Sacred Support and Spontaneous Stupidity
by Sharon Snir, Australia
I think my first spiritual awakening occurred moments after my first childhood spanking. I drifted off into a very quiet place and met a Being who remained with me most of my childhood years. I called her the Golden Woman and we had many long and illuminating conversations over the years. The best thing however about the Golden Woman was that she could make me laugh. Did she really exist? Was there really such a Being? The truth is I don't know and over the years I have come to realize it really doesnít matter. What matters to me, is that I have never regarded myself as being alone or at least in my very worst moments, unobserved. I have always felt a presence beyond the physical dimensions of my existence connecting me to what I call my soul, and my soul to what I call the Supreme Being or God.
I can't remember when I began my spiritual journey and yet I can pin-point with great accuracy when my journey took a new turn and moved into a new level of understanding.
Whenever I have asked someone what does Spirituality means or how would they define Spirituality I notice that although the responses are as varied as the individuals themselves there is nearly always one similarity. It is not so much what they say that holds this similarity, it is in the presentation. For some reason this question has the power to wipe a smile off even the most jovial person. Try it yourself. Ask someone you know what does Spirituality mean to them and see how pensive and serious they become.
I was so struck by this that I started to do some research. During my research I discovered something remarkable. In the Christian faith I could not find a picture or a statue of Jesus or the Holy Mother Mary, or any of the disciples smiling or for that matter even hinting as though they were having a good time. Even in my childhood bible there is not a smile to be seen in Abraham, Isaac or Jacob let alone Moses! None of my Muslim friends can recall ever hearing stories of Mohammed being light-hearted. Although I clearly have no personal recollections of these great Spiritual Masters, I can't believe they lived life in the serious and sombre way those who embrace and share their teachings, tell us.
Whenever I see a laughing Budda, I smile. The same happens when I see a picture of the Dalai Lama. Now there's a crinkly eyed wonder-filled face if I ever saw one. There is something that opens the heart and touches the soul when we hear children laugh. Is is not possible to feel angry, bitter, jealous, revengeful and sad when joy is filling the heart. Patch Adams is one of the best know people who shares his wisdom around the healing powers of laughter.
Have you ever seen a film called The Fisher King? The Fisher King is a romantic fantasy set in New York City at the end of the twentieth century. It features Jeff Bridges as a cynical \"shock-jock\" whose faith in life and love is nurtured by a mad individual played by Robin Williams. Now there was a spiritual soul if ever there was one. Crazy too. But he had the ability to inspire those he met to see life from a totally different perspective and in doing so they rose up above the pain and solemnity of their lives into an open hearted embrace of the absurd and the ridiculous. Life took on a whole new colour.
I don't think we have to be Buddhists or crazy to connect with our sense of the light-hearted and the ridiculous. I bet Jesus was a hoot to be with. I imagine he and his 12 disciples, including his friends, Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist and Mary sister of Martha, had some great laughs among themselves; only those who took to teaching those teachings became burdened by the sacredness of it all. Over the years sacredness seems to have become synonymous with soberness and solemnity.
When I began to run workshops called Sacred Support they filled up very quickly.
Creating a sacred space to work in using the power of intention was exciting and useful to many. Exploring our innate intuitive abilities, connecting to our higher selves and to our spirit guides was and is affirming and important. However when I began to run workshops called Spontaneous Stupidity there was a different reaction completely. There was interest, curiosity, surprise and many gave all manner of reasons why such a workshop was not something they needed or wanted.
We are so much more comfortable being serious. Spontaneous Stupidity is a concept that allows us to be foolish, to make mistakes and to connect to the deepest truth within. It allows us to see that who we are is beautiful beyond measure. The judgment of self and other is the road away from connectedness and spiritual growth. Spontaneous stupidity invites us to explore the most stupidí decision we have ever made and to see how cleverí it really was. Spontaneous Stupidity is the ability to be silly, to be serious, to be clever, wise and reckless whilst all the while recognizing the simple sacredness of being alive beyond self criticism of self judgment.
Spontaneous Stupidity is recognizing that everything is significant and that, although we cannot fully see or understand the significance of everything as it is occurring, we can appreciate the drama of our life as simply that. A Drama. A 75 act play that takes somewhere around 75 years, give or take a decade or two, to complete. There are actors who enter and exit our play leaving powerful memories and moments of joy and pain.
There are journeys within journeys within the Drama of this self directed play and it sometimes takes some serious Spontaneous Stupidity to step back, detach from the action and remember Who Am I.
