What about Techniques?
This was originally a letter written to some folks involved in the
Waking Down in Mutuality Process, but could be useful to anyone wondering
about the role of techniques and methods in the process of an organic
What exactly is "Skill In Means" or "Skillful Means" about? I think
it's important to know that the ideal of Skill In Means (in the context of
how it originally arose in Mahayana Buddhism) is not essentially about
learning techniques or methods to help others, but is rather something
very different. It is about the innate capacity of someone with an
Awakening Consciousness (Bodhichitta) to GENERATE whatever very specific
and different ways of expression and teaching are needed for every
specific student. That is something very different than learning
techniques and methods that can be applied to all students. It is actually
the opposite of having methods transform students; it is having students
Skill in Means is not any of the techniques themselves, nor is it all
of the techniques taken together. It is acting from The Heart Of
Compassion where the teaching is a response to a studentís needs, rather
than acting from a pre-existing therapeutic, psychological or spiritual
structure that is being used to diagnose and treat them.
It is an organic aspect of Bodhichitta (Awakening Consciousness) that
is the integrating factor among all the grab bag of techniques and ways of
teaching, rather than simply a name for the grab bag itself. Skill in
Means is not a product of the thinking, planning, preparing, discursive
and constructing mind, rather it is teaching as a response to the other,
dependent on the other, not on techniques of a psychological or spiritual
school of thought.
I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with learning and
including techniques and methods from various sources.
Nor am I advocating that we exile all systems of therapeutic (or
spiritual) diagnosis. But I am suggesting that we recognize that while
they may be helpful in specific cases, they are not the thing in itself
and they come with their own conceptual baggage.
Waking Down in itself is not a therapeutic paradigm even if and when we
use techniques from therapeutic sources.
When this is not understood, there can be a danger of "laying the trip"
of a therapeutic (or other) paradigm, and subtly pathologizing each
other's human patterns. I feel this is so even with the more humanistic,
new age (or channeled) categorizations, thought systems and maps.
Skillful means, and good WDM teaching does not consist in getting
training in as many therapeutic modalities and personality maps as
possible and then diagnosing and curing students.... Thatís therapy.
"The teaching gets pulled out of the teacher by the hunger of the
student" is the real essence of WDM teaching (and real skillful means).
What this amounts to is an interdependent relationship in non-separateness
giving birth to unique teaching in accordance with the unique situation.
Another way to say this is that the Divine (The Divine Other that includes
self and other) does the teaching, in non-separation through us.
One of the things that struck me with Saniel Bonder's early teaching
work was not that he had a tool kit of techniques, but rather that he was
in relationship with everyone. The teaching that happened with people was
generated in his experience of self and other realization as the
Goddess... and his promise to awaken Her one soul at a time.
There is in this an arduous and deep trust in ourselves (and Life) that
is needed to be able to access that kind of connection. And this is the
real import, (which is often unrecognized and unseen by students) in the
process and training that goes into becoming a WDM teacher. That is the
deepest ability that is passed on and taught to teachers. There is a good
argument to be made that it takes more to do that than to become skillful
at a number of techniques or therapeutic modalities.
Confidence in our connection to the Divine, a deep trust in the
transmission, and an ability to hear the other in non-separateness is the
essence of this work...and it can't exactly be taught as techniques or
methods can. It's leaning into the source from which dharma is generated.
It seems to me that learning to lean into this is harder to quantify,
more mysterious and not cut and dry. It means establishing, developing and
relying on a more intuitive sense of Onlyness, however we personally
experience that, and continually deepening it.
Remember how untamed and inconvenient this work is. It is Living
While I welcome the desire to include methods and techniques into the
work to help others (I have been doing this in my own way), This teaching
is not techniques or systems but rather it is Living
Being/Spirit/Transmission and (in That) Living Relationships.
My sense is that it is only this connection to the living Transmission
that can become the organic (rather than constructed) integration of all
these methods, modalities and techniques. This Transmission of the Goddess
does not pathologize through diagnosis, and This Transmission has seen fit
to awaken very imperfect messy human beings and does so quite perfectly.
As we include methods from outside This Transmission let us remember
that the transmission of this Goddess awoke us in our messiness when
techniques and respectable psychology (and traditions) did not. She did
not turn us away in our imperfections, She awoke us in them and She is
wild and messy Herself.
And while we bring the masculine into this work if we saddle her with
an overly tame civilized male she will either die of boredom or will eat
him for lunch. The only husband who can meet Her is Shiva... a wild, messy
and smelly dude himself!
2007 Krishna Gauci