I wrote awhile back about the addictive qualities of the spiritual path, and one of those primary ones is the spiritual high. Oh, it is so amazing. If you haven’t had it before, you should really try it. If you have had it, you know what I’m talking about.
Now, it’s time to start your 12-Step program to quit it.
“Why?” you may ask.
Because it’s not what this path is about.
Lost in High State Experiences
One of the easiest ways that spiritual seekers and those who stumble into awakening can get lost is in associating spirituality with a particular state of awareness. The deepest truth of this world is that all experiences are sacred, so as we develop our paths, we learn to embrace all that come to us without resistance.
But most of us who start on the path aren’t coming from that space. Some people get forced onto the spiritual path because they realize that everything else is a lie and doesn’t make them feel good. If you really want a spiritual awakening, wait until you get hit by an 18-wheeler truck. This is because the path to awakening for a lot of people is through immense pain.
Yet even after that, the spiritual path can just become another diversion for the ego. You get lost in seeking healing and of course, those beautiful high states.
Using Retreats and Spiritual Teachers Like Vicodin
Continuing the theme of pain, for those who’ve ever been on Vicodin, it puts you into a pretty great state of la-la land. For the spiritual seeker, retreats and teachers become the Vicodin. You get lost in these wonderful feelings, and you never want them to stop. Then you go back to your “regular” life, and it all goes to shit again. You’re so pissed at the world.
“Why can’t everyone be like your teacher or a yoga retreat? God, why is my life full of assholes?”
It is a predicament, is it not?
Of course, the problem is that you’re still looking for your fulfillment outside of yourself. You’re caught up in a new form of self-gratification, and I’m referring to the little ego self here, not your true Self.
So your feelings are completely conditional and caught in circumstances. Life being what it is will give you some circumstances that you like and others that you won’t. And you’ll be pining constantly for your spiritual Vicodin.
Haven’t you forgotten something?
Haven’t you forgotten your responsibility to yourself?
Are you still expecting someone else to change your experiences permanently for the better?
Only you can do this path. Only you can actually do the work of the spiritual path. So many people lack the spiritual discipline and drive to actually deal with their internal issues to really embrace the spiritual path. It’s not an amusement park.
In regards to awakening, I tend to warn people about it more than encourage them. Because until you’re really ready to give up everything, the awakening is often more shock and trauma than most people can bear and integrate. It is a dramatic shift into seeing reality, and it’s rarely like the one with your retreats and your annual pilgrimage to Burning Man.
Because responsibility comes with it. It’s like God pushed you face down into your own shit and your own greatest beauty all at once and said, “Hey! This is yours.”
And you have to own it all.
The Settling of the Spiritual Waters
An interesting thing happens as you do the work to let go of your issues and integrate; your understanding changes.
But what’s really interesting is that the more you release attachments, the more you can’t tell if you’re in a higher state or lower one. You have to have two different reference points to make that judgment.
If you release the attachments that make you feel small, scared, and frightened, then you may not even really notice that you’re in a “high” or “higher” state of consciousness. You only can tell when you hang around people with whom you associated when you were living that old patterns and when you revert to those patterns.
Hopefully, if you do so, you now have compassion for where they are and aren’t feeling “superior” or some such nonsense. They are where they are just as you are where you are. And as you go further into letting go of attachments, you also begin to realize that there’s nowhere to go.
Letting Go of the Spiritual Search
For people with no spiritual background, responsibility, or integrity, starting the spiritual search is really important. It has to be done.
And understanding that there’s a better way to behave and act in regards to yourself and others is a key part of changing your life. It’s a lot of work, but it’s some of the most rewarding work you can do. But after awhile, there truly is no where to go. Everything is within you.
You are here now.
If you want a spiritual high experience, you can choose to create that within you because ultimately all those other events and people were just excuses to allow yourself to feel a certain way. Certainly, others have influences on us; we are all interconnected after all. But most of the experiences we feel are pretty much happening under own roof.
But as you do that work, things shift, and as they shift, you naturally let go.
Then the search starts to fall away. Nothing needs to be done. It’s one of those paradoxes of the spiritual path: the work helps us to let go. Letting go helps us to do the spiritual work we need to do. From this space, you aren’t searching. You find what’s true, and any experience or state is what Is.
Lightly edited 8/9/2022