I fear two things in this life: Losing my legs and Fooling Myself.
Loss of dancing, and running, and jumping aside..fooling myself is more substantial of a fear because it’s something I actually have control over. I’ve heard the stories and seen the evidence first hand of the long line of seekers who unwittingly turn spiritual work into ego work. Of course, I do not wish to go down that path. I consider myself a sincere seeker; I do not want fame, money, success, knowledge, or favors from MonkeyDrop in exchange for my good behavior and dutiful practice. I’d be content living one day fully Awake than 1,000 years in maya.
The ego on the other hand, he has other plans while we’re alive. It wants everything and because it knows that I cannot be deterred from this work, it will do all it can to impose its will.
I started reading “Spiritual Materialism,” by Chogyam Trungpa for the 3rd time in three years. The first time I read it, I was underwhelmed but intrigued. Life guided me back to it again last fall, and my intrigue moved into enjoyment. I finished chapter One on yesterday and did not enjoy it at all, but came away with an insight into how I have been fooling myself. So maybe enjoyment moves to insight.
I try to be honest with myself about what and why I engage in certain practices. I have always considered being able to graft various spiritual traditions into my own Way. My practice could be described as a mix of Buddhist, Zen, Tao, Vedantic, and Hindu, filtered through some Sufi ideologies, all backed up by Judeo-Christian scriptures.
And I’m certain I’m leaving something out.
In the book, Trungpa discusses how we collect spiritual teachings like a junk-shop owner would collect antiques. We think each teaching is beautiful and would go nicely with the others, but after a while we just end up with a lot of junk. I reflected upon these words and realized how spiritually scattered I have been. I thought I was doing myself a favor by learning as much as I could, but most likely I’ve just been fooling myself into thinking I was making progress. But he explains proper practice involves “fully appreciating each individual object.”
When I began to wonder how things came to be this way for me, I was reminded of a different insight I had over the weekend while meditating: I noticed how the Ego would allow space just long enough so it would be able to comment on it. I’ll be all like:
“thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts,”
“hey, that was nice, but now let’s be present.”
1/2 second of space
“oh wow that was pretty cool, I wonder if that’s what such and such was talking about when he spoke of space in meditation, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts,…remember that time we had space sitting here? yeah…thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts”
So while I may think I’m growing as I sink a centimeter deeper into meditation, the Ego is controlling the whole thing. It allows the space so there won’t be much space. I hope I’m making sense.
Remember, the Ego wants everything, and since it knows that I will not relinquish this foolish pursuit of of the transcendental (which is what I believe it calls all spiritual work), it secretly plots to use my work against me.
“Look at all of these shiny new teachings, you can really grow as a person by doing this and implementing that and taking on this….yes…excellent..” — Ego taps its fingers together in menacing Mr. Burns fashion.
In the same way it allows space in my meditation, it is allowing me to grow as a person while the Spirit wanders back and forth. There’s no doubt I’ve made great personal strides through my practice, but at what cost? It’s possible to become a better person through spiritual work while not fully showing up on the Path of Becoming.
Oh you tricky ego….
Trungpa’s advice is to choose one thing. “One must start with one thing, see its simplicity, the rugged quality of this piece of junk or this beautiful antique.”
I thought I was doing so well.
I’m sure I am doing well, how else could I have been in place to understand this teaching.
Now I just have to do well in a different way…without entertaining the ego with all of the different versions of Truth out there.
I don’t even know what that means….I guess that’s why they call it Practice.