Am I just this body? When I introduce myself to people I may start with my name and perhaps I will include my occupation and some description of my life. But these are external descriptions of me. Is that who I am? As I think about my identity I am aware of my memories, my experiences in life. The things I have done and the things that have been done to me, the people that have affected me and the places and events that have influenced me. These are all part of my inner world. All my interactions and experiences have shaped my personality and yet, I ask myself, is there still a deeper aspect to my identity. Is there an eternal part of me that is unaffected by relationships and the world around me? What is my Spiritual Identity?
Spontaneaous Stupidity introduces me to this aspect through the Fool.
The archetype called The Fool is the wisest of all.
The Fool, from the medieval perspective, was a new born babe, innocent of the world and its workings. Yet because he is innocent of the world, The Fool is simultaneously ignorant and wise. You cannot know The Fool, you can only be it. When you have done something and you say to yourself you've been an idiot know that it is not because you intended to be, but because you were ignorant of what to do in the situation. The Fool is always good intentioned, even if he doesn't understand what he's supposed to do. Sometimes a situation can make us look like a Fool, but if we remember that being stupid is simply not knowing and being spontaneous is stepping beyond our fearful armor that controls our experiences. We have every right, in fact we must, be the Fool. It is the only way we will learn and it helps those around us understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
The fool offers us an escape route from which to step back and observe the Drama from a detached perspective.
Being the Fool is often synonymous with being a Gestalt therapist. Between psychological/therapeutic work, scientific empirical research and spiritual work and practice, there is a sort of gap, which needs to be knitted up, integrated. We need to learn how to move through this Triuneity with ease and understanding.
Nasruddin is a figure from the 13th century. There are tales and stories of Nasruddin all throughout the Middle Eastern world, from Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, etc. You may hear his name as Hodja Nasruddin, which is the Turkish version. His character is that of a learned fool, or wiseman, and is left often for you to decide. On the surface of the stories, they are simple and funny. But if you look and listen deeper, you will learn how your actions your thoughts, your values and your qualities play a very important role in this journey we each call life. We begin to recognize the significance of each moment and in doing so, as Thick Nhat Han so eloquently said, all you can do then is laugh.
One day I asked my Golden Woman why my mother hit me. She looked at me very seriously and she winked. I never forgot that spontaneously stupid response. Forty years later I was meditation and I saw the wink again. This time I understood what she had meant and felt a surge of deep love and appreciation for her wisdom in being a Fool so long ago.
My Personal Essay
by Tonya Heston, USA
When you go to sleep tonight, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to
close your eyes and imagine that you are three years old. You are sitting on
the floor, next to a hutch with a lot of glass breakables on it. You go to
touch something, and your mom screams, "No!" so you back away. You look
around and nobody is looking, so you reach again. Again, your mom screams,
"No!" so you back away once again. Again, no one is looking. You reach for
it again. This time, your father, after having come home from a normal day
at work reaches down from the couch beside you and smacks you. He thinks he
hits your hand, but you turned around just in time for him to hit you square
in the back. He doesn't apologize, doesn't show any remorse, and doesn't
stop reading his nightly newspaper.
Your mom immediately comes to your rescue, "Are you all right, Honey?"
Your father says, "Don't baby her. She'll never learn that way."
"You hit her back, not her hand," your mother says. They begin screaming.
Your older brother and sister come to see what all the commotion is about.
Your father screams at your mother one last time, and finally your brother
says, "Dad, you hit her back; you can see your hand print on it." Your
father, deciding he has had enough, throws a backhanded smack at your 10
year-old brother. He flies across the couch and lands on the coffee table.
Open your eyes. Not such a pretty image, I know. This is just a small
example of what I have to live with during the childhood I didn't have. That
is, until my step-father adopted me in the 6th grade.
If you ask people around Edon and Blakeslee, Ohio, you will find that nobody
says John Steffes is an evil man. I would beg to differ. They never had to
live with him. I did. I don't remember a lot from when Mom was married to
him because she left him when I was three. However, my sister and I talk
about it a lot. She remembers one key instance when John held one of his
guns up to Mom's head and asked Johnna (my sister, then 15) if she thought
Mom deserved to live. She remembers John beating mom with a plastic baseball
bat because Mom wouldn't go out and put his lawn mower away. I don't
remember any of that. However, I did get my own dose of his evil after Mom
and I divorced and I started going over there on the weekends.
The abuse that I endured was not physical abuse. John never did that to me
after the divorce. He knew that after the divorce was final, I would be the
only child to fight over. Johnny Joe (my brother) stayed with him. Johnna,
of course, went with Mom. With me, John was more of a mental abuse person.
