Truth doesn’t hide behind acronyms

I thought I had seen them all; all those groups which run by pompous names that they choose to disguise with funny acronyms like STOP and DENY and CASH. I have been lucky enough to not having been stopped by STOP, and not having been denied what I needed by DENY (though I couldn’t avoid getting mugged by CASH), but I have become aware of enough other cases to understand that this has actually been a matter of chance. This has become pretty clear while I was attending meetings of KING and BOSS, two institutions at the mentioning of which almost everyone is rolling their eyes. All of us have made our experiences with them, and all of us have been shaking heads over how these people operate affairs.

To begin with, it already makes you wonder how a seemingly decent person becomes a snooty ignorant bitch the very moment he or she joins one of these groups. It almost looks like, on entry, some part of their brains get lobotomized, making them completely incapable of rational thought, reasonable action, and feeling compassion for others.

E.g. the first person to file a complaint with them is regarded as “the victim”, per definition, the other, of course, must become ” the villain” who can expect to receive strong scolding including elements of intimidation. The basis of the groups’ decisions is hearsay, throughout, upon which opinions get built which have everything to do with personal preferences and nothing to do with facts.
In case a “villain” is unwillig to surrender another institution called COWDUNG comes into play which uses progressive methods of manipulation like ‘Neuro-Linguistic Progrmming’, Mediation, and ‘Non-Violent Communication’ to determine that “the villain” is actually the villain.
And so it goes on.
As I said, I thought I had seen them all. At least enough of them to have an educated guess at how all the others are operating.

I was wrong.

By the end of last week I have been attending a meeting of what could be regarded as the secret crown of all the other pseudo-governmental groups, and their acronym might as well have been HELL. If you have ever been walking in the hallways of power, if you have ever lingered among members of government or high finance, this is how you may imagine it felt to be there with HELL. Their field of activity is within the realm of financial assets and immovables, and immovable, indeed, were their. stonelike faces and the notions that guided their decisions. One of them impatiently twitching a finger was as much as they allowed themselves to give insight into their actual thoughts about some petty farmer explaining his being passionate about his work and being concerned over what happens to the land that is supposed to get sold to some mining company. HELL must have come to the conclusion that these peasants were suffering from an incurable delusion about the value of money — the stuff you can use to buy food from elsewhere — but as it was unlikely that these poor souls could be talked out of their misinformed condition the obvious answer was, Thanks so much for sharing with us; we assure you that your worries are baseless, and that we will Inform you in case the situation changes.
With that we have been dismissed.

The very instant the door closed in our backs, the feeling of suffocation immediately stopped and fresh air filled my lungs again.
Dude, was I just thinking, Occupy Townhall?
If only that were the solution…

Terror Show

You call your lifestyle “spiritual” and “holistic” and “permaculture” and “energy-conscious”, and then you go to a foreign country and spread false allegations about a native person you don’t even know and who is just doing their work; and then you convince another foreigner who has nothing to do with anyone around here to carry the lie to the officials, and you abuse your membership and your friends in major administrative bodies to push your case, and you do this over and over and over again – how much more can you taint your spirituality?
I used to get mad at you. But that was when I still thought there was some sort of intelligence in you that could respond to my rage. From what I understand today, you are a sad case of someone being helplessly possessed by hate, and you don’t even care whose livelihood you destroy in the name of “love and light”.
You leave me confused. I don’t know how to deal with all this falsehood. I don’t know how NOT to deal with it.

And yet, I love it so

After hours of nightly contemplating the immense depth and amount of corruption, incompetence and insincerity I have the doubtful honour of being allowed to witness and which affects my life on a daily basis I felt like I needed a shot of Heavy Metal to keep my mind from further spiralling into negativity again. Metal has always been my drug of choice which helped me kill the pain of living in this age, and I am aware of it for quite some time. As a consequence, I stopped listening to music almost completely for a few years.
There is yet another quality to Metal that I was not aware of, which I was constantly seeking to apply, though: to have someone scream at the evil in man and to have them shout with rage, and spit in the faces of the gods that failed. 

