Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Missed a day

But who cares?  Its a process, right?

My patience is wearing so thin any more.  I mean, most wouldn't notice.  I'm a pretty copacetic dude on the outside. But on the inside, man I can't even deal any more.

One thing that really gets me?  Knee jerk postmodern exception citing.  Because that's what Po-Mo is - citing exceptions.  No generalization is universal - that's the whole idea (ignoring the universality of the rule of course). Well enough.  Cool.  Great idea.  Good.

But you know what's redundant?  When someone says "Most of the time, xyz" and someone else says "Uh-uh!  Sometimes its abc!"

I think that's what most means, isn't it?  Do we really have a disagreement here?

It isn't though someone said "PoMo grad students are always and universally jerks" and so we are obligated by intellectual honesty to point out that "no - of course there are PoMo grad students who are not at all jerks and I personally met one a few years ago in a far away land who would be devastated at this gross generalization."

But if we said "Most PoMo grad students (or NaNoWriMo bloggers) are jerks." there would be no reason at all to point out an exception, right?  I mean maybe we can say "ok show me the statistics on that." to dispute the assertion of 'most' but then we'd be regressing to a modernist position and that just wouldn't be right at all because phallologocentrism etc.

On the other hand, my iPad has an electric piano app that can lock in key signatures and scale modes so I can play with little more than some basic musical and rhythmic sensibility - like I'm all Dr. John and shit.  So there is hope for life.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hah one minute to spare.

Or.... its still Monday in California.  NaNoWriMo day 2.

So what's active for me today. Not getting everything done that I think I ought to.  By a long shot.  Not in my day job.  Not in my night job. Not at home. Not in my relationships.  Sure, its obvious I have to learn to let things go - but whoever said it was easy to learn.

I'm listening to an interview I did with a good friend on relationships.  We are talking about polyamory.  On the one hand I'm super impressed with myself.  I sound great.  I sound like I know what the hell I'm talking about.  On the other hand I think who am I to think I know anything at all.  I have a huge case of imposter syndrome.  And on the third hand I'm always a little self conscious about my voice.  Its always a bit nasal, a bit pitched up into my head, as if I'm always trying to sound harmless or young or feminine or something.  I'm kind of like Hagrid.  More and more people are comparing me to Hagrid, which I really hate.  Yeah, Hagrid was lovable, but he was also a big clumsy oaf, a doofus, and really just not sexy at all.

I've been learning to swing dance.  I feel like Hagrid trying to swing dance. I feel more than a little ridiculous. When what I want is to feel graceful, expressive, joyful.  Instead I feel heavy, clumsy, unfit.

I met with my supervisor today - about my problem case.  I won't give any even remotely accurate details here, because privacy, but suffice to say its a challenge for me.  They have very strong defenses.  My usual bag of tricks just bounces off of them. And they make me very sad for them.  Their need for love is so strong - like a huge gaping wound - and they are so skilled it blocking out any chance at all of receiving it. Its my first challenge as a counselor I think.  My first real one.  What do I do when I really can't fool myself into thinking I'm "fixing" them at all (or fool them).

Yes, yes, of course we don't fix our clients, yadda yadda yadda.  I've got the degree.  Now can we just dump the doublespeak for a minute?

And the answer is that I hold hope.  That's my whole job.  For 50 minutes a week I visit them in their hopeless space and I sit there with them and believe in hope. I keep one hand on the shore while I swim with them.  And when we're done, I get to climb out, dry off, and breath deep of all the hope that is in my life.  They have to stay there.  Until and unless I can get them to take a chance on hope again.

Its a pretty hard job.  But what the hell, I wanted to do something worth doing.  If working hard to help someone find hope isn't worth it, then really I think my standards are just way, way too high.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo - sorta.

ok so I'm not writing a novel.  I'm just going to try to write every day.  It often seems like I have a lot I want to say and nowhere to say it.  Often I censor myself - there are things I won't say just because of who I might upset or what kind of fight it will cause or what it might mean for my career(s) if the "wrong" person were to read it.  Or maybe my ideas just aren't formed.  Or I don't really think I can fully support them - they're too speculative or subjective or something.  Or I don't know how it should all fit together thematically.

