picture and suddenly felt an immense anger. I felt abandoned, just as I had been abandoned too early by my father when I was 20. A veil lifted from my inner eye. I had been protecting myself from the pain of loss, and the anger that flared up became an opening, a way to reconnect. I remember thinking, “If I can get angry with Him, I can also feel Him again. He is not an untouchable and distant presence.” And with that, love poured in, tears of loss but also of gain…and an immense feeling of gratitude for this journey with the Master. Osho was a wonderful man, and is a universal presence.
“Don’t Use Masks
If you suppress anything, in the body there is some part, corresponding part, to the emotion. If you don’t want to cry, your eyes will lose the luster because tears are needed; they are a very alive phenomenon. When once in a while you weep and cry, really you go into it – you become it – and tears start flowing down your eyes; your eyes are cleansed, your eyes again become fresh, young, and virgin. That’s why women have more beautiful eyes, because they can still cry. Man has lost his eyes because they have a wrong notion that men should not cry. […] Eyes need weeping and crying, and it is really beautiful if you can cry and weep wholeheartedly.
Remember, if you cannot cry and weep wholeheartedly, you cannot laugh also, because that is the other polarity. People who can laugh can also cry; people who cannot cry cannot laugh. And you may have observed sometimes in children: if they laugh loudly and long they start crying – because both things are joined. In the villages I have heard mothers saying to their children, “Don’t laugh too much; otherwise you will start crying.” Really true, because the phenomena are not different – just the same energy moves to the opposite poles.
Second thing: Don’t use masks – be true whatsoever the cost.
And the third thing about authenticity: Always remain in the present because all falseness enters either from the past or from the future. That which has passed has passed; don’t bother about it. And don’t carry it as a burden; otherwise it will not allow you to be authentic to the present. And all that has not come has not come yet – don’t unnecessarily be bothered about the future; otherwise that will come into the present and destroy it. Be true to the present, and then you will be authentic. To be here-now is to be authentic. No past, no future: this moment all, this moment the whole eternity.
These three things, and you attain what Patanjali calls truthfulness.”
Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol. 5, Chapter 7