Seeing things a bit different today, my return to screeching guitars, galloping basses, thundering drums and voices like air-raid sirens became sort of an amusing bed-in which presented me with the question who these people were shouting at. The greed, the ignorance, the imposture, the make-believe, the displays of incompetence in compensating for incompetence*, they are all rather laughable than enraging. We are players in a charade called Auroville, and if we didn’t have it all backwards it could be such an enjoyable experience, like a child’s birthday. And you out there who would smirk or snort at my utterings, you are completely right, though probably for the wrong reasons. For you are like us, because we are like you.

(* German = Inkompetenzkompensationsinkompetenz. I accidently found this in a dictionary and just couldn’t resist. Yays for compound words!)

Koan

Places like Auroville are needed for people to realize that places like Auroville are not needed. The Mother WAS a practical joker.

Alien encounters

“We cannot solve your problems; we cannot come to you or take you to some other world; we cannot teach you anything you are not ready to learn. All we can offer is the chance to communicate with other intelligent beings, to try to grasp something of the way we and other species experience our worlds, to share your own experiences with others who are eager to learn about them, and to know that you are not alone in the universe. If that is enough, we welcome you to the conversation between worlds.” 
–John Michael Greer: Star’s Reach

Belongs into any communication about what Auroville can and cannot do. Or anybody else, really.

Arbitrary rule

Recently, the Auroville Council has presented a draft paper, for feedback, containing the envisioned future conflict management procedure of the township. A significant part of it deals with the final steps of conflict resolution, namely arbitration as a means to finish the dispute.
Let me explain why I think arbitration is detrimental to what we are seeking to achieve in Auroville, and what we could try instead.

From the collection of Mother’s explanations of Auroville’s aims and ideals we know that its society is supposed to be what she calls a “Divine Anarchy”, a community in which each individual, and the township as a whole, is guided by a higher consciousness. In effect, we would not need to be governed by any worldly authority because we would take responsibility for our deeds ourselves, acting in the interest of the common good. We would still have different opinions, but we would not deem them more valuable than anybody else’s needs. Embracing our diverse world as it is we would make decisions in consensus with others. That requires a great deal of understanding of people’s needs and motivations.

In the old paradigm, the civilization we have been born into, it is understood that, in a world of scarcity, the needs of individuals compete with each other for fulfillment. Therefore my gain is your loss, and vice versa.
In order to overcome this kind of thinking we must learn to resolve conflicts by achieving a win-win situation, i.e. the needs of everyone involved getting met. Just like NVC [non-violent communication] it doesn’t come easy to us; it has to be trained, dispute by dispute, until it becomes our natural habit to look for common ground. From this new point of view, each conflict situation is a challenge rather than a problem, and it becomes an opportunity to learn and grow. Conflict must not be suppressed in favour of superficial harmony, but rather lived through consciously.

To a large part, the Council’s draft reflects this understanding, describing a procedure that ranges from rather informal talks to facilitated, strictly reglemented methods, including restorative circles, reconciliation, mediation, NVC-meetings, and negotiation. If no agreement is reached the Council imposes arbitration on the conflicting parties and everyone else involved.

Arbitration

Arbitration, basically, is a settlement of affairs by judgement of appointed, ideally non-partial, persons. Their sentence is binding, leaving no choice to anyone affected by it.

As far as the Council is concerned, the conflict, and hence the suffering, ends there.
This is a misapprehension.

