Who am I to have a spiritual practice?

July 2, 2013

Often as I find myself sinking into a spiritual practice (such as meditation or yoga) I have to try to let go of my mind and its ideas of what I’m doing. Sometimes this involves catching pride at work (‘I’m so good doing this’), there’s a constant battle with planning ahead (a little of which is very handy, but it does get a bit much when it drowns out the pleasure of being here in the moment), and all the other examples of buying into the game of personality.

Then I have to laugh, because it’s such an unwinnable game. What’s the point in getting caught up? It rarely helps anything, compared to the inestimable value off letting the self go for a while, of exploring who we can be when we ignore the incessant stimuli off the external world and focus on the breath, the body, the sense of life in time, the wave of cosmic energy we are riding.

Yet sometimes when I hear from those who claim there is no self at all, that the ultimate truth is emptiness, I can’t quite go with them. What of the political self, who stands against rapacious industries and their representatives? Or the ecological self, who wants to see more organic produce & less poison? We have to take a stand. Ironically, we need the western individual & the associated idea of political integrity more than ever, even while this model has done as much as anything to bring us to the brink of disaster (just think of the power of the consumer to drive industry to ever greater profit).

The self may ultimately be empty of any avoiding reality or essence aside from its circumstances of incarnation; but it’s all we’ve got to help stop the criminals who are cashing in on the dominant paradigm of incessant consumption. Let’s use our potential as agents of positive change at the same time as we remember that it’s all a game, that the mind is a chattering monkey and we are somehow, in all the oceans of existence, so fortunate as to have been born as conscious, embodied beings on this beautiful, rare planet.

And let’s remember to laugh at ourselves, at the same time.



  1. Ironically, I have been doing a study on civil discourse and how essential it is to preserve freedom and democracy. For this reason, I must concur with your statement: “we need the western individual & the associated idea of political integrity more than ever…”

    Another excellent post!

    • Hi Steve,
      Yes i noticed your work on this in a recent post. Couldn’t agree more; democracy is a never-ending process and we can’t give up on it in a world where so many rights are being ignored consistently and comprehensively.
      Also, others have pointed out that simple slavish adherence to the idea of selflessness, from a western perspective, can be misleading and even self-deceptive. Obviously i – and no doubt many with a spiritual bent – still find it attractive, so it is worth thinking through for its qualities as well as potential pitfalls.

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