The Perversion of Spiritual Thought, part 1

For the last several decades (actually, this has probably been going on forever) there has been a trend in which the mainstream pop culture takes some spiritual idea and twists it into a “new” way to achieve wealth, fame, and power. Practices meant to connect us more deeply with the naturally supernatural that is God the Universe become nothing more than wish-fulfillment mantras. From The Secret, to the absolute perversion of ancient Jewish mystical thought that is Madonna’s “Kabballah,” to the Creflo A. Dollars and Joel Osteens who insist God will give you everything you ask for if you just say the right things, do the right things, or pray for the right things, spiritual disciplines originally intended to help humans rise to a different state of consciousness—to a new way of being human, are being peddled like the stuff you buy on late night TV to repair scratches and dents on your car: The power of God can fill in the cracks in your soul if you’ll only send $19.95 to your favorite huckster.


The first lie is that there are cracks in your soul. Your soul is fine. It’s not a separate part of your being, that’s dualistic thinking. There is only one substance, and it pervades every molecule of our being—it is every molecule of our being. Mind and body are one, dancing together in ways we simply do not understand. We don’t need to fix our spiritual cracks. We are where we need to be, here and now. Paying attention to where we are here and now is what helps us ascend spiritually. It’s not that we’re in a bad place, or that we’re fallen beings. We are, like all things in the universe, works in progress. Paying attention to that fact is called mindfulness—and that’s exactly the latest spiritual practice being espoused as the great panacea to all human woes.

You know something is seriously wrong when Fortune 500 companies start talking in the mainstream media about how “mindfulness” has helped their employees achieve their goals, or when the coaches of football teams attribute their winning season to the practice of mindfulness. Now, I do not doubt for a minute that having employees and athletes practice this ancient art has helped. After all, mindfulness in its pure form is a way to center one’s self in the flow of the universe. It creates a more attentive personality. But, the point of mindfulness is not to achieve a team win or a successful product launch, or anything other than connectedness with God, or for the non-theist, detachment from the things of the world. How ironic that this practice meant to detach us from materialism is used now to enhance and even encourage… materialism.

Sigh.

Originally, mindfulness was used as a meditative aid. When I speak with people who are just starting to meditate, they often complain that they can’t “turn off” their thoughts. I’ve been meditating for years and I still have this problem. Only, it’s not a problem. Mindfulness techniques were developed to help us focus on our thoughts, to be in the present moment as an act of mindful meditation. During meditation, our minds are going to wander. If we gently acknowledge that fact—if we’re mindful to the thoughts, we can simply let them go. The Hindu mantra is be here now.

Eventually, mindfulness techniques teach us to focus on something like our breathing. And by shifting our focus to breathing, our mind stops wandering. By being only in the present moment, we focus and allow the energy of the universe—God for us theists, to flow through us in a very palpable and powerful way. It begins to change who we are and the way we see and react to the world around us. Mindfulness as a spiritual aid makes us aware of the gross inequalities and prejudices in our world. It makes us desire not wealth and fame, but a world in which all humans are treated with love and respect, where everyone is cared for, healthy, fed, respected as a being of God, as a molecule in the very being of God. It is oneness we are after, realization that our dualistic thinking has corrupted us to the point that we see a bunch of individual human beings on the planet, rather than a single aspect of God.

Mindfulness is an amazing technique that we can practice throughout the day by simply remembering to be here now. It will remind us that this present moment—whether reading Intersect or standing in line at the grocer, is exactly where we are meant to be, and that the people we interact with throughout the day are also where they are supposed to be, struggling with their issues as we struggle with ours. Perhaps, if we are a little more mindful of each other, some of the tensions we all experience throughout the day can dissolve into nothingness, and we can help each other achieve a lighter sense of being, focused more on the breath of each moment than the granting of tomorrows wishes.

Meditation: 
Be here now.

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