Maybe They're Seeking the Spiritual Path Without Knowing It

It's funny how many people run after unusual methods of spiritual cultivation when the basics for cultivation are all around them. It's also funny how many people are searching for the path of spiritual cultivation without knowing it either.

For instance, many people know nothing of spiritual practices, yet you can find them seeking for that same necessary quietude of the mind by adopting cultural habits - even something as simple as sitting in a rocking chair - because those activities might lead to some sort of mental stilling.

In other words, people are constantly looking for samadhi without knowing it, and something as simple as watching a baseball game, zoning out in front of a movie, or sitting in a rocking chair might be masquerading attempts to find this sort of mental peace.

An interesting story which illustrates that people are always seeking samadhi is the following example from the mental health field:

A somewhat extreme example of how this might work was reported by Marten DeVries, a psychiatrist in charge of a large community mental health center in the Netherlands. In his hospital, patients are routinely given [a test] to find out what they do all day, what they think about, and how they feel. One of the patients, a chronic schizophrenic woman who had been hospitalized for over ten years, showed the usual confused thought patterns and low affect of severe mental pathology. But during the two weeks of the … study, she reported quite positive moods twice. In both cases, she had been taking care of her fingernails. Thinking that it was worth a try, the staff had a professional manicurist teach her the skills of her trade. The patient took eagerly to the instruction, and she was soon caring for the nails of the rest of the patients. Her disposition changed so drastically that she was released into the community under supervision; she hung a shingle on her door, and within a year she was self-sufficient. No one knows why paring nails was the challenge this woman needed, and if one interpreted this story psychoanalytically, perhaps no one would want to know. The fact is that for this one person at this stage in life, being a manicurist allowed at least a pale semblance of flow to enter her life.
-- Finding Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (Basic Books, New York, 1997), p. 40.

People tend to pursue all sorts of activities like this that will lead to a one-pointed calming of their thoughts, but what they're actually doing is seeking the realm of spiritual cultivation through some sort of one-pointed concentration. Singing songs, reciting the rosary, making paper airplanes or folding origami ... they're all forms of cultivation in greater or lesser measure yet people don't know it. Sometimes these activities aim at producing mental emptiness, and sometimes they aim at producing one-pointed concentration where there's only one thought rather than ten-thousand. That's a definition of mental emptiness as well, because in that state there's very little discriminative thought. The professional athletes who taste the state of "flow" just once spend the rest of their lives trying to regain the taste of that state, and what they're missing as well is that this is all spiritual cultivation.

We commonly say all these people are seeking "peace of mind" but in truth, they're all seeking samadhi.

As Eckhart Tolle noted,

Already for humans, the only respite they find from their own minds is to occasionally revert to a level of consciousness below thought. Everyone does that every night during sleep. But this also happens to some extent through sex, alcohol, an other drugs that suppress excessive mind activity. If it weren't for alcohol, tranquilizers, antidepressants, as well as the illegal drugs, which are all consumed in vast quantities, the insanity of the human mind would become even more glaringly obvious than it already is.
-- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle (New World Library, Novato: California,1999), p. 84.

All these people are seeking for some way to quiet their thoughts. They're seeking some form of meditation, and yet religion and society have not taught them this is what they're searching for. I always recommend the HOLOSYNC program for these people, because it's meditation that they are seeking and they just need some way to get started.

Let's take sleeping for instance. One of the reasons some people love to sleep is because the state of deep sleep is a chance to silence their mind. It's one of those rare situations where people can get away from all the mental busyness they normally take upon themselves. The Hindu sage Shankara said that people are always seeking an escape from the misery brought out by the efforts of the mind, and that's why mankind has invented so many cultivation methods, and other activities, that can lead to some type of mental calming. So we get involved in all these activities, but forget what we're really seeking. It's only when you can master the emptiness of meditation that you can return to the state of the heavens.

As the Vimalakirti Sutra says, "Since the minds of those who are difficult to help are like monkeys, various methods of teaching are devised to check them so that they can become tamed." That's why we have so many meditation methods and spiritual paths. The wide variety you see in the world shouldn't confuse you because they have all been created to appeal to all sorts of minds.

So what do you do next time you see someone in a rocking chair, or buzzing out in front of the TV? Just recognize that they're not really seeking entertainment, but just some way to calm their minds. When next you see this, why not point them in the direction of meditation?




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