18 July 2013

Narcissistic Injuries and Running

I watched a Satsang with David Spero recently.  85 people attended.  At first he sat in silence for 20 minutes then he answered questions from the audience.

The thing I noticed immediately, was his impersonality.  David did not talk about his own experience at  all. Instead he talked to people about their experience and what it meant in rather abstract terms, even if they had not expressed their own experience.  He assumed their experience from the question asked, then enfolded that presumed experience of bliss within a talk about beingness and emptiness as qualities of one’s deepest nature.

I also noticed many people blowing smoke up his dress to get his attention, by saying things like, “You look especially beautiful tonight,” or, “Tonights session seems exceptionally powerful.”  He ignored these totally to his absolute credit.  He was not allowing anyone to capture him in any way through flattery or intelligent questions.

In this way, David was totally different from me as he did not allow anyone to touch him.  He was totally impersonal.  I would have thanked the flatterer as a matter of respect, acknowledging I had heard the attempt to flatter. I am not affected by flattery, but I do understand the narcissistic need of the flatterer to feel heard.

In this way I am very different from many teachers.  I am highly engaged on a personal level with many students, and it is disturbances within the personal relationships that invariably lead people to leave: The feeling that I have not listened to them deeply, perceived them deeply, or that I favor one person over another in terms to time spent with them.  Sometimes even a deliberate sarcastic expression or a politically incorrect swear word rubs them so much the wrong that they run away feeling hurt.

These people should have studied with a real teacher for a while rather than daydreaming about what a teacher is supposed to be like, usually, some idealistic offshoot of the Ramana legend.

Looking back over the past three years, I see that EVERYONE who has left the sangha has done so because of a perceived narcissistic injury, the most common class being jealousy or envy that someone else is closer to me than they are. 

Two left because I criticized someone on the facebook page of one of these students.  I criticized Jeff Brown on one of these student’s FB page, receiving a stiff rebuke by email. I supposedly broke the bubble of peace and acceptance required to be on that page causing great rage and an inability to speak about the event face to face. Just a run, run, running away to a new teacher.

B. left because I paid more attention to two other students rather than him.  He felt his dedication and apparent surrender to me deserved more attention.  He left the comment that I had abused every male member of the sangha because I spent more time with Janet or Lila. His true level of surrender or commitment was demonstrated when he dropped me like a hot potato for another teacher.

J. left because—supposedly—I spoke daily with L. about many things;  J. wanted to be the only person that had this kind of relationship with me.

A1. left because she was turning our sangha over to other teachers, or was actually teaching members of our own sangha these other teachings and I told her to stop.  She felt I was attacking her freedom of speech.  However, she also felt left out as I was not following all of her directives about how satsang and the sangha should be run.

A2. left because she worked hard to build the sangha and thought I owed her for all her work.  She claimed she was high maintenance, but deserved it.  She left when I refused to grant her most of a day together the following week as I had several intense business deadlines to meet.  She was found crying for hours in her garage in her car because of my “abuse.”  She also warned me that J. would destroy the sangha as well as A1.

R. left because he felt that I was not empathic enough to notice he was in a spiritual crisis and adequately address his needs to talk.  He also blamed it on J. and L. for not reaching out to him. This abrupt reversal was just 3 weeks after sending me a loving email that he did not understand the satsangees who attacked and criticized me on FB.  I received no communications before this abrupt reversal.

V. left because she felt I never opened my heart to her.  She is right; I never did.  She never opened her heart towards me either, and spent almost all conversational times talking about narcissistic injuries sustained with her previous guru. She said she wanted me to be a spiritual friend, but then left a devastating personal attack book review attack on me on Amazon.

L. left because I spent too much time with another student when she was in town, taking time from L.

All of these people left because they and I had a personal relationship.  I treated them like people, friends, as someone special, but at times failed to meet their personal needs, or they felt jealous or envious because I spent more time with someone else.

You see, David Spero avoids all these traps and time-wasters by remaining relatively aloof and impersonal.  He offers bliss and knowledge; but I would find him utterly too remote to have been my teacher. Robert was remote too, but in a different way. He touched the earth lightly leaving no trace, but he spent a great deal of time with his close students at lunch, movies, satsang, and at celebrations.

I offer the same or similar bliss, far different teachings in terms of the words used to describe the metaphysics, different practices, and mostly, a huge emphasis on love--loving others and loving all aspects of one's own self.

