Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spiritual materialism

Sometimes, I run into the same message twice in a short span of time.  I was reading through the reference list of "Timeless Healing", which is a good practice for finding additional sources related to something I like. I found that Herbert Benson had collaborated on an article with one of my favorite authors, Mark Epstein.  Epstein is a psychiatrist and a strong practitioner of Buddhist ideas and philosophy.  He has written several books and I have most of them.  One of his earliest ones is "Falling Apart Without Going to Pieces".  It was one of those good books prior to Kindles that had to wait to be offered in that form.  I saw Epstein's name in the reference list and was reminded to check if Falling Apart (Epstein's expression for letting go of preconditions and restricted thinking) had been converted to Kindle yet.

It had and I immediately downloaded it.  It was the first Epstein book I read.  I had it on my shelf for 5 or more years and finally read it, marveling at how useful the book was.  With it securely in my Kindle now, I started re-reading it.  The first part is about spiritual materialism and I could see that I had not grasped what that was all about back when I read it in paper.


Lynn reads a bit of a book to me after breakfast every morning.  She reads for 10-15 minutes and she should, since I read to her most evenings for 30 - 60 minutes.  Right now, we are reading Deepak Chopra's "The Book of Secrets."  It is another book that I have read before but am enjoying listening to it.  Actually, I like to listen to Chopra, an MD endocrinologist who has written many books on spiritual and philosophical ideas.  He has a great Indian accent which I am sorry to say he is losing as he ages and continues to live in California and attempt to help people see his view of life, which is alternately helpful and imaginative but sometimes vague or exaggerated.

Today's reading was about SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM!  Between Epstein and Chopra, I get the idea.  It is seeking, striving, collecting, as in "My life would be fine if I could just acquire a few more X" where X is spiritual books, experiences, treasures or some other spiritual tool or skill or jewel.  It is getting deep into "if only", where if only I were more virtuous or more focused or more studious or self-denying or...or...or...

I use the label "the Buddhist problem" for my version of this.  I can see that if I am totally satisfied, I mean fully, deeply, COMPLETELY satisfied, I might not need or want to draw another breath, eat another bite, much less buy another gallon of gasoline or natural gas.  I might just be still and evaporate off into the atmosphere.  Since I imagine I will struggle for one more heartbeat at the very end of my life, I expect to be somewhat unsatisfied, somewhat governed by animal lusts and hungers and needs right through this whole earthly adventure.  I try to accept my needs and desires calmly and prune away what I can but even if it is folly, I am going to want more meals and more books and more kisses.

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