Arbitration may shorten the timespan until the issue is off the Council’s table, true enough. But it also stops the process of conflict resolution within the minds of the quarrelling people. It takes their responsibility for coming to a conclusion off their shoulders, and hands it over to an authority which they have no power over. To say that arbitration puts an end to suffering is objectionable for two reasons.
First of all, every time we suffer life tells us that something in our thinking, something in our strategies, something in our actions is not working out. We run into walls, physically or mentally, get hurt, analyze what has happened, and adjust to our new understanding of the world. That’s how we usually learn the important lessons in life. Some call it “trial and error”, some call it “learning by doing”. In short, we need suffering in order to be able to let go of non-functioning thought and behaviour.
Secondly, with arbitration being used to end a dispute, a person’s suffering from the pressures of conflict is getting replaced by suffering under the felt injustice of the verdict. Usually one, often both sides feel that their needs have not been met, their position not been understood. Rightly so, because we all know that even the most respectable arbiter is not free of bias. The pain of being degraded to an object in a decision-making process, to powerlessly having to bear the judgement by another, can be some of the most agonizing among all perceptions. Arbitration thus undermines the belief of the individual in the just, equitable functioning of its society. Authoritarian approaches such as arbitral verdicts are IN THE WAY of achieving a true dissolution of conflicts because the arbiters’ view suppresses contradicting opinions, thus creates rejection instead of acceptance, and the grudge against our opponents, and society as a whole, remains as a splinter under our fingernails.

We should not get forced to accept arbitral verdicts. Not to be willing, though, to do the inner work necessary to achieve the kind of human unity mentioned in Auroville’s charter makes our presence in the township pointless, or even disruptive. Personally developing solutions to our conflicts is therefore a must, a top-priority task given to us, an order to learn. If our consciousness is not evolved enough to come to an agreement with our fellow human beings, we should be forced to work on exactly that issue.
How do we do that?

Intensification

Time seems, to me, of cruical importance in matters of conflict. The longer the quarrelling lasts the more we get used to the rhythm of strike and counterstrike. We adjust to the constant presence of pain. In time we also lose the confidence that struggling will eventually end. If, however, the opponents are kept in close proximity, their suffering will be more intense; so will be their efforts to solve the problem, as well. We may expect a speeding up of the process, resulting in a quicker finalization.

Let’s call the last step of conflict resolution “intensification”, and let’s say we make the opponents meet each other daily for two hours, under the guidance of an NVC-trained facilitator. NVC as such may have failed before when some of the persons involved have learned the phrasing technique, but refuse to consequently actualize its meaning. The objective in intensification is to bring about a deeper understanding of the other’s needs, deep enough anyway to be able to propose how those needs may be met. The method consists of the following steps:
a) collectively attempting to phrase each person’s needs until they feel exhaustively understood
b) reciprocally proposing actions that are likely to meet our opponent’s need, until that person feels satisfied
c) harmonization of the proposed actions
d) written agreement that is binding to everyone involved. Its contents should be quantifiable in time and amount.

It is the duty of each party to find acceptable solutions for its (former) opponents, and the process must not get interrupted until we have come to a written agreement. As there is no deadline to the process, and as the meetings are happening daily, unavoidingly confronting us with the suffering of our neighbour (and our own), eating up a sensible amount of our precious time, with impacts on both work and private life, we cannot help but break our inner resistence. There is only one way out: achieving a consensus. Having truly understood this, suddenly there is motion.

Persistent resistence

What do we do, then, with those resisting to collaborate? – Well, the same as with those resisting to abide by the arbitral rule, now. Only would I propose to expand the range of tools into the realm of social control, before we go into exclusion from the Master list. Step by step we would be approaching friends to make them have a talk with the person in question; respected Aurovilians may later take the role of a coach to carefully steer the person into understanding the need for opening up. A denial of service and a temporary stopping of work engagement may further help with achieving the insight that society and individual are in a mutual relationship of dependency, which means that a society can only support the individual if the individual contributes sufficiently to its functioning. Only after it is made sure that someone will persist, regardless, is it justified to exclude people from citizenship in Auroville due to their involvement in a conflict. While it is not asked too much to deliver on the promise that we made when we came here by our own free will (to collaborate and constantly evolve), it is  important to note that imposing “solutions” produces the exact opposite: resistence and rigidity. We must avoid, by all means, what literally becomes an arbitrary rule.

