Inquiry: He shouldn’t use a fire & brimstone approach

He shouldn’t use a fire and brimstone approach. (When teaching.)

  1. True?
    Yes. Feels that way, sometimes. I can find stories telling me it is true. I can find others who agree.
  2. Sure?
    No. Other valid ways of describing it besides “fire and brimstone”, and don’t know that it would be better if he did it differently.
  3. What happens when I believe that thought?
    • I get frustrated, jittery, uncomfortable, want to be somewhere else, feel I don’t belong, experience separation, see that I am caught in a belief.
    • I go into stories about his teaching strategy and his teachings.
      • His strategy is more appropriate to another time and culture.
      • He is too one-sided and dramatic about it.
      • He wants to shake people up, but only trigger resistance. (At least in me.)
      • He is not precise enough when teaching.
      • He talks down to his students.
      • He treats his students as if they don’t get it.
      • He is patronizing.
      • He sees his own teachings as more special and more advanced than it is.
      • His teaching style backfires, at least sometimes. It does for me, because it triggers defensiveness and a tendency to reject whatever he is saying.
    • Where do my mind go?
      • I compare him in my mind with other teachers whom I see as having a more appropriate and effective teaching strategy, such as Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Hameed Ali, Douglas Harding, Genpo Roshi. I see these as my allies, and create a separation in my mind between me and these teachers, and him and his other students. We are right, they are not. I belong with them, not this group.
      • I see his other students as mindlessly agreeing with him.
      • They want more students and are puzzled about what they can do differently. I tell myself I know what is going on: His teaching style. Using a fire and brimstone approach. Being one-sided. Overgeneralize. Being patronizing. Talking down to his students. I use this as another confirmation of the truth of my initial story.
    • How do I experience it in my body? Ants in my body. Jittery. Uncomfortable. Tense. Less smooth movements, more jerky and awkward.
    • How do I treat others? I experience separation to him and the other students. I assume the other students are OK with it. I make him wrong. I choose to be on my own more than I would otherwise. I interact less. I don’t ask him questions. I tend to reject all of his teachings. I am less receptive to the valuable pointers in it. I even reject what he talks about (self-exploration), even though I normally am very interested in and curious about it.
    • How do I treat myself? I spend more time on my own. Partly because I see I am caught up in a belief/hangup and it brings up tension and reactivity, which makes it uncomfortable to interact with others. And partly so I can digest and explore what is going on for me.
    • What do I get from holding onto that belief? I get to be right. I make myself right and him – and his other students – wrong.
    • What do I fear would happen if I didn’t hold onto that belief?
      • That I would be OK with his fire and brimstone approach, and then adopt it myself. I wouldn’t be able to defend myself against it. (“I need to defend myself against his teachings.”)
      • That I would see that it is not (only) a fire and brimstone approach, and that it has validity and a function. I would lose the sense of identity that I gained from the belief, the sense of being able to locate myself.
  4. Who would I be without that thought? Who would I be listening to his teachings, without the thought?
    • Curios. Interested. Exploring different views on his teaching strategy. Exploring its effects. Exploring how it is valid.
    • Receptive to the validity of his strategy, and the content of what he is saying.
    • Free to stay or leave. Free from a sense of drama.
    • Able to see that we each receive his teachings according to where we are. I bring my own wisdom and insight to it, and I bring my own hangups and blind spots to it. And his other students do the same. Independent of what the teacher says or does, we do it to ourselves.
  5. Turnarounds.
    • He should use a fire and brimstone approach.
      • He must have good reasons, in his own mind, for using that approach. I know that it is common in his tradition. He is just following his own tradition.
      • He wants to shake up his students using that approach, and it must work for at least some students some of the time.
      • It confronts his students with their ideas about how a teacher should teach. It shakes me up here now, through doing inquiry on it. It helps shake me out of beliefs. I see now that it worked for me, even if I told myself it didn’t work.
    • I shouldn’t use a fire and brimstone approach.
      • >> Yes, true. I use a fire and brimstone approach when I hold onto that belief. I make it into black-and-white. I make it into a drama. I exaggerate. I am using a fire and brimstone approach. Whenever I believe a story, I use a fire and brimstone approach. (Good to notice.)
      • The advice is for myself also when I talk or write. My interest is drawn to a more nuanced, precise and balanced approach, so the advice is for myself also in this way.
    • He shouldn’t use a balanced and neutral approach.
      • No. Everything in his history and experience seems to tell him that a more one-sided and dramatic approach is (sometimes) more appropriate, so he should use that approach.
      • His approach may work, at least sometimes, in the way he intends. It may help shake people out of their familiar assumptions and beliefs. It did for me, through this inquiry.
      • (This doesn’t mean I have to consciously adopt a dramatic and one-sided way of talking or writing, or stay and listen. Only that the drama and charge goes more out of it.)

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