June 15, 2010

Are you just a Spiritual Window Shopper?

Enlightenment—or our money back.

In the last 5-10 years the search for meaning in our lives has taken on similarities to…visiting a shopping mall.

Never before have we seen such an array of teachers all saying they will bring ever-lasting happiness and proclaiming their path is the way, that they have the only or the best teachings, that if we do this we will be free, transformed, changed forever, happy as never before, fulfilled, enlightened! And it’s fast! We once received notice of a Guru Training program where we can become a guru in two weekends, after which, the brochure assured us, we were guaranteed to receive endless adoration, wealth, fame and happiness—or our money back.

Put together a great interest in all matters spiritual with a fair amount of money, plus a love of stardom as seen in the adoration of everything Hollywood, and the result is a huge plethora of New Age ‘stars’. We were recently sent an invitation to a conference on Altered States of Consciousness: Enlightenment, Entheogens, Shamanism and Peak Experiences. There are forty-six headlined speakers, all of whom have endless credentials, books, teaching centers and followers, and all of whom will speak for just one or two hours each in a five day period. Subjects range from The Humpty Dumpty Trajectory: Cracking Open Consciousness, to How to Tell Your Friends From the Apes, Gender-Specific Altered States of Consciousness and, thankfully, The Miracle of Ordinary Awareness.

At the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London England, there is a huge range of speakers offering subjects as diverse as Attract Your Past-Life Soulmate NOW!, The Secret Tibetan Red Egg Cure, Discover Your Secret Chakras, and Learn What Planet You are From. And that’s just on the first day. Later on you can learn spiritual laws for ascension, teach your DNA to listen to your higher mind or, if that doesn’t work, at least you can learn how to bend spoons. One of our teachers, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche,  called all this spiritual materialism.

When people are in need they often try anything. They are susceptible and easily vulnerable to outside influences. When ego-centered or strongly persuasive people say they can help save them they believe it. There would appear to be three main reasons why someone goes window-shopping for a spiritual teacher:

  1. Life does not easily satisfy our needs. We get something but always want more. More becomes the mantra. But from constantly wanting more materially and emotionally, we then apply the same principle to spirituality: more teachers and techniques must be better than just one, surely?
  2. Like the musk deer in India that has a beautiful smell in its anus but looks throughout the forest for that smell, so we look for happiness outside ourselves and come up short because whatever we find never lasts. This is the truth of impermanence: happiness comes but happiness also goes. Not wanting to believe this, we continually search for that elusive promise of foreverness, and we search for it wherever we can.
  3. Everywhere we look we find fliers on bulletin boards advertising how each can help save or heal us, promoting different teachers and methods, which are the BEST. Each is more enticing: surely this one will finally solve all those nagging difficulties in my life? Or maybe it’s this one?

Where is all this taking us? How do we find our way through such a maze of offerings? Many of the above subjects may have something wonderful to teach us, but what can we really learn in an hour or two or even a weekend? When we dig for oil we have to dig deep to reach it. If we dig too many different holes we will never get to the source of the oil. In the same way, if we guru hop or learn too many techniques we will never get to the essence of the teachings. Does this sound like you? Are you a spiritual window shopper?

This blog is a chance for us all to do a reality check. Are we being taught to listen to our own wisdom and to be self-empowered or is someone telling us the way it is? Perhaps is it time for us to be still enough to look within our own mind and heart for what we know and can trust to be true.

photo courtesy of Stefan Beckhusen

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