Refoaming the system

“This issue [to reform Auroville’s entry process] – which should have been a normal phase of changing and renewal of a policy – has become a winning and losing situation […]
Yes, we could have insisted and we have no doubt this proposal would have gone through easily and if the present Entry Service did not accept it, the community could have asked them to step down and a new one formed to implement it  […] 
Or the community could have imposed the present Entry Service to implement it. These are both nightmare scenarios and we did not wish to create neither of them.” 
(Report of the Entry Task Force, a residents’ initiative)

Now imagine a similar situation in any of the Western democracies.
Would a citizens’ movement have the power to overthrow an administrative body just like this?
And if they had the power — or any political party had it – would they step back from their demands on encountering strong objections?
Would anybody in a position of strength try to make an attempt to come to a consensus with the opposing forces, with the help of a facilitator?

Auroville surely needs reforms, revolutionary changes even, on all levels of public life. But if you asked me what’s so special about this township, it is events like the above I would point at – people daring to live by a higher consciousness. Knowing that overpowering another will not create solutions, only conflict. Or, in more brash words, War doesn’t decide who is right, just who is left.

Meditation is better than do nothing

Been a while, isn’t it? Could have been longer, though, hadn’t I had a laugh in the middle of night, falling victim to an almost Douglas-Adams-like thought.

Having had a few verbal exchanges with visitors to Auroville, some of the main topics covered had to do with the township’s reason to exist, and inhowfar achievements have been made. There is the notion that an utopian project has to provide perfect conditions to its participants right from the start, did you ever notice that? Did you ever read “Ecotopia” or the likes of it? Funny how people come up with moral issues when critisizing what they cannot grasp. You get that a lot, as well, when it is about Auroville.

Yes, in its 47th year it is still far from having reached any of its goals. 2200 residents are not 50,000; the economy is heavily dependent on imported goods, paid labour, government support, and tourism; there are people who exploit the system, there is corruption, incapability, and all the rest of it. And as much as I would like to see the Mother’s dream, OUR, dream of Auroville flourish more visibly, it is only about to take shape inwardly. How to manifest that on the material level is still unclear, clouded by our -still overemphasized- individual ideas. All of us have grown up in sick societies or have been raised by parents who did. Indians, foreigners and born Aurovilians alike. We need to unlearn right about everything that has been put into us, learn how to look at things with fresh, unprejudiced eyes, and then practice our new findings in daily life. Trial and error, for there is very little precedence to what we want to achieve. The Mother had a reason to call Auroville a laboratory. Experiments are there to test theories, which includes failure if the theories don’t work out. The theories then need adjustment to what we have learned, in that experiment, about reality. Then another round starts, then yet another, on and on and on. Step by step we approach the kind of society that works for all of us.

Auroville exists because there is no other place in the world where one can free oneself of all baggage, without having to face severe sanctions. Traditions, morals, rules, religions, public opinions can be disregarded in order to shape a new kind of life. No final written warning, no injunction, no law suit, no prison, no job loss, no homelessness waiting right around the corner to not only stop us in our tracks but threaten our very existence.

To many a man this much freedom, a life full of question marks, looks horrifyingly threatening. The unknown is what we dread most. But the unknown cannot be fought with weapons. It cannot be withheld by rules forever. And that is a good thing, for every time we face it we lose our fear in exchange for the knowledge of something new. When you open yourself up to the Auroville experience you become fully aware of the all-encompassing rule of fear and violence over the life of you and your neighbours. Those who deny it need liberation more urgently than anyone. [So far I am only speaking of outwardly freedom. Its inner dimensions shall be discussed in a later article]

New ideas manifest best when they can develop unhindered, sheltered from suffocating traditions. The Mother saw clearly that humanity needs such a place. For more than fourty years she imagined, pondered and planned, and when Auroville was eventually inaugurated we have been presented with a marvellous model, a city the shape of a spiral galaxy.

So far, so good.
But what if the Mother played a practical joke on us? What if she knew well that there would never be 50,000? No spiral galaxy? No human unity. Not anytime soon, anyway. Just a place to be.