He was always telling me that mom was a big slut, because she cheated on him
while they were married. He was always telling me that I should be more like
my brother because everybody loved Johnny Joe, but I had to keep earning my
love over and over again. After Johnny Joe died, every time I did something
wrong, John would point that ugly finger at me and say, "You know that you
brother wouldn't have pulled that, Girl."
He and I would fight over stupid, trivial stuff. For instance, we got into a
huge fight because he wanted me to move his belt off the table in the dining
room and I wouldn't. I told him it was his belt, and that he should move it
himself. He always told me, "You are all I have," but never treated me with
the love and kindness he spoke those words with.
One day, things went too far. It was something stupid again. "Go get me a
can of pop, Tonya," he said. "I'm watching the game."
"No," I said. "Get it yourself." He screamed and screamed, and told me he
didn't want me to come see him anymore. I told him that if that was what he
wanted that that was fine with me. He came and apologized later, as he
always did, but I was 12. I can forgive, but I cannot forget.
I had to be home by 6:00 pm on Sundays. At 5:00 pm, John and I always went
to McDonalds. At 4:30, I had it all planned out. I tore the front cover off
of a notebook and wrote in teal crayon. I told him I never wanted to see him
again. I didn't even address it to "Dad." I addressed it to "John." I just
knew that would hurt him.
A few weeks later, I walked into the living room after having thought to
myself for a very long time. "Mom, Dad, can I talk to you?" (John hated that
I called him Dad).
"Sure," they said. We talked about the adoption. I explained that I never
wanted to talk to John again, and that I wanted to be part of a real family.
They told me that a social worker from Judge Bird's Office would come to the
house, and ask me a whole bunch of questions, and look into my room, and
snoop into my personal business, and then would go talk to Judge Bird and
tell him her findings. I was OK with this, as I would've been OK with
anything to get away from John. We called Mike Spangler, our attorney, and
set up an appointment. The hearing was set for September 6th.
On September 6th, Mom and Dad picked me up from school, and we went to the
Bryan Court House. We were informed that the hearing had been changed, but
nobody had told us. So, we went back home.
On September 7, 1997, I sat in a closed court room with my news parents by
my side. The Bailiff stood up and said, "All rise, for the Honorable Judge
Bird," and we all stood. The floors were carpeted, and when I went to stand
up, I tipped over my chair. I almost cried; I was so embarrassed, but the
judge merely chuckled, and told us to be seated. "How are you doing, Tom?"
he asked my father.
"Just fine, Judge," my father replied. Judge Bird said that the social
worker could fine no reason why the adoption should not take place, and he
smiled at me, and said, "And neither do I"
The adoption was final. We were dismissed from court, and Mom, Dad and I
went to Pizza Hut. After that, I went back to school and they went back to
work. I had to get an absence slip, and Mrs. Barry wrote "Tonya Heston" on
it. I still have that piece of paper.
Life has been wonderful since the adoption. Of course my family and I have
fought over the years, but never once have I wished that it never happened.
I am so happy, and nothing can make me unhappy. My dad is such a wonderful
person. He has a great big belly laugh when something really strikes him as
funny. He has a weird sense of humor that makes him ask the most un-heard of
question (did Mrs. Lincoln enjoy the play?), and I love every bit of it.
He's always there when I need someone to talk to, and he's always been
really nice to my friends, boyfriends, etc. He's never put me down, except
when I really deserve it (I have no common sense sometimes), and even then I
know he's just joking. He picks on me a lot, which is a nice change from the
verbal abuse I got from John.
I have had run-ins with the Steffes family over the years. In fact, Dad
works with three of them, including John. Only a select few have really
showed any hate towards me. For example, when I was in the 7th grade, John's
nephew committed suicide. I went to his funeral. I had known him my entire
life, and I love him very much. Johnna and I went together. John's sister
looked me right in the eye and said, "What are you doing here? You're not
family. You don't belong here," which really hurt, but I can't really blame
I have a few aunts and uncles that still look at me as family. They will
come up to me if they see me, and insists on giving me a hug. They say that
they still love, and just because I don't like one member of the family,
don't mean that the whole family has to hate me in return. I am very
grateful for this. I went over to the Steffes' for 4th of July. John wasn't
there, but that didn't seem to bother anybody.
The adoption was a very awkward time in my life. After I went to school that
day, I had three people come up to me and ask if I knew who my new parents
were. They thought I was an orphan! However, this was a very awesome time
period in my life as well. I have only one dad now. There are no more
questions about why my parents have a different last name than me. I will
also get a number of scholarships for being adopted. Everything is working
Sharon Snir, Australia
Elizabeth Revell, USA
Lars Berg, Sweden