Happiness, Capitalists, Yellow Rocks, and Radical Meditators

Most people who are on a Spiritual Path eventually come to hold beliefs which conservatives consider, “politically radical.”  It’s ironic, because most people who are on a Spiritual Path have very little interest in politics, except to casually observe it as another form of human insanity.

When I use the term, “radical,” I mean it in its original use from the latin word, “radix,” or root, as in, “the root of a plant.”  To get radical is to get at the very root of something, to get to the place that it all grows out of, so to speak.

Let’s take the example of the Six of Pentacles.  It shows a richly dressed man, scattering coins to beggars, and holding a scale so that he can measure exactly what he’s giving away.

You couldn’t ask for a better representation of the, “scarcity,” view of life that’s at the root of our society.  There simply isn’t enough wealth to go around and some people have it and some people don’t.  Those who DO have it, should share it with those who don’t have it, but they need to be very, very careful about not giving too much away, because there’s never really enough.

In real time, we see that happening with the gazillionaires who live in penthouses, fly around in private jets, take vacations on yachts, and are DESPERATELY WORRIED that poor people might be getting too many food stamps.  Having enough to eat without working for it at minimum wage jobs is bad for their character, doncha know?  Makes them lazy and dependent.  Pass the champagne, darling . . .

As we move into a deeper level of spirituality, though, we begin to understand that there’s another model for looking at life, which is the, “abundance,” view.  The Universe and Mother Earth seem to be richly, almost insanely, abundant.  There are enough seeds in one tomato to plant an entire farm.  There are enough sperm cells in one tablespoon of semen to repopulate the world.  Women’s bodies produce far more eggs than they could ever bear as babies.  And, yes, we could produce enough food to feed every hungry person in the world.

And we begin to realize that the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough, the problem is that some people are spiritually sick and want far more than their share of the abundance.  Even worse, they want to be sure that other people have less than THEIR share, because they believe in their hearts that wealth is scarce and if they have more wealth, they’re better than other people.

Eckhart Tolle talks about this quite a bit in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Oprah’s Book Club, Selection 61)  In a nutshell, the Ego always wants more STUFF, because the Ego believes that the more STUFF it has, the more important it is.  And, as a part of that contrast, if you’ve got less stuff than I have, then I’m just that much more important!  If I drive a BMW and you drive a Honda, I’m better than you.  If you have a two hundred dollar computer and mine cost five thousand, then I’m better than you.  If I live in a McMansion and you live in a trailer, then I’m better than you.

And so we get hypnotized into this weird dance of thinking that our STUFF makes us, “better people.”  But, as Tolle points out, it’s just a sugar rush, not real nutrition.  Yes, the new computer (or car or house or jewelry) makes us happy for a while, but then it doesn’t anymore.  So we have to buy more and more and more stuff to keep getting that rush, but somehow happiness keeps slipping away from us every time.  

If we keep walking down the Spiritual Path we realize that the STUFF doesn’t really make us happy, not for long.  As we continue to evolve, we start to get a glimpse of happiness WITHOUT the stuff.  Maybe that revelation comes to us in our meditations or our dreams or journals, but we begin to get just a glimmer that the material stuff really has very little to do with happiness.  We can actually BE HAPPY anytime that we want to and we don’t need a new computer to get there.

And that, my friends, is a RADICAL idea!  That goes right to the root of our whole economic system and way of life.  It short circuits the entire capitalist system which is based on consumers being convinced that they need to keep consuming STUFF in order to be happy.  If we quit buying all of that crap that doesn’t really make us happy, then the gazillionaires who are selling us all of that crap that doesn’t really make us happy are going to lose a lot of money.  

Dangerous, dangerous thinking!  LOL – it really is.  It’s why they killed Jesus.  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”  WHAT????  Kill that guy!  Quickly!

The point is that as we explore and grow spiritually, our values change and we become less and less in synch with society as whole.  We realize that, ultimately, what all of us want is love and happiness.  And we realize that love and happiness flow out of our hearts, not our possessions.  Possessions and materialism itself start to feel like a form of insanity, which it can easily become.

Consider the example of the genocide committed against Native Tribes in the United States.  We killed hundreds of thousands of Tribal Peoples in the Dakotas and Northern California because they were sitting on land that contained gold.

