A few years ago, I imagine about four or five years ago, the Diamond Heart school that I'm a student of made a decision to start marketing their courses and materials online. For example, three days ago, I got an e-mail from the Diamond Heart advertising a course called "Soul Without Shame" with a 37-minute Vimeo teaser clip of a teaching on how we developped our sense of who we "ought to" be, our Superego. It's a compassionate look at the ways we feel restricted as adults, and the judgement and anxiety we feel about whether or not we're living the way we should be.
Based out of California, the Diamond Heart school is, in my opinion, the best place to seek enlightenment while still living in the real world-- having a job, raising kids, growing your retirement fund, and being a member of your community. If you wanted to leave the world, yes, you could go live in an ashram or become a Buddhist monk or devote yourself to full-time service to the Church, or you could just quit your job, stay home, and live off of social services while meditating all day. But for those of us who want to participate in life, but at the same time, want to heal from the wounds that were inflicted by our very participation in that life, there is the option of the Diamond Heart. By way of their teachings, you develop among other things, an understanding of the Buddhist philosophy of non-reaction and a mindfulness practice that are decidedly Eastern in origin, and a practical and profound understanding of your own individual ego structure that is unique to Western philosophy. The integration of these tools helps you become more present in and to the various low-key and explicit traumas we have all experienced- for example, the trauma of being told in different ways you were not enough, or the trauma on the opposite side of the coin, or being told you were too much. Or that you were not quite right in a different way. The "goal" of spiritual work, if there is one, is to unfold into a healthier and less restricted version of the person you were meant to be.
As Buddhism in North America is relatively new-- only about 50 years old-- there are still questions about "how to be in the world". Should a Buddhist be a political activist in the hate-driven and unpredictable times we now live in? Buddhist practitioners in the US today are wrestling with whether or not to stand up and resist current trends, or are they changing the world enough by being non-reactive and teaching others how to find inner peace from the ravages of the human experience? There are studies, after all, that demonstrate that just the act of meditating as a group lowers the crime rate in the city where the meditation is taking place, for the duration of the practice. Isn't that enough? I imagine a similar conversation started happening in the Diamond Heart school about four or five years ago as online courses became mainstream. Should we advertise? Is advertising spiritual? From time to time throughout history, Buddhists have organized missionary efforts. How about those- were they ego-driven? Or a were they a selfless sacrifice? Modern-day Enneagram teacher Don Riso famously said, "Nothing to fear, nothing to defend, nothing to promote." Do we need to promote spiritual work? Only those who are really ready to start their inner journey, it seems, find their way to the path, so why go looking for people if they're not ready? If they're ready, don't they just naturally come to us?
I can imagine it wasn't easy to nagivate these conversations; nevertheless, within the last three years, you could tell there was an increased marketing effort and alignging with current online trends. The DH started being more deliberate about their newsletters, they put together a [beautiful] new website, started paying more attention to their sound and video quality, became more tech-aware, improved the back-end so our user experience of their online portals wasn't so belabored, and most importantly, they started offering online courses to non-members- first for free, then at a cost. Most recently, they have started offering online inquiry groups of eight-to-ten weeks long for people to do some inner exploration guided by a group leader.
Marketing is such an uncomfortable topic, but I find what they are doing to be very graceful, generous and compassionate. For example, in the above-mentioned e-mail, Byron Brown's talk on the Superego was such a lift to my day this afternoon, I thought I would share it. The reason this talk in particular stands out is that the exerpt isn't actually 37 minutes long-- it's 25 minutes and 33 seconds, to be exact. The rest of the time is a departure from its low-key and inconspicuous metropolitan snobbery that's been embedded in Diamond Heart culture since I've learned about it. It's not like you'd ever hear them say it-- they probably weren't even really conscious of it-- but there's always been, at least for me, an unspoken judgement underneath the surface that you should be doing this work in community, and if you don't live in a big sexy city where a Diamond Heart group meets, or if you can't afford to travel twice or three times a year to one of these groups, your experience of inquiry is necessarily going to be limited.
It is true- you do need community- but the lack of attention to those outside the bigger city centers has always bugged me a bit. However, at the end of this video, it's ten minutes of Byron looking into the camera and doing the inquiry with you in case you didn't have a partner. I was deeply moved by this acknowledgement: "we can't all be there together". Sometimes you live in a city where you don't know any other inquiry practitioners, or maybe you do, but you're too busy to meet, and you do have those ten minutes right there, and that's when you want to do the work.
I'm attaching the link to the video here. I hope it provides respite to anyone who needs it on this Sunday afternoon.