I'm kinda tired of that.  I feel blocked.  Stuck.  So screw it, I'm going to try to write everyday and see what happens.

Its going to be about all kinds of crap.  Integral theory. Kink. Polyamory. Counseling. Psychology. Politics. Geek/Nerd culture. Marriage. Parenthood. Romance. Music. You name it. Who knows? I may even write some fiction.

Self-care is on my mind a lot these days.  Its a term we throw around in counseling circles - it means, how the hell do we stay sane, energized, healthy, fresh, happy, content, etc., when we're asking ourselves to help people shoulder their burdens. Often it boils down to just stopping being so hard on yourself.  I mean we're devoting huge amounts of our energy to helping people for fuck's sake. And it isn't as if counseling is a hugely lucrative career.  If we are careful and make some wise choices with how we run our practice we can do pretty well - but lets face it, if you are entering a helping profession what are the odds that you're just a natural born entrepreneur and small business owner-operator.  The number of counselors who seem to bleed themselves dry with overly aggressive sliding scales, for instance, always shocks me.  

(not to say sliding scales are bad - people need sliding scales - not every one has insurance or can afford therapy - yadda-yadda-yadda-etc-etc.  Can we just assume that I'm not a cold-hearted bastard please? I'm totally sure I'm getting into counseling because I just can't wait to really sock it to people's pocket books. Yes I know I'm projecting.  And no, I'm not at all sure someone isn't reading this right now thinking exactly that I'm somehow insulting sliding scales.  Because our call-out, politically correct, trigger warning culture has beat this into me deeply.)

But anyway, back to self-care. Now that my professional internship is in full swing at the *same* time that my day job is beginning to heat up - I'm finding myself feeling pretty beat, pretty often.  I'm getting older.  I've never taken great care of myself.  I'm always prone to neglecting my own needs in favor of someone else's.  Its just how I was raised.  And the hell of it is, I kind of think my family (of origin) thinks I'm too selfish and inconsiderate sometimes - when as far as I'm concerned *the* struggle of my life is learning how to be appropriately selfish and let other people take care of themselves.  I'm nowhere *near* selfish enough.  I sacrifice my own needs and wants in the name of people I care about (and even people I don't particularly care about) constantly.

Obviously a recipe for burn-out - which I've already done a couple of times even in lines of work that are not at all about taking care of fundamental human needs.  So an important area of focus for me is getting my hands wrapped around self-care.

You would think it would be obvious but its not.  Sometimes you just have to take the day off and veg-out in front of the TV.  Sometimes what you really need is a work-out.  Sometimes you need to do something creative.  Sometimes you need to just let yourself be the least creative, most reactive, most neurotic, tired, whiny, grumpy, selfish person.  Just go ahead and watch the presidential debates and throw things at the TV.  That can be self-care.  Just letting yourself go from standards of decorum and thoughtfulness and how an evolved self-aware person should be spending their time.  Just tell your super-ego to go fuck itself and crank up the South Park.  In the scheme of things, just who the hell am I hurting? Are more people *really* going to die in Syria if I laugh my ass off at some very offensive comedian for an hour or two?  Obviously not, but boy part of me really thinks so.  Part of me is just standing there, tapping his toes, crossing his arms, pursing his lips, shaking his head sadly.

I really want to strangle that part of me.  Just punch his face in.  He isn't helpful.  He isn't moral. He isn't helping me be a good person - he's undermining me by trying to convince me I'm a *bad* person.  Well, I'm not.  Ok, maybe I've done a shitty job of breaking up with a few girlfriends.  Maybe way back when my job barely covered my student loans and living expenses I borrowed a few paper clips from the corporate supply closet.  Maybe I've unthoughtfully said things that hurt someone's feelings (usually followed by weeks of apologies).  Yes, maybe there are a few things I've done in my life that I *really* wish I hadn't.

