Thursday, May 10, 2007

An interesting "find"

I found this, today, at Buddhist Geeks. I am not endorsing it, nor am I arguing with it. It simply struck me as both interesting and a useful guide for personal exploration.

I often wonder if I was a seeker, or was side-tracked by something sounding too good to be true.

Sometimes I wonder now if I am seeking or treading water.

(Since I cannot get the URL to function, I am going to reproduce the comment from Buddhist Geeks. I hope that that's ok.)

The First Step: Birth of the Seeker

Someone asked me recently what I thought the first major step was toward awakening. Was it the movement of “turning inward” instead of looking for fulfillment outside? Or is it perhaps when someone begins to do some sort contemplative practice? Obviously, the question is broad enough that there can be quite a number of true answers, but I wanted to share what came to mind for me. My response was that awakening begins when we begin to become disillusioned with what we think will make us happy.

When one finds their way to the path, it is always a result of a deep longing. There’s something in us that wants to be free and whole. We want that because it is our birth right. It is, quite literally, who we are. But that is getting a bit ahead of the story, because in the beginning, and perhaps for quite some time, this longing is simply felt as an insatiable desire to arrive. To arrive somewhere, to have something, to become someone. The longing takes on many forms.

While in high school I had a deep desire to be the best at something. The absolute best. When I realized I had a knack for long-distance running, I devoted years to becoming the best. In the process I did very well, setting school records, winning large meets, and eventually being recruited by a local college. I didn’t end up running for them however, and indeed didn’t continue running at all. I was plagued by serious injuries, and eventually had to drop the sport. And with it I had to drop the attachment to becoming the absolute best. No matter how hard I trained, how much I knew, or how talented I was, it was impossible to ever arrive. Looking back now, I realize that was the case because the longing that had me wasn’t something that could be satiated. It was so deep, and so sorrowful that there was nothing that could fill it.

What I learned from this process, a hard lesson for sure, is that anything that I strive for, if bound up in uncontrollable conditions is ultimately ungraspable. It was my first taste of major disillusionment with seeking. Not the end of the seeker by any means, but definitely a significant blow to my whole approach. If I couldn’t become whole through doing something significant and becoming someone admirable (like a world-class runner), then how could I possibly do it?

And that’s where the question becomes the fuel. The longing begins to take on center stage, and it must find something that is even more unattainable, final, and true. The end of longing itself. Enlightenment. Freedom. Truth-realization. By becoming disillusioned with seeking for freedom outside, we turn the seeker inwards.

At this point we begin to identify as the spiritual seeker. There’s something wrong, yes, but we are well on our way to fixing it. Already things are getting better, can’t you tell! We’re learning so much, meditating, studying, reading, and getting into some pretty cool meditative states. We are well on our way to liberation. Or are we?

The problem with seeking is that it is a cyclical process. The seeker never really gets anywhere, because its job (our job if we are identified as the seeker) is to try and get somewhere. Not to actually arrive, or to stop, or whatever. Because if we stopped then what would happen?

Quite simply, we’d have to accept that this is it.

But for many the birth of the seeker who is looking for the end of seeking is probably a good and necessary step. How else can we realize that we are what we’re seeking? That we’re chasing our very own tail.

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