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Caught In The Middle November 10, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never.’”

– Martin Luther

Do you ever find yourself in a double bind, on or off the mat? My guess (and hope) is that if you find yourself in a double bind on the mat then it was deliberate, intentional, and mindful. Examples of double binds on the mat are Garudāsana (“Eagle’s Pose,” where the legs and arms are intertwined) and Gomukhāsana (“Cow Face Pose,” where the legs are crossed in front and the arms are bound in back). You make your way into those poses with awareness and intention – and, just as importantly, you can see your way out, mindfully and intentionally. What happens, however, when you find yourself in a double binds off the mat?

Anthropologically speaking, a double bind is “an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other.” First used in the mid-50’s by “The Bateson Project” anthropologists Gregory Bateson, Donald deAvila Jackson, Jay Haley, John H. Weakland, and Bill Fry, a double bind scenario often involves intentional manipulation and gas lighting on the part of a “respected” authority figure; is repeated behavior; and is done in such a way that the person being abused (or groomed) may not see or be able to articulate the inherent conflict. That last part is key, because it is not enough for there to be a contradiction; the definition of the term relies on how the communication and behavior are imposed and the “subject(s)” inability to define the exact nature of the indiscretion.

A classic example of a double bind is someone (possibly a parent or parent) saying that the love the subject, but then physically harming, verbally abusing, and/or withdrawing affection from the “subject(s).” Another example of a double bind might be found in organized religions that teach about unconditional love, but then continually enforce limits and conditions to that love. While it might be hard for a regular parishioner in a small church to see the dichotomy and contradiction, especially when it is taught as part of theology, reformers like Martin Luther constantly find themselves in the middle of the double bind.

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils – for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

– Martin Luther, in 1517, when told to recant his views  

Born today in 1483, Martin Luther was a German theologian responsible for beginning the Protestant Reformation in 16th Century Europe and for inspiring Lutherism. He wrote the “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” in response to the excesses of Pope Leo X and the Catholic Church, which engaged in the practice of forgiving penance for sins in exchange for monetary donations. Referred to as “95 Theses,” Luther’s 1517 document caused people all over Europe to start questioning the actions of the pope and, eventually, led to the creation of the Lutheran Church. Luther’s main teachings were that the Bible is the central religious authority in Christianity and that faith – not deeds – leads to salvation.

Which, when you think about it can lead to a tricky Catch-22, whereby some people think they can do whatever they want to do – even when it contradicts the teachings in the Bible – as long as they have faith. Part of why I consider this a Catch-22 is because if one truly had faith, they would follow the teachings.

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”

– Martin Luther

Like a double bind, a Catch-22 involves a foundation of contradiction. Of course, most people, when they think of Catch-22s, think about Joseph Heller’s novel, published today in 1961. The novel is set at the height of World War II (specifically 1942 – 1944), but continually references elements from the 1950’s – which, combined with the circular and overlapping of linear and non-linear narration, reinforced the idea that the novel was political commentary on current (as well as historical) events. The novel includes “heroes” who commit truly atrocious crimes against humanity and the only physical depiction of “the enemies” occurs when “they” are working with one of “us.” The title refers to a military exemption clause that Captain John Yossarian, a U. S. Army Air Forces B-52 bombardier, ultimate thinks may not actually exist, because he notices that people of authority use the clause in multiple situations. As absurd as it may sound, the power, he realizes, is in the belief.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
‘That’s some catch, that Catch-22,’ he observed.
‘It’s the best there is,’ Doc Daneeka agreed.”

– quoted from Catch-22 (Chapter 5) by Joseph Heller

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 10th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will do what we do. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“‘The enemy,’ retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, ‘is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don’t you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live.’”

– quoted from Catch-22 (Chapter 12) by Joseph Heller

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING.


### “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” (ML) ###