But that's it. My prissy little tattletale superego can go fuck itself. I have better things to do with my time and energy. I have my family to support. Friends to love. Clients who I'm trying to help.

And now, I was planning to do some paperwork for the state licensing board.  But fuck that, I'm going to crank up the electric piano instead.  Then if its *lucky* my laundry will get done.





Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rape Culture: Any Decent Person

In light of all the recent discussions of gender privilege, rape culture, etc. I think I'd just like to say the following: Any decent person would and should intervene to prevent and stop rape and abuse in all its forms including domestic abuse, date rape, incest, drugged rape, and drunk rape. Any decent person would and should take victims stories seriously and seek justice for them and upon their perpetrators. Any decent person would and should change things in our society and culture that permit these actions to go unprosecuted, unjudged, and unsentenced while blaming their victim.
I suggest a new hashtag. ‪#‎ANYdecentPerson‬.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Tami Simon, Marc Gafni, et al. - Part I - "Short" Version

I've been pondering how to respond to this for a very long time. I've probably written this blog entry five times and trashed it. I've decided to take another go at it. I think I owe it to the small number of people in my community who might find themselves reading this blog in the future to be honest and clear about my take on these events. This is a subtle and difficult subject. You might disagree with me. I don't think you're a bad person if you do. I don't even necessarily think you're incorrect or misguided if you do. The answers here aren't clear. It’s hard to know the good and the true. The beautiful in this case, I'm not so concerned with. It might be the easier perspective to take - because regardless of where you stand I think most would agree that this was ugly.

This is a complex topic and it’s easy to make incorrect interpretations of what anyone might say. I'm going to post short versions and long versions - if you find that you disagree with me vehemently, you might want to read the long version to make sure you really understand my intent.

I want to be clear that I am a skeptic and critic of Gafni. I don't write as a supporter or defender. But it’s very important to be fair. My personal suspicions and opinions are obviously not the ultimate arbiter here.

My opinion on the ethics of what I understand Marc did and did not do.

Bottom line, I don't think that Marc did anything obviously wrong here. There is no widely agreed upon ethical standard for polyamorous relationships and there's also no widely agreed upon standard for the ethical behavior of post-traditional spiritual teachers. Marc has been public about his beliefs on these matters and he's acting in accordance with those beliefs. I don't know of any testimony or evidence that Marc was abusive in any of these relationships or that he was acting in bad faith with regard to any of his relationships. What we have is a woman, Tami's friend, who was uncomfortable or even deeply troubled by her secret, though apparently fully consensual, relationship with Marc - and that knowledge of her emotional discomfort undermined Tami Simon's provisional support for Marc Gafni - provisional in light of earlier allegations against him having nothing directly to do with these events.

Based on all of this, I really can't make a strong condemnation of Marc's behavior in good conscience. These were all consenting adults and the woman who seems hurt by her relationship with Marc is not one of his students that I can tell. At worst, what Marc has done is to make a bad choice for a relationship partner - someone who really wasn't up to the complexity of the kind of relationship Marc offered.

At the same time, I really can't fault Tami's behavior. Sounds True is her business. She can publish or not publish whoever she wants to. If Marc's behavior undermined her trust in him, then that is just what it did. Whether Marc was guilty of any ethical violation or not, Tami was no longer comfortable working with him.

In general, my personal opinion is that Marc's behavior is not giving due consideration to dual relationships. I think that there should be an ethical standard of behavior for spiritual teachers and I think Marc should be expected to sign up to it - but that's just my opinion.

I wish him and his students and associates peace. I applaud his relatively recent honesty and transparency about his intentions and his behavior. I hope he becomes more transparent and more honest. I hope his behavior and choices no longer invite drama into the integral community (as for my hopes about the rest of us in the integral community - I'll get to that later).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Tami Simon, Marc Gafni, et al. - Part I - Long Version

On Tami Simon, Marc Gafni, et al.