Did she foresee the difficulties we are going through? What would a good-humoured woman like her do to make us continue efforts over the decades, keep on trying against all circumstances and not despair just after death took away her guidance? What if the galaxy city was not meant as sort of an artificial environment in which to evolve mankind, but as a carrot on a stick that motivates people to come and help and stay in pursuit of creating something quite tangible. More tangible anyway than increase in consciousness. Give’em something to sink their teeth in. Maybe it doesn’t matter what is to become of Auroville in terms of figures and physical appearance.
For it is much more important that this place came into existence and continues to attract, and be populated by, people “who aspire for a higher and truer life”, than for a specific urban concept to get built. The torch must continue to burn so it can cast its light on future generations. Auroville is needed for those willing to practice self-governance, develop the skills of how to live together without fear and violence, and do away with everything that keeps us from opening up to that which is beyond material, vital, and mental things.

Divine conspiracy

Some thoughts that appeared after reading “To be a true Aurovilian”, a text given by The Mother.

1) They say, “Good things come to those who wait”. In Auroville (or any spiritual community) the right thing comes along as soon as there is a need for it. A typical example would be the balance created by the flow of goods and services within a gift circle, where the gift tends to go where the most urgent need is, so that everyone’s needs get met.
The sense of possession distracts the trust in that “mechanism”. Instead of asking, “What can I give? How can I make your life more wonderful?” the possessive mind focusses on, “How can I get the most? What is in there for me? How can I preserve my stuff?” and thereby nourishes greed, building up severe imbalances of wealth and power.

2) Material life, along with personal identity, is like clothing. It is covering the surface of the actual body. We can pretend that there is nothing beneath the fancy surface and then even forget that we pretend, but the psychic body, as well as the physical one, has needs that ought to be met. If we don’t satisfy our hunger, the body will get weaker, become ill, and eventually die.

3) There is a difference between needs and desires. Needs are asking for the most basic elements that keep us alive. We can live without satisfying desires, the stuff we wish for, but we cannot last long with our needs unmet. Desires are like addictions. Sometimes they feel like urgent needs, but actually they just distract our mind by keeping us in constant movement in pursuit of excitement.

4) There is another difference, between desires and aspiration.
How do you know that the thing you wish for is coming from a higher consciousness, your true inner self, and is therefore sincerely aspired; or when is it merely a desire of the ego?
If your ego desires something you will hardly be able to let go of it. You cannot accept a “no”. When your desire gets satisfied new desires arise shortly after. If it does not get satisfied, you cannot give up the idea without feeling pity, frustration, grief, anger, and/or victimization.
The one who aspires is not dependent on specific results. There is no attachment to a certain outcome to an effort. He does not force others into accordance. He is not frustrated in case of failure; aspiration means acceptance of, and surrender to, the supreme reality (or fate, or the ways of the Universe, or God’s will, if you wish. One of my fellow newcomers called it Divine Conspiracy.)
Although the powers of the Universe sometimes seem to plot against your plans, like the gods of ancient Greece, in the end it always turns out that the right thing did happen when you failed. We must fail in order to understand what works not. We must fail in order to learn how to accept failures. We must fail in order to realize we cannot possibly go against the will of the Divine Consciousness (or the laws of nature, or God’s plan, if you wish) and hope to succeed in that. The Supreme has its ways, and we better trust in its general benevolence.

As an example, after having heard of Auroville I was quite on fire. At last a place where I would be free, where I would fit in, where I could put in my energy and my efforts for the benefit of mankind. It finally turned out to be the right decision to come here, very well in line with the plans of the Highest Consciousness; but looking back from today’s point of view it started primarily as one of my ego’s desires. By the teachings of Adyashanti, and also during my first stay here, as a guest, I learned that life in general, and this place especially, is not about me, my liberation, and my development in the first place, but about serving a higher truth. Only along with the sincere aspiration for the realization of that truth comes my liberation as an individual. I had to develop trust into the idea that everything will turn out as it is supposed to be, and the Aurovilians, creating the welcoming atmosphere in this township, helped a lot with that. It actually worked out for me, not only as a concept, but in various experiences.

