Practical spirituality for a complicated world.

Dear Robert,

I have studied Metaphysics and alternative spirituality for many years.  It has taught me to look at the world in a different way than many of my family and friends. I was telling some of my relatives about the chemical spraying, or chemtrails. I told them that you had written about it in your column several months ago. My brother-in-law started shouting that I needed to wear a tin foil hat, because I was a conspiracy freak. He said that the government would never allow anyone to spray chemicals in the sky, but I said that the government might even be doing it. He really lost it, and said some terrible things to me. Everyone else seemed to be in shock, and just sat there. No one tried to defend me. I felt embarrassed and shunned by the people who are closest to me. I didn't want to strike back, because I believe that violence and aggression only cause more violence and aggression. I just sat there in silence, and he finally blew off enough steam to calm down. So far, he has not apologised for his behaviour. I feel very abused by him, and I resent my other family members for not saying something to him. I strive to walk my talk, as you write about, so I need some advice. What is the best way to deal with compassion, understanding and love when you're attacked? Thanks in advance for your help.

JP, Santa Fe


Dear JP,

Thank you for your letter. This issue is not about chemtrails. I've already written what I need to say about that. I'll respond instead, to the topics of defending oneself, and of seeking balance and harmony in spiritual living.

There is not one single spiritual method of responding to every situation. I believe our responses would best be tailored to the circumstances of each individual occasion, whether it is a confrontive encounter, or a supportive conversation. Walking our talk on a spiritual path doesn't mean that we have to be robotic, with canned responses. In fact, some of the most hateful, mean-spirited people I've ever met, always had sweet smiles and said all the right things. They learned to smile as they killed. My goal in walking a spiritual path is to always act with compassion for all sentient beings. It sounds as if you are familiar with that Buddhist principle. I do not always live up to my high ideals, and I will share with you in today's column how I reacted to an unpleasant person only recently. First, let's explore some possible ways you could have responded to your brother-in-law. You could have left, assuming that you weren't in your own home. If you were in your own home, you could have asked him to leave. You could have told him that if he were willing to discuss things rationally and calmly, you would oblige him, but you refused to engage in shouting.  Since he is a relative, perhaps you were wise to have been a bit more patient than you would have normally. I think you're correct in saying that violence and aggression only breed more of the same.

On the other hand.....sometimes, you just need to tell how the cow ate the cabbage. There are situations when we need to respond firmly. Now, be aware that your response might rule out the possibility of future dialogue. Then again, there are folks we're better off not having around. Shall I tell you about a recent encounter of my own?

On a Sunday afternoon, not long past, the Redneck Hindu, accompanied by James, went to the Lucky Sav-On on Cordova, to buy some chromium picolinate. I was preoccupied with my errand and didn't notice that James was talking with someone. I looked around, saw them, and walked over. James said, "Robert, this is Igor (not his real name), whom we met about five years ago. Do you remember? He says he's a big fan of your column".  I replied, "It's nice seeing you Igor, and I'm happy to hear you enjoy my column". He said, "My wife likes it much more than I do". I thought that was a bit odd, but according to local standards, not too rude. I responded, "Oh, I see.  Well, I'm glad your wife can find something of value in my writing". I was trying to respond with kindness, and willing to peacefully withdraw, continuing what turned out to be a futile search for chromium picolinate. Oh, but Igor wished to continue, and he told me that I was a liar and a racist. I wish I could tell you that I was surprised, but I wasn't. I am a white male from the South, and not just the South, but South Mississippi.  I'm used to the fact that the politically correct, multicultural, tolerant, open-minded contingent here, use the term "racist" quite freely to discredit anything they don't care for. Their faux-tolerance, like faux-adobe architecture, is everywhere in Santa Fe. One of their basic beliefs is that being a white male, especially Southern, means that you're a racist. That's one of the reasons I decided to take the ethnic slur "Redneck", which they use to insult us all the time, and claim it on my own terms, to sort of diffuse it. I asked him, "What have I ever written or said that would cause you to say such a thing to me?" He answered, "I can't think of anything specific, but I know you are." Again, this is a common response from the politically correct crowd when they wish to discredit you. I expected that. But you know, something about his smug attitude that afternoon, simply p**sed me off. The rascal had already called me a liar and a racist, so what did the Redneck Hindu have to lose? I looked him directly in the eye, and in the strongest Southern accent I could muster, I told him, "You are as full of sh*t as a Christmas goose." He was shocked, and (luckily for him) couldn't think of anything to say. James was surprised to a point, but after 22 years of living with the Redneck Hindu, he is used to my little ego detours. We turned around, and walked away. I asked James, "Where in the hell did we meet that stupid **##@**?" James, using his dry accountant humour, told me to forget about it, that it was just another greeting card we wouldn't have to send.

Here is a summary of today's column. You have the right to define who you are; you get to create your own spiritual path; and you get to decide how you need to best react in situations. I try to act with as much kindness as I can, but if people won't let me, I take care of business in other ways. I do not believe that spiritual seekers are required to take any crap that someone decides to throw at us. We can hand that crap right back. You don't have to let bullies intimidate you. But, if you decide to act from your own truth, there are a few things you have to give up. First and foremost, you must give up trying to please everyone and attempting to fulfill their expectations. It's really not as hard as it might sound. I've found it best not to try to justify or defend myself. My Grandfather Odom used to say, "Don't explain yourself. Your friends don't need it, and your enemies won't believe it." That's good advice. Generally, I've found it best to quietly walk away if I possibly can. However....once in a while, I think the most spiritual thing we can do is to say, "Oh, p**s off". If we can assist idiots in stopping for a second, and examining their idiocy, perhaps we've done them a favour and given them a gift. Then again, part of being an idiot is not realising you're an idiot. I would prefer to believe that I'm not an idiot. Just in case, though, I spend time each day in thought and reflection on how things have gone and what my part in it was. All in all, it seems to work for me.

I advise you to give yourself the freedom to explore and see what works for you. You're free to adjust things according to the spiritual principles which guide your life. You're really and truly free, if you want to be. OM

Robert Ransom Odom is an internationally published author and teacher.

Robert has been a leading figure in the metaphysical spiritual community of Santa Fe since 1990.

To ask Robert a question, visit his website at, email or send mail to PO Box 33, Santa Fe, NM 87504.