I've been pondering how to respond to this for a very long time. I've probably written this blog entry five times and trashed it. I've decided to take another go at it. I think I owe it to the small number of people in my community who might find themselves reading this blog in the future to be honest and clear about my take on these events. This is a subtle and difficult subject. You might disagree with me. I don't think you're a bad person if you do. I don't even necessarily think you're incorrect or misguided if you do. The answers here aren't clear. Its hard to know the good and the true. The beautiful in this case, I'm not so concerned with. It might be the easier perspective to take - because regardless of where you stand I think most would agree that this was ugly.

I'm going to take this in four chunks, not intentionally aligned to any quadrants. What I think happened; My opinion on the ethics of what I understand Marc did; My opinion on the ethics of how some of us have reacted to it; and finally: Some thoughts on our community and its capacity to deal with events of this kind.

I want to state at the outset that I'm skeptical of Marc Gafni. I tend to think that some of the many allegations against him are true in some way and that he hasn't dealt with them adequately. But I can't prove that or make a convincing argument for it so it would be unfair to Marc to insist that my suspicion is actually the truth. I've made unfair and mean comments about Marc on my FB page and I've apologized directly to Marc in a public conversation for that. I sincerely mean my apology. My comments were unfair and thoughtless. Even if my suspicions about Marc should turn out to be true, the comments were still mean. I say all this up front so any reader can know that I'm not a supporter of Marc's, I'm a skeptic and a critic, but I'm trying to be fair to him because we all deserve that. Its possible that I'm wrong. I want to be able to live with myself if it turns out that I am.

What I think happened.
--------------------------------
By reading the various blogs and public statements by Tami Simon, Marc Gafni, Ken Wilber, Joe Perez, William Harryman, and various FaceBook discussion threads - this is, as near as I can tell, the facts of the matter. I may have something wrong or have left out something important - please feel free to point it out to me. I apologize for the rehash - feel free to skip over this if you feel like you know the facts and have pondered them ad nauseum.

Marc had some kind of partnership with Mariana Caplan who became pregnant and gave birth to a child.
Marc began relationships with two women, one named Marcy who is or was on the Board of CWS and is also a spiritual student of Marc's in some sense, and another women whose name I do not know - I'll call her Tami's friend. Marc agreed with both of those women to keep their relationships secret. Both women knew they were not Marc's only relationship. At some point in the past six to twelve months, Marc began publishing essays in a few places on the internet saying that romantic and sexual relationships between spiritual teachers and their students were allowable and maybe even productive. I don't recall if Marc wrote that he was planning on engaging in them or not.

Tami's friend became troubled in some way by her secret relationship with Marc and spoke to Tami Simon about it. The knowledge of these relationships damaged Tami's trust of Marc and she chose not to publish Marc's pending book. Somehow word of this occurence spread - obviously through rumor and hearsay. William Harryman researched the rumor with plans to publish a blog post on it with whatever facts he could assemble. He asked Tami Simon for a comment on it and she chose to give him a statement for publication. At some point, Integral Life, Integral Institute, and CWS indicated they were reviewing their relationship with Marc Gafni and the allegations about his recent relationships. William Harryman published Tami Simon's letter on his blog as well as his understanding of the events and his opinions on their ethical implications.

There were many reactions. Joe Perez weighed in. Various personalities in the integral community weighed in on their blogs or on Facebook - some reluctantly. CWS and Ken Wilber both indicated they would delay judgement until more was known and passions died down. Many individuals on Facebook and in their blogs criticized Marc. Many defended him. Some condemned him. Some exonerated him.

Marcy of CWS publicly defended her relationship with Marc, stating something to the effect that it had been an unequivocally positive experience that she had entered into freely. Tami's friend, to my knowledge, has not made her identity known nor made any kind of public statement.

