I keep getting emails and ads showing up in my social media feeds for what is called a “masterclass.” The idea is that if you watch this video and listen to this person, you’re going to gain massive spiritual insight that’s going to take you to the next level.
And what is the next level? I don’t know. Happiness? More money? Deeper awakening?
This dude interviews all kinds of healers and authors and meditation teachers and then gives you a free class before you sign up to pay a whole bunch of money over the course of a few weeks that’s going to “change your life.”
Now listen. It’s not that I’m saying these healers and teachers and authors have nothing of value to say. These are people who have something to offer, no doubt. They’ve been through their own struggles and their own searching and now they’re trying to give back. I respect that. That’s my intention too.
But we have to be conscious and aware of the fact that we live in a materialistic society, a capitalistic framework. And so what that means is that deeply ingrained within us is this false perception that any path we’re on is a ladder, and that we must travel up, up, up, to get “there.” There is the secret treasure, I suppose. Like in Dora the Explorer (the movie, which is quite good), where the kids traverse the Amazon jungle and go through all sorts of tunnels and quicksand and arithmetic to move the big wall that reveals lots and lots of gold.
I think that within all of us is this search for gold, what we think is the jackpot that’s going to change our whole lives and make us never have to live with strife or complicated emotions.
And that is just a big ol’ lie. Because as long as you’re alive, you’re going to feel things, and you’re going to have challenges. That is true no matter how much money is in your bank account, who your boyfriend is (even if he’s Justin Timberlake!), or where you live. Money is something that has to be managed (and dear God, if you’re filthy rich, you need to hire people to help with that stuff), boyfriends don’t always please you (men get depressed, too), and even lavender fields go fallow at times. Or the sink handle breaks in your fancy kitchen. Or the toilet gets clogged. Or kids come in and track mud all over the floor.
To be honest with you, I don’t know why I’m on “the spiritual path.” I was going to have a nice, perfect life. I was going to get married and have a very sensible teaching job that put me on the same schedule as my kids, and I was going to live out the rest of my days with my favorite person in the world, and I was going to take walks after dinner and have friends over for parties and go to yoga class on Saturdays and write short stories that maybe got published in journals no one every heard of. But my yoga teachers moved to Vermont, my marriage got ugly, those high school teaching jobs felt like an episode of Survivor, and I could no longer afford to live in my house. Instead of fiction, I’m writing this weird stuff every day. And this is all after I started meditating. Go figure.
What is more true than those “masterclasses” that are supposed to “awaken” you (and take lots of your money), is this statement from the Shambala Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in his book The Myth of Freedom:
The attainment of enlightenment from ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment. Treading the spiritual path is painful. It is a constant unmasking, peeling off of layer after layer of masks. It involves insult after insult.
Dude, this shit is true.
If you are interested in a deep experience, where you hold nothing back and bare your whole heart, all your insides, every single thought, and you submit totally and fully to the Great Presence, then you are going to be doused and showered with love, but you are also going to lose all those strongholds that tell you what your identity is. You are no longer going to define yourself by your job, by your history, by the role you play in certain relationships. Now you are a globe of light whose world is vast and open, and no matter what direction you walk in, you are you, beyond labels.
Most people don’t want to go this route. Most people get very, very scared. Most people put up their hands and plant their feet and say, Um, no thank you. I’m going to watch TV.
But once you start this, you can’t stop. It’s like being in the forest with no cell phone, no map, and each day you have to find your food and a place to sleep, but you might as well keep exploring the forest, because what the hell else are your options?
Maybe this sounds depressing. I hope not.
My point is that we are very inundated with the false belief, from a young age, that we are climbing a ladder in life, and we have to get to the top rung. This is not true. This is never true. Maybe that works in capitalism, but then you get to the top rung and shit, people elect you to be president, and you are totally unequipped for that kind of work, and you end up just killing the world.
Maybe you want to be happy, and you want to be peaceful and calm always, so you become a yoga teacher and massage therapist and reiki healer and now you’re in school for cranio-sacral something-or-other and now you’re waking up at 3 in the morning every day for all the “self-care” you have to do, but you still can’t even pay your bills.
Materialism is materialism. It suggests that there is something to be gained. It suggests that we put forth some sort of effort or expense, and then we receive something concrete in return.
Transactions like this happen all the time in life. Giving and receiving. But the universe is not looking at it this way. What matters to the universe is an exchange of energy. The giving and receiving exists in the same act, the same moment. It is, rather than a putting out and a taking away, a blending, a sharing. A celebration in every interaction. A dance.
When you dance with someone, you’re not really expecting a transaction. More likely, you’re open to the moment you’re in, the simple exchange. Your body says, I share this experience with you. We are together right now.
That’s the spiritual experience, too. That’s the path of enlightenment. That’s what an awakened person sees.
It’s very subtle.