The closer you get to me, the more your neediness will be exposed and your heart torn open over and over until it stays open. Huge incredible love and attachment will be followed by equally huge loss or perceived failure on my part, after which I will be reviled on endless FB forums and blogs as being an abuser or user of people.  The good is often buried with the bones of the relationship, and only the evil I supposedly did, lives on.

Eventually, one has to get to a place where narcissistic injuries are accepted as challenges to your false self and false or illusional expectations, and not as an event to run from.  Rather, they are to be embraced as opportunities to explore the personal self to and lose those aspects that have haunted us our entire lives. This is what is meant by cooking. The closer you get, the hotter it becomes.

Some will argue this one, saying this is abuse. But it is so only in their minds. Who is the abuser and the abused? It is a process of destroying illusions of relationships or impossible expectations, which is ignorance,  and settling for what is there, which might be called truth.


  1. Lovely openness and directness.

  2. Thanks, Edji. Painful but true.

  3. Yes, the apparent baring of one's soul becomes an experience of being vulnerable and is problematic and then the ego's intolerance for someone being in an uncomfortable state may certainly sabotage whatever plans he or she had to stay firmly on a path towards liberation. It really becomes a tall order and is best resolved by those who sincerely look within to face and earnestly wrestle with the demons inside(who would also be those who don't get caught up in the "perfect Guru" chasing game).


  4. Ed, I dare you post my comment. You often twist and distort events to suit you. I only objected to you talking to Lila ABOUT ME. I felt affected by all the negative energy and hatred spread around your sangha. You yourself failed to create a healthy sangha and keep blaming all your close students.

    Grow up and own some of your shit, maybe then you can become Buddha.


    1. Janet.....

      I can only speak from the one Satsang I attended several months back which was in Studio City(conveniently very close to where I live). My experience was the exact opposite of what you write about. I witnessed a very positive, overtly "healthy" sort of energy in the room and felt that Ed addressed a question of self inquiry practice that I had in a helpful fashion. Of course I'd be the first to admit I haven't been affiliated with the Sangha unlike you and so perhaps I didn't experience the sort of pernicious negativity you cite. But it's ultimately a subjective kind of thing anyway and Ed would be right if saying our perceptions of him or the Sangha are ONLY a reflection of whatever agendas we project(or don't project). Because what other way could it be?



  5. One rolls with _______ to best ability. You appear to have had a wad of teachers before Robert. You may have plodded along rather than run, I don't know, but you did appear to go through a number of them - recognizing later what value each may and may not have been for you. Seems Robert test drove his wakefulness for quite a while in India after meeting Ramana, before returning to the U.S. There may be a familiar arc to awakening, but - apart from sharing the, I AM - I haven't heard any awakening stories that have unfolded - particularly - the same . Perhaps you're a full service guy, perhaps not, I don't know. Perhaps in the end - when you're HOME - it was the sticking around. I do think that it takes some metal, patience, and maybe a lot of dumbass - regardless of messages/no messages/perceived strokes, insults - in love's lap and through loveless wilderness - to just keep rolling.

  6. We're all human, whether we're enlightened or not. We all have human failings. I've watched people who claim to be enlightened and who are completely blind to their own failings - as most of us are.

    Speaking from my own experience, it's often easier to see other people's failings than to see my own failings. You can notice failings without being judgmental. Sometimes I notice my own failings, and the act of noticing is positive and liberating. Sometimes I notice other people's failings, and I realise that there is nothing I can do or say that won't be counter-productive. What I do know is that love is the only way to change the world, and love means accepting that we're all human, and we're all (ultimately) blameless. It's not our fault that we're human, or that we're imperfect. That doesn't mean we can't be less imperfect, individually and collectively. We can create a global paradise in which everyone can live in peace, happiness, and equality.

    I'm interested in Ed's teachings and experiences. I don't think he's perfect, or that his students are perfect, or that I'm perfect. But I do think that love is important. I once had a deep experience of love and peace, and I noticed that I was a kinder person while the experience lasted, and it changed me afterwards. I also realised that if everyone had this experience we would live in a different world. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like yeast which spreads through dough. It's a collective process and it happens through ordinary people. Nobody is special. (And everyone is special.)

    Love is kind of vague, but an important component is empathy. We can feel what it is like to be someone else. We can love our neighbour as ourself. Of course we have to love ourself before we can love our neighbour. That's one of the things that Ed is teaching.

    Love and peace,