Spiritual Materialism

Have you ever experienced a moment in meditation where all of your thoughts actually do disappear? You enter a glorious realm of extreme peace and feel like you're floating? Magical colors fill your aura, and your breath is steady and free?

This is called Samadhi. Samadhi is a moment of sincere concentration and a form of meditative consciousness. In this state of mind, we relinquish all of our thoughts and can enter Satori, or sudden enlightenment. In this beautiful experience we become one with the universe and our sufferings are stripped away from us, we are liberated.

If you have experienced this divine moment in your life, then you may have also found yourself at the crossroads many of us experience after we get there.

On one path you are delighted and accept the experience as it was, you know maybe someday you'll get there again. On the other path you find yourself consumed, and looking for any possible way to get there again, and possibly pondering how to stay in this enlightened state of mind.

“Look, and it can't be seen.

Listen, and it can't be heard.

Reach, and it can't be grasped.”

- 老子-道德经

-Laozi DaoDeJing

This is where the ego tries to fool us.

Listening to ego we can lean towards the path that pulls us further away from this place of bliss and beauty. We fall towards a path of spiritual materialism.

Spiritual materialism is a term coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. “Spiritual materialism is the belief that a certain temporary state of mind is a refuge from suffering. An example would be using meditation practices to create a peaceful state of mind, or using drugs or alcohol to remain in a numbed out or a euphoric state.”

In other words Spiritual Materialism is when we use addictive or abusive tendencies to try and obtain spiritual enlightenment to relinquish our sufferings. There are many ways in which this can be done, so let's look at one example. When it comes to psychedelics, from my own experience, I was taught that “psychedelics are a shortcut to reaching enlightenment.” This quote came to me from a friend and provoked a deep sense of approaching these substances from a standpoint of gaining education and learning from them.

After my first mushroom trip I realized just how sacred our connection to these substances should be. The symphony of energy mixed with space and time and color was more than spiritual, it felt like a new birth, like being enlightened. During that time I had a lot of friends diving into the same experiments and I watched how some of them began to abuse these substances. Their lives changed, granted, mine did as well, but I took what I had learned and applied it to finding those lessons through yoga and meditation.

Some of my friends had become overtaken by the beauty they saw and felt, they took these substances day in and day out. It seemed like there was nothing that could get in the way of them reaching that blessed place again. Some of them became sick, and developed mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. Some of them went on to use and abuse these substances until they were no longer themselves, they became their addictions and their shadows.

We see this effect of spiritual materialism happening in all spectrums of spiritual development. From changing yoga teacher after yoga teacher, from religiously practicing reiki, meditation, breath work, the list goes on, all to only find that fix or special place again.

If you have ever found yourself consumed in this way of searching, you will want to be very honest and vulnerable with yourself and ask why am I doing this? Moreover how can I practice my spiritual habits without the need or expectation to reach enlightenment?

Expectation is the death of serenity

When we expect things to be a certain way we can unintentionally hurt ourselves, in turn creating more suffering. Our practices are most fruitful when we approach them with care, honesty, and respect.

Our goal can be to want to maintain an open mind for learning and a dedication to working hard on ourselves, not to getting the final prize through minimal effort.

To me the question has never been how can I get there again, but,...

How can I remain true to my spiritual path without getting consumed by it?

What has your question been on your path?

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