I Know You Can’t Buy Enlightenment, so How Do I Come to Terms Selling Spiritual Products?

Via Miriam Hall
on Mar 15, 2013
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“You are selling something,” the salesperson next to me on the plane insisted.

I felt myself immediately rail up against her words.

Moi? A teacher of dharma and arts? Selling something?

No. Not me.

Not only was I resistant, I was judgmental—in fact, the judgment is what fed the resistance.

I know what sales looks like, I thought under my thoughts: a manicure, make-up and ironed eyelashes. Like you, a kind woman, well-intended but part of capitalism. I am not part of capitalism.

I wasn’t consciously thinking any of these thoughts, of course. They were simply there, a constant, undercurrent of fixation: I am this person, she is that person. Different people cross my path all the time, especially when traveling.

However, there’s always an other—I wanted to make her the other.

Only she refused it.

She pointed out the simple fact I deny all the time and put it in a way I could not put down.

I do sell something. She’s right. Dammit.

I sell a lot of things:

I sell a line of thinking (vulnerability is good; ultimately we are not separate from one another; practice is important; arts are a way into reality).

I sell classes: time to learn, be together, receive teachings from me that are not mine (because there is no me and because they came from a bunch of other non-existent and most excellent beings), nevertheless, people like receiving them from this manifestation of “me” that appears in front of students.

I sell books (e.g., physical products): photos, my chapbooks of poetry, the compilation Trans-Kin that I have an essay in. I have a sales permit for this, in fact. And recently I have realized just how resistant I am to “starting a business” (e.g., having an LLC). It took my seat mate on my flight from Detroit to Toronto to make me realize why. Because I don’t want to be selling anything. I want, somehow, to make a living doing what I am doing and also, neatly, not have to deal with selling.

I am pretty much always selling something.

I selling something right now, writing this for you to read.

I can’t deny this to myself anymore: I am selling things and I hope they improve people’s lives.

My intention matters—a lot—but that doesn’t mean I am not selling something.

I know you can’t buy enlightenment. I am not selling that. But I am selling practices to help support others to taste their birthright access to it. I believe in my “products.”

I needn’t deny it to anyone else: my students know full well I sell something. They fill out checks and withdraw cash and transfer money through PayPal, so they are very aware of it.

I feel a fear, a liberation in this realization. A shaking in my boots. A what-next.

Thankfully, finally, I can begin to stop binding up so much energy in trying to maintain a non-truth.

Susan Piver’s business report for her non-profit The Open Heart Project first cracked this in me in January. My resistance to establishing an LLC made the crevice wider. A well-coiffed salesperson (who sells both product and service: medical software and support), a stranger who’s name I never learned, she’s the one who made me stare my denial straight in the face. Time for me to trust myself—trust that I can handle this and face it straight on.

Here I go.

Now. I invite you to go there with me. Please do. It’s so much easier to not do it alone.

If you are offering something spiritual for money, you are selling something, too.

How do you feel about them apples?


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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Miriam Hall

Miriam Hall teaches Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography, Contemplative Writing and other fun practices that combine perception and creative process as a part of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. Natalie Goldberg (of Writing Down the Bones,) says: “Miriam Hall has the heart, hands and head of writing practice. Study with her.” She can be found at her website, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and all over the world teaching and playing. You can also read more of her here, here and by visiting her website.


One Response to “I Know You Can’t Buy Enlightenment, so How Do I Come to Terms Selling Spiritual Products?”

  1. David Hall says:

    I understand and share your reluctance to take part in the "capitalist" system, but remember that "capitalism" is actually a very specific form of commerce, related to those who have capital providing it for others to use in making stuff. I think there is another level of doing things, of exchanging things with others, that is actually just a simple part of how beings relate. When the first monkey gave another a banana in exchange for a stick, "selling" was born. And I think, at least on a first pass, that that does not involve all the the tangled tainted mess that has evolved since – or at least, it doesn't have to, if we don't want to.

    I think there is another, particular sense of "selling" that is where the resistance comes from – where "selling" means *taking advantage* of those you do business with. One where the "intention" of the seller can even be self-deception, or at least self-justification. But that is something that self-awareness addresses quite naturally, so once again letting go of the idea that what you are doing is tainted should be a doable thing. Not necessarily easy – but doable.