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Spiritual materialism is “having” in a spiritual context. There are a variety of spiritual things we can have, and thus hold on to, which at minimum do absolutely nothing to help someone wake up, and at maximum (which is more often the case) get in the way of waking up.

On the less dangerous end of the spectrum of spiritual materialism are things which are physical in nature; e.g. idols, clothing, jewelry, books, zafus, pictures of gurus, places of worship, etc. None of these things are inherently good or bad, of course. What matters is whether or not one is deluded about them. In awakening, you realize that none of these things had anything at all to do with the truth, or at least not any more than anything else.

On the more pernicious end of the spectrum are those things which are artifacts of memory. Said another way, events in our personal history. Maybe you had a experience when you were 10 years old, where you felt you were one with everything, and you hold on to this as being more special than, say, your experience of taking a dump. Or perhaps your guru confirmed an awakening experience for you, providing positive proof of your relative awakeness (relative, because your guru remains over you, as your authority). Our collection of past events become a lens that distorts and contorts our perception of the here and now, leading us to favor some experiences over others as being more or less “enlightened.” At least material things can be burned up, destroyed, or otherwise gotten rid of. Our precious experiences and life events remain with us as long as we have functioning brains.

What makes our precious memories so diabolical are the ways in which present experiencing is not always confirming of them. What happens when the insight gleaned from the special memory is confronted with contradictory facts of experience? Which will you choose, the memories or the truth? So often, people opt for the memories. They cling to them because their message is seemingly more meaningful and profound (which is untrue). When this happens, it’s best to go right into the disarray, jumping headfirst into the madness and confusion of contradiction. Let it break. Let it tear you apart. But this is too scary for most people, who are more likely to consider the truth too offensive. They think (consciously or not), “That isn’t true, because I don’t like what it says about me and my memories.”

How quickly we may swap one idol, religion, practice, or empty platitude for another of equal worthlessness. But, when it comes to ditching the whole program for the truth, we’d rather stay in the sandbox, while trying desperately to keep with winds and rains of reality from breaking down our puny sandcastles. It’s time to grow up, boys and girls! It’s time to see the sand for the castle. It’s time to lift your head, to see the great ocean and magnificent sunset, and to witness the decaying corpse of the whale laying 50 yards down the coastline. It’s time to see if for all it is, so reality can once again recognize itself, and finally let go of the fantasy.

It’s time to stop all this spiritual “having” and return to conscious spiritual “being.”

Your friend, Sam