From their point of view, we were totally out of our minds because NO ONE HAD TOLD THEM THAT GOLD ISN’T JUST A ROCK.  Why kill someone over a rock?  Which, by the way, it IS just a rock.  You can’t eat it.  You can’t fertilize your fields with it.  You can’t make clothing out of it. Other than being pretty, gold is totally useless.

Except that somewhere, thousands of years ago, some asshole said, “I have this pretty yellow rock and you don’t, so I’m better than you.”  Since that original asshole, wars have been fought, untold numbers of people have been tortured and killed, and whole civilizations have been decimated, all because some people wanted to have ALL of the pretty, yellow rocks. 

 It really is monumentally nuts, when you think about it.

It’s my fervent hope that, as we move out of the ego-based scarcity model and into the new spiritual paradigm, we’ll see materialism begin to wither on the vine.  Contrary to their paranoia, that doesn’t mean we need to have a revolution and take all of the rich people’s stuff away from them. There’s plenty to go around and if their yellow rocks make them feel better, so be it.  

That’s abundance.

That’s radical.

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The Hermit: “For What Does It Profit a Man to Gain the Whole World But Lose His Soul?”

I am fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the United States, the Trinity Alps of far Northern California.  There are gorgeous rivers and streams and lakes, mountains, two national forests, a plethora of eagles, hawks, ravens, bears, trout, and salmon.  And there are only 13,000 people living in the entire county so you can still actually spend hours walking in the woods or sitting by a river by yourself.

We have thousands of tourists come through every summer and a sizable minority of them are just plain miserable.  It’s either too hot or it’s too cold, there aren’t enough cashiers in the grocery store, the ATM wasn’t working, the water in the river is too cold to swim in, it’s too quiet, it’s boring, the internet isn’t fast enough, etc., etc., etc.

It’s kind of sad.  These people have spent thousands of dollars to go to a beautiful, tranquil place to get away from their problems for a few weeks and it turns out that the main problem they have is . . . them.  They’re just not happy people. And they brought themselves with them.

Like the old cliche’ says, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

The Hermit is about a period of withdrawal from the world.  About getting out of the stream of time and events for a while so that you can either figure out or remember who you really are.  But, as we can surmise from the unhappy tourists in Trinity County, there’s a little more involved with that than just running away from home.

A researcher named Marsha Sinetar wrote a fascinating book on the subject called, “Ordinary People As Monks and Mystics, Lifestyles For Self-Discovery.”  She put ads in several papers across the country seeking out people who had chosen to withdraw from everyday life and based the book on her interviews with them.

Several things become obvious as you read through the book.  The first is that these people experienced a massive reordering of what they considered to be valuable (also known as, “their values.”)  At some point in their lives they simply decided that the new car, the big house, the fancy computers, the pay raise at the job, and yes, even the marriage to the, “perfect spouse,” and 2.5, “perfect children,” were all bullshit.  All of the things that we might ordinarily consider important and satisfying and fun had become unimportant distractions to them.

What BECAME important to them were, oddly, the things that used to be part of the human birthright but which many of us have lost in modern life.  Time alone. Time to think. Time to meditate. Being in nature. Reading. Silence. Contemplation.

And – again, oddly – claiming  these simple things which used to be free to every human being actually, “cost,”  them a fair amount. Most of them had to walk away from the high paying jobs and start doing part time jobs and learn to live on less money and with fewer possessions.  They walked away from the social status and from the concept that they were, “important people,” as defined by others and walked toward the concept of being, “important people,” as defined by their own hearts.  

Some of them became alienated from their families who refused to accept their new lifestyles.  “Why are you living out in the woods with a dog instead of finding a good husband and having kids?  What’s wrong with you?”

These are mainly seen as sacrifices by people on the outside looking in, though.  To the participants in the study they were very small sacrifices to make for having the luxuries of time and solitude.  

“Time, not money, seemed to be the element most coveted for their new life. . . they didn’t have to be financially secure, they just had to FEEL secure . . .”

And that was one of the biggest takeaways for me from this book.  Modern life, as most of us know it, is a thief. It steals our TIME and in doing so it steals our ability to think about who we are and why we’re here.  In exchange it gives us, “things,” – toys, computers, cars, houses, money – and then it hypnotizes us into thinking that those things are actually us, actually the life that it just stole from us.  

The Hermit is about throwing away the trinkets and finding the gold.  Taking back your time and your Self and your Soul.