Over time, passions did die down. Everyone said their piece. Eventually CWS and Ken Wilber independently announced that they felt that Marc Gafni was without fault in these events and they would continue to work with him in all capacities. I believe that Integral Life, Integral Institute, and Integral Spiritual Experience may have chosen to distance themselves from Marc. I do not know if they continue in that posture. Integrales Forum in Germany published a statement indicating they would not work with Marc in the capacity of spiritual teacher but that they did not condemn or disavow his work, his writing, or his ideas.

My opinion on the ethics of what I understand Marc did and did not do.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bottom line, I don't think that Marc did anything obviously wrong here. My inclination was to immediately condemn his actions - but as more of the facts have come out I have to admit that there's nothing to see here. There is no widely agreed upon ethical standard for polyamorous relationships and there's also no widely agreed upon standard for the ethical behavior of post-traditional spiritual teachers. Marc has been public about his beliefs on these matters and he's acting in accordance with those beliefs. I don't know of any testimony or evidence that Marc was abusive in any of these relationships or that he was acting in bad faith with regard to any of his relationships. What we have is a woman, Tami's friend, who was uncomfortable or even deeply troubled by her secret, though apparently fully consensual, relationship with Marc - and that knowledge of her emotional discomfort undermined Tami Simon's provisional support for Marc Gafni - provisional in light of earlier allegations against him having nothing directly to do with these events.

Based on all of this, I really can't make a strong condemnation of Marc's behavior in good conscience. These were all consenting adults and the woman who seems hurt by her relationship with Marc is not one of his students, that I can tell. At worst, what Marc has done is to make a bad choice for a relationship partner - someone who really wasn't up to the complexity of the kind of relationship Marc offered.

At the same time, I really can't fault Tami's behavior. Sounds True is her business. She can publish or not publish whoever she wants to. If Marc's behavior undermined her trust in him, then that is just what it did. Whether Marc was guilty of any ethical violation or not, Tami was no longer comfortable working with him. I'll say more about this later.

Marcy has spoken in public about their relationship and she seems unharmed and content. When I consider all of her various relationships to Marc - student, investor, supervisor, lover, friend - on the one hand I think there are so many duelling obligations already existing that complicating them by the introduction of a sexual relationship was more than a little crazy. On the other hand, its clear that their various roles served to balance the power in their relationship so that I think there's a good argument that the power concern just isn't a part of it. If a dual relationship were going to work well - it would be a relationship like that. In short - I think that Marc chose a good partner for such a relationship in Marcy.

Still, I want to weigh in more generally on this ethical problem. My personal opinion is that, if spiritual teaching possesses the power that I think it should, then romantic and sexual relationships with students have to be handled with great care. It should be incumbent upon the spiritual teacher to establish that sufficient care has been taken to justify a specific exception to this. Obviously some spiritual teachers directly use sex as a modality in spiritual teaching - but even in this case a romantic relationship with a student should still be treated with the same care, maybe even more so given the confusion of the already existing sexual relationship. I don't see that spiritual teaching can be exempted from the concerns that we apply to psychotherapy and other kinds of ministry. In my opinion, if it comes to light that a spiritual teacher is having a dual relationship with a student, that teacher should be able to clearly justify to their community why the relationship is not harmful to the student or to their spiritual seeking - and justifying, to me, is not simply stating that sometimes its ok. Why is it specifically ok in this case? What are the principles for determining whether its ok or not? How will you know if you're mistaken? What steps will you take if you are? That is the kind of care that dual relationships deserve. I'll write more about the complexities here another time. Clearly enforcement of this kind of ethical standard can become draconian and ridiculous. That's not at all what I'm talking about here.

So, in that sense, I think concern about Marc's relationship with his student is justified and that its up to Marc to explain why this specific relationship is not harmful. I don't think Marc's writings do this - I think they just give a general justification for why dual relationships are not always and unequivocally wrong. I'm not sure I agree with his argument, but even if I did, it would not specifically address this.

