Spirituality and Wild Goose Chases

The idea there is some external purpose to life – divine or mystical or otherwise – is problematic in the sense that it tends to promote wild goose chases and inattention to what’s right here right now.

light, crucifix
light, openings, crosses, rafters . . . the space in which we find ourself tells us a story about our self . . .

We are “children of a loving God,” or we are “sleeping spiritual beings surrounded by a light which gently awakens us,” or there are ascended masters of various sizes, shapes and proclivities who have secret wisdom to offer . . .

These (and other) narratives are old stories born of an unwillingness to stay with the present moment, and the uncertainty (or unknowing) that such staying mandates. They are designed to magnify the self (even – sometimes often – under the guise of undoing the self) by giving the self something to do, like search for itself or for God or for Truth.

There is nothing wrong with these stories, other than that we believe them to be true and make use of them accordingly. An adult parent who believes in Santa Claus isn’t hurting anybody, but his children might be disappointed come the morning of December 25 when there’s no gifts under the tree.

It’s not a question of letting go of distracting narratives but simply looking beyond or through or around them. Think of them as blossoms in a garden that has absorbed all our attention; now we want to see the leaves and stems, and the smaller flowers here and there, and the cool shadows close to the earth, and the ants and so forth.

Attention and observation of the present moment in its fullness is literally the work of a lifetime, and it doesn’t help to be running after imaginary angels and gods and scriptures and so forth.

One way to think of this is to distinguish between the narrative we make and the narrative we are given. The latter is peaceful, even when ostensibly violent or conflicted, while the former reinforces and reifies conflict, no matter how apparently pure and noble our intentions.

In my own experience, which may or may not be helpful, what works is to become aware of the nature of attention – its scope, its responsiveness, its operative fullness – and simultaneously to let attention be, or at least discover the limits of “my” relationship to it.

The suggestion is that there is no “you” or “I” directing attention, though those pronouns and that which they temporarily signify do show up within attention. But their appearance is more in the nature of a reflection than anything solidified or capable of agency. They are helpful in a limited way.

I say “suggestion” in order to be clear that experience or being in these respects may show up differently for other folks. Those differences are generally only slight differences of degree, but the semantics employed to express those differences can admit to gaps one can ride an elephant through.

It’s good to go slow and not be in any rush to build a tribe or even get anywhere in particular. The collective has already found us, and “the way,” strictly speaking, does not require any discernment on our part.

Of course, it can sound silly to say that – even mystical. It can sound like some sort of divine imperative to be a couch potato or slacker or just existentially indifferent.

But the suggestion – there’s that word again – is that the opposite is more accurate. There is work to be done, learning and teaching, communication awaiting sundry embodiments. Absent a central director – God or self – life doesn’t stagnate but opens into a dynamic flow, flowering even, where the focus is not on outcomes or advantages, save in the broadest and most abstract sense.

It is a paradox but “you” become most peaceful and productive and creative when there is no longer an “you” to be found, and the world is saved – which is to say, made anew in us – once we stop our endless fixation on its shortcomings and griefs.

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