Seeking to Stop Seeking Can Stop Stopping-Seeking
Of course, there's always a catch: in this case, at least three of them.
First, seeking ways to stop seeking can become, itself, a narcotically addictive search. Comparing this meditation technique against that one. Searching for ever-more-transcendent peak experiences – "well, I did really forget myself and stop seeking last time, but I'd like to do it even more." Falling into the trap of thinking that it's the particular way of walking that matters on the journey, instead of showing up for every step of it. Talking about meditation instead of doing it. And, despite oneself, turning the whole thing into a goal-oriented process with goals and accoutrements. It's said that spirituality can turn into a kind of narcissism, but narcissism doesn't quite capture the angst of unbridled self-reflection. After all, Narcissus just saw his beautiful reflection – in meditation, you see an ever-more-clarifying picture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thus endless self-reflection can end not in clarity and calm, but neurosis and paralysis.
Second, there is what Trungpa Rinpoche called "spiritual materialism," in which the path to non-self becomes instead a path of gratifying and pleasing the self. Yoga, meditation, prayer, entheogens, energy work – all of these can easily become about enriching, enlarging, and serving the self, when they are meant to do the opposite. Spirituality can become an a consumer lifestyle, and a way of enhancing, relaxing, and generally pleasing Me – witness the success of the ego-empowering Kabbalah Centre, and the promises of eternal youth from some of today's most financially successful institutions. Even a sincere motivation for learning can becomes twisted: the search for occult, hidden realities can lead to both surprising truths about subtle energies that otherwise escape our notice – or a great cosmic treasure hunt, in which the goal is to know as much esoteric nonsense as possible.
Third, and most familiarly, because spiritual practices bring about highly pleasant mind states, and among the most indescribably beautiful sensations I have ever experienced, they can spoil precisely what they are meant to enhance. Give me more of the mind-blowing contentment, bliss, and sensations of unity I feel on meditation retreat – the regular pleasures aren't enough. Like a connoisseur of wine no longer being able to enjoy ordinary merlot, I only want the extraordinary stuff. Thus the practice of waking up to ordinary pleasure can undermine exactly that.
In all three of these cases, the search to stop seeking becomes, itself, a search with goals. It's tough, because, as goals go, bliss, contentment, and the deepest joy I've ever experienced are pretty good ones – and my experience is that meditation brings them about. But that is one of the paradoxes of the spiritual path: like love, you only truly experience it when you're willing to let it go.
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