But that's just my opinion. Marc hasn't signed up to any ethical standard that says he's obligated to do this. I think he should be expected to, but we don't seem to have a strong consensus in our community on this. So while I think Marc's relationship choices are ethically suspect and unwise - I don't think I have grounds to condemn him for making them - especially given Marcy's apparent unconcern. There's been no harm here that I can see. I might suspect that things might not turn out well later - but that's just a suspicion.

As for Tami's friend, all we can really say is that it turned out to be a poor relationship choice for her. That's all we really know. Maybe there is more that we don't know. But maybe there isn't. That's all anyone can go off of.

Its hard for me to admit this. I don't approve of Marc's choices. But his obligations here are very poorly defined. I don't think he's being smart. I don't think his practices are wise. I still have many concerns about past allegations against him. I wouldn't recommend him as a spiritual teacher to work with directly. I probably wouldn't even recommend his writing or lectures (though not for any reason directly related to ethics). But condemn him because of these recent events? Claim that his actions here are deeply heinous and despicable? I just can't do it in any kind of good conscience. Part of me wants to - but it would be unjust to do so.

I wish him and his students and associates peace. I applaud his relatively recent honesty and transparency about his intentions and his behavior. I hope he becomes more transparent and more honest. I hope his behavior and choices no longer invite drama into the integral community (as for my hopes about the rest of us in the integral community - I'll get to that later).

In my next post, I'll talk about the ethics of our reaction in the community. Later I'd like to talk about some structural questions about our community and how it enables or limits our ability to deal with events and questions of this kind.









Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More on sexual ethics and spiritual leadership.

So lets just talk about sexual ethics and spiritual leadership.

I want to just jot something down here, and I'm not going to take too much effort to be subtle about it. I'll just present it like its the ten commandments and then we can talk.

Its OK to:

Be single and promiscuous
Have an open marriage.
Create polyamorous relationships, married or not.

Its not OK to:

Screw your students.
Screw your clients.
Screw the underaged.
Cheat on your commitments to your significant other(s).
Cheat on your commitments to your spiritual community.

Its very easy when talking about sexual ethics to descend into a kind of puritanical response, or to accuse valid critiques of performing this descent. When anyone discusses sexual ethics and spiritual teachers, they're actually talking about power, not sex. A spiritual teacher can have all the sex they want with as many people as they want provided they aren't committed to a tradition that frowns on that. Power, integrity, commitment, responsibility. These are the important topics, not Tab A into Slot B or who falls in love with whom.

Now a separate topic might be whether or not promiscuity, open marriages, polyamory, etc. are spiritually advisable. Are they safe? Are they healthy? But this is a different ethical question than "What are the limits on sexual behavior that one must accept to be a teacher or guide to others?"

I even can allow that there might be spiritual paths that actually do involve teachers and students having sexual relationships. But they would be distinguished by making the sexual relationship a conscious, central part of the practice. I've read there are actually erotic tantric teachers who do this, though I have yet to meet one or know enough about anyone actually doing this to form an opinion. But that is a very different thing than cheating, secrecy, and exploitation.

This obviously has come up because of Genpo and I didn't write this to dog on Genpo. Genpo didn't betray *me*. He betrayed his wife and his sangha and his students, most especially the students with whom he had romantic/erotic relationships. He has a lot to make amends for there - to those people, not to me. I'm writing about this because we can let our shock and outrage run out of control and take irrational positions about sexual misbehavior. When we allow ourselves to just be shocked by the sexual component, which honestly in Genpo's case is pretty tame, we cloud and confound the issue. Its not about who a teacher *screws*. Its about *who* a teacher screws. If I am not careful with this, then any critique I make can be discounted as simple sexual puritanism.

It doesn't matter to me if a spiritual teacher wants to have hot monkey sex with the entire population of Kalamazoo. As long as s/he isn't teaching any of them and as long as that doesn't break any of their commitments to spouse and community.