Concentration and Denial
Reading about concentration versus generalized mindfulness, I saw in “Bringing Home the Dharma” (by Jack Kornfield) that a misuse of concentration can be related to denial. I have found that to be true.
But that still leaves the people not in denial the decision as to whether or not to “honor” the opinions of people in denial. This a moral/ethical issue with far-ranging consequences. It is so much easier to go along with denial than to confront it. However, once one starts to feel the reality of impermanence, the willingness to blindly go along with denial can evaporate like the morning dew.
I am dealing with a very weird situation. My husband Barry’s mind is not really present much, but his spirit is clear and understanding. He is refusing to eat more, in order to increase or even maintain his weight. Given that his dad was heavier than Barry is now when the old man died, Barry’s prognosis is not good. But his mind hasn’t connected the dots yet. I think he assumes he will live at least a few more years. His spirit has told me clearly in moments of extreme lucidity, “I am tired. I am done. Please don’t try to save me.” His exact words were, “Why couldn’t you listen to my no yesterday? Leave me alone.” And yet, when I mentioned that I thought he was going to die, he told me I was being “negative.” This is a very serious disconnect.
I still have to make choices, which will please some levels of Barry’s mind/spirit, while equally offending others. It now comes down to my conscience. I need to be able to feel good about the choices that I am making now ten, twenty years from now.
One problem with denial comes from unscrupulous people that can use these mind/spirit disconnections to their advantage. Another name for denial is “blind spot.” Some people have blind spots the size of Texas. Greedy people can come in and take advantage of the situations. Churches get ripped off regularly because they do not have the proper financial safeguards and blindly trust the wrong people. I’ve seen that over and over.
Another problem with denial is the cultural enforcement of it. To enforce denial, leaders have to prevent (how?) members from thinking for themselves and connecting the dots on their own. It didn’t work for Enron and, eventually, everyone finds out anyhow. And then the consequences are far-reaching. Even before the inevitable end, the smarter members of the denial-ridden organization will try to speak up and/or leave. “Good riddance,” the leadership says to the people that they will no longer have to deal with (and that belief can be a form of denial itself because, once a person leaves, the leadership now has zero authority of the leaver). So the smarter people with the higher integrity quietly leave…The organization loses its prestige and credibility and notices nothing.
Concentration is no excuse for a lack of mindfulness. I don’t care if I ever achieve any of the jhanas. Absorption is no substitute for being connected to reality.