Wanting and Spiritual Materialism
Over the last couple of weeks, I received a variety of emails from people who read my recent blog entries on Tantra. Some were delighted to have greater clarity on the subject, feeling inspired by the idea of the body as a vehicle for the divine and an opportunity to practice witnessing pitfalls along the path. Others felt confused and upset at the idea that Tantra is not a sexual free-for-all. This pushed the button of their attachment to their libido. Everything that pushes our buttons gives us an opportunity to see ourselves in a new way. Aspects of our shadows are being highlighted for us to see, showing us ways in which we are attached to unfulfilled desires that may be outdated or may need voicing.
We all have unfulfilled desires. Many spiritual environments become a feeding ground for these, where practitioners may be wearing flowing clothes and chanting prayers, but feeling inwardly tied in knots. Wanting is insidious and we must be aware of it - whether we are in the office, following our creative voice, practicing bendy poses on our yoga mats, or exploring sexuality in our bedrooms.
We want. We want more. We get. But it is not enough. So we want more. In a perpetual cycle of wanting, we consciously and unconsciously feed into a human tendency for greed. We feel it is our right to get, so we want. Unaware of how it all started or what makes it continue, we seek external things to temporarily quell the hungry lizards in our bellies and brains, until yet again, we want more.
Most of us are unaware that we spend much of the time in a state of wanting, because it is a deeply unconscious part of how we operate. Part of the process of enlightenment seems to be shedding light into areas that are in shadow. Seeing aspects of ourselves that are disconnected can be an uncomfortable process, especially if we feel we have things figured out, we want things to be a certain way, or we are simply attached to wanting.
Greed is everywhere. It is easy to see greed present in our consumer world. As spiritual aspirants, we are also asked to witness the tendency for greed in our spiritual pursuits, wanting to be yogis, wanting to find liberation. Fueled by good intentions, our wants don’t end up supporting our evolution, but instead perpetuate a feeling of being disconnected from the perfection of the now. If you have not yet read “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” by Shambhala founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, it is a classic book on the shadow of the spiritual path, a practical guide for seekers of truth.
Though I am not a practicing Christian, I was raised in a Christian home and go to church on high holidays; and the Bible is among the spiritual texts that feed my inner life. To me, the famous Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” speaks of the way we return to wholeness when we turn our hearts to the divine. Wanting ceases. We feel fulfilled in the moment because we are, in truth, in a unified state with pure consciousness, rather than temporarily believing that we are lost, divided and alone.
The ego is a tricky and hungry thing that has power only when we feed it. But sometimes – even often - we are unaware we are doing so. Just as a chameleon can change colour to blend with its surrounding, so too our ego can shift and fool us to suit our desires. We may think we are evolving when in fact we are unconsciously justifying our self-serving ego.
Our feeling of being disconnected is at the root of our suffering. Wanting feeds our feeling of being disconnected and incomplete. We want, because we feel lack. We wanted a perfect mommy or daddy to make us feel special when we were children, and we still seek that mommy or daddy in our material acquisitions, in our spiritual pursuits, in our friends and life partners.
Take a look this week at how wanting is present in your life. I have spoken much of practicing non-resistance to what is in past blogs. Wanting is the exact opposite of non-resistance. When we want, we are either pushing the flow or resisting it. We are in a state of disconnect, feeling lack and wanting more. There is nothing wrong with the desire for fulfillment, when it comes from a relaxed place of joy. When it comes from lack, we are trying to fill ourselves up from a place that does not believe we can be fulfilled, so the cycle continues.
It is natural to desire a nice job, car, home, or loving partner. But when we feel that we are not OK without them, then those things possess us, hold us in some way. They become temporary gap fillers and will not bring us the lasting happiness we truly seek. The desire for them will bring about not joy, but suffering.
Look for wanting in your life. Begin to notice it at work, at home, with your friends, with family and spouse. Notice it also in your sex life (or absence of one). Wanting has a heyday in the land of the libido. Next week, I will take a look at the power of sex and where sexuality and spirituality meet.
Until next Sunday, be well.