Still the question remained, “Am I enforcing some self-centered mental idea, or am I supposed to be here?”
So, is it desire or aspiration that makes me want to join Auroville? Now that you know the difference you can imagine what I went through since my discovery of the place. I was looking for ways to be absolutely sure. I didn’t want to fool myself. How could I tell that my motivation was sincerely based in the realm beyond rationality, beyond the ego? How could I ensure I was not deluding myself?
Not to be attached to become a citizen was the ultimate test I could take, and when I realized that, I several times tried again to get in touch with a friend who recently seemed to refuse talking to me. By word of mouth I had the impression that he was not too well off now. A few years ago he helped me financially, so this was both an opportunity to bring back the non-abusive part of our former relationship and find out if I was ready to give up Auroville in case my friend needed the money more urgently than I did.
After four previously failed meeting appointments, another three attempts to re-establish contact were unsuccessful – completely. It was disappointing that a chance for reconciliation has been turned down, but I had to accept that. At least there were no more doubts about sincerety, and at the same time my path to Auroville has been confirmed.

The observation of the movements of mind and body during that period of time raised awareness of similar situations when the ego pretends to have a “need” that “must” be met under any circumstances. It is so much easier now to identify the diversion and counter it by taking a step back. Suddenly there is openness towards the results of my attempts to achieve my goals. What are my petty ideas compared to the work of a higher truth? Suddenly the pressure and the frustration dissolute. And life becomes beautiful in each and every moment.

The weight of consciousness

Due to some changes in my personal life I have been silent for a while. I also think that this situation is going to continue. The reason is that, after quite some months of staying back in old Europe, I have finally moved to Auroville where life is less about talking rather than about being and doing. Waking up with the sun, working on a garden / farm in the early morning hours, doing other necessary stuff around noon, learning and meeting people in the afternoon, going to bed on sunset. Life is simple in the sense of being intimately connected to the cycles, means, and methods of nature. It is close to how it is supposed to be. So I am on my way and I like it.

Auroville is a very special place. Of course it is. That’s why I am here. It is a township the description of which would take voluminous books, or thousands of witnesses’ statements, but still you wouldn’t get what it is like to live here. You got to feel it yourself.

The thing with any description is their subjectivity. Which is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite. It is just that people tend to unintentionally reveal much more of their worldview than making an appropriate description of Auroville. Maybe it is the dissimilarity of its ways, compared to our countries of origin, maybe it is Auroville’s openness towards all sorts of experiments that makes us project our values on everything we experience round here, like a slide on a blank screen.

What we see in Auroville is exactly what we expect to see. We behave accordingly and as a result we receive the corresponding reaction of our environment. So our egos, our superficial selves materialize in the outside world which verifies and reinforces the projection we started out with. I witnessed this mechanism in almost every person I have been talking to. The more misanthropic their mind is, the more they critisize Auroville for its failures. The more materialistic their worldview, the more business opportunities they see. The more altruistic they think, the happier they tend to become here. Just a few examples out of a multitude.

It can be quite fascinating to consciously toy around with this insight, as a way of finding out the way your thoughts are altering your experiences, or as a way of discovering aspects of Auroville that previously haven’t come to the mind.
Personally, I prefer not to judge other people’s behaviour. I see quite some greed and selfishness – I also see aspiration towards human unity and desire for learning and improving things. I see aberrations, malfunctions, messing up  – I also see some success with building a new kind of society.
But foremost I see loads of opportunities to develop, inwardly and outwardly. Auroville offers to its inhabitants opportunities you usually don’t get elsewhere. As long as you stay focused on things going ‘wrong’, e.g. other people’s selfishness, expanding bureaucracy, rising prices… (you name it) you  will miss the whole point of this project: that this is about improving the world by improving yourself. Don’t wait for others to get on track; don’t wait for the situation to become more favorable. The time is now, and it is up to you to do as much as you can to make your life worth living while at the same time you make the world a nicer place for everyone.