There are certain facts that, although we are aware of them at one level of our brains, we refuse to let them into our conscious minds. This mental Defense mechanism is called denial. It is an extremely creepy feeling when you come out of denial about something you haven't been able to face before. You just can't believe that you could have been so blind or that you could have so easily forgotten, or not noticed, things so obvious and important.
There are several levels of denial. The deepest is when we forget an experience because it is too frightening to contemplate. Being sexually molested as a child, for instance, is a trauma that is commonly repressed and forgotten about until such a time as when the person is ready and strong enough to finally remember and heal.
Another level of denial is when we give our power away to someone, completely trusting that they will handle our money, our health, our psyches, our children, or any number of other important parts of our lives. [This is the level of denial most of the leadership maintains.]
And the commonest form of denial is how we all ignore the scary facts, because if we were to become fully awake and fully conscious to the issues, we would have to take a stand, and we just don't have the courage. [This is the first level of denial a average saint goes into when first faced with the facts of abuse]
When a friend reaches a point in their healing process where they are willing to tell you something about themselves that feels shameful, this is what I call a personal secret. The friend is usually not yet healed enough to let their shame become common, and thus uninteresting, knowledge, so they swear you to secrecy.
Unfortunately for me, when I am at the listening end of one of these confessions I have the hardest time remembering that my friend is feeling ashamed because bluntly, there are few temptations or vices in the world that I haven't either participated in myself, or vicariously experienced through my friends and family. This makes me a very forgiving and unshockable listener but a rather spacey secret keeper. I can forget that a friend feels guilt about an action or reaction that seems like a perfectly human and ordinary mistake or delusion to me.
This spaciness is at times almost forgivable in the face of some of the crazy secrets I have been asked to keep while in 3HO.
I once patiently waited through 20 minutes of weeping and stammering to find out that one of my sisters had gone out and bought a Hershey's Bar in the middle of a zucchini fast. She drove several miles out of town and snuck into the woods to eat it.
Did you know that a devoted Sikh brother of mine and his wife French kissed in the sadhana room before they were married?
Along these same lines, I know of many married 3HO couples who used to have sex more than once a month. One friend even confided in me that her husband and she had even once had sex three times in one month!
My two favorite Sikh secrets, however, were told to me by two single men. One of these guys admitted to me that he sat down several times a day, for several hours, and pretended to read his prayers. The other man showed me how he had taped himself doing 2 1/2 hours of Long EK ONG KAR meditation on his reel to reel tape recorder. That way whenever he needed a break from 3HO, he could hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, set his tape recorder to chanting and head out the window to a conveniently located "girlfriend". [It is funny because the same kind of "silly secrets" comes out in the Assembly. Like – they have a TV that they hide. They missed a meeting and went to or rented a movie. They were thankful when their kids were sick so they could stay home. They didn’t understand George’s ministry]
3HO [the Assembly] has always buzzed with gossip. Gossipy secrets are those juicy little tidbits of scandal that third, fourth, fifth parties give you, swearing you to secrecy because, of course, they don't want to be the ones caught in the act of telling. Frankly these secrets simply cry out to be passed along, yet as we all know, they can be dangerous to handle.
The underlying dynamic behind much gossip is that when situations , behaviors, and/or issues begin to come out of denial , the first thing that happens is that secretive gossip begins to perk. I think this is one way we protect us from having to own up to or admit things too suddenly. There is always a very real possibility that what is getting passed down the vine is false information; a fact that gives us some sense of security while we begin to grapple with the fact that the information may well be true.
In every 3HO [Assembly] community that I have ever lived in there has been the child-like soul who, having heard about the "secret" love affair or "hidden" money scandal for months, will rightly assume that everybody knows about the "secret" anyway, so why don't we put it on the agenda for the next house meeting?
I can smile at and deeply appreciate this display of purest innocence, because, well- Mom really should stop drinking and Dad really might stop smoking and therapy really would do us all a world of good! However, I know that child-like disclosures lead right to being a victim of all sorts of unpleasant reprisals. [If this has never happened to you, I am sure you have seen someone who thinks that by just bringing a problem to the leading brother’s attention, the problem will be "brought into the light" and dealt with. It is never dealt with and we know underneath that it never will be truly brought into the light. After all, it may "stubble the weak ones". When the person who originally brought up the issue, finds out it hasn’t been dealt with and brings that fact to the attention of the leadership. They are "talked to" very strongly about their own shortcomings that lead them to questioning the leadership.]
So if we are into "sat nam"--if truth is our very core and identity--how should we react to gossipy secrets?
Frankly, I am much more an expert on how NOT to interact with gossip than on how to handle it gracefully--but here's what I think anyway. I think that we need to choose our issues carefully, take responsibility for disclosing the "secrets"; take a stand and inspire others to take a stand with us; and then just sit there, and take the heat.
Clearly denial-busting and secret telling takes courage and we rarely come out looking too pretty or smelling too sweet, but heck, it is a job and someone has to do it. Just as clearly, it is stupid and unkind to get into major denial-busting over petty or personal issues. Whether so-and-so did it with whose-it, isn't worth remembering much less taking action over.
This is because in extremely dysfunctional systems, for instance the Mafia or within corrupt governments and companies, people are allowed into the inner circles only after they prove that they can keep secrets. They are then rewarded for their silence with the "drug" of their choice be it status, power, money, women, or combinations thereof. If someone threatens to break the chain of secrecy, that individual is instantly in extreme danger. [Once you see the whole truth you realize why the leadership, acting as co-dependents, refuse to deal with issues. It is the same reason those I mentioned at the beginning, refuse to leave even after they are confronted with the truth and thereby become abusers by their complicit silence. The reason – it works for them on some level. They are getting something for their silence and lies. It may be power, money, authority, or just the ability to maintain the illusion that they are involved with a committed and spiritually superior group.]