Spirituality as escape

 

Spirituality can easily be an escape. In fact, it often is.

And yet, when I tell myself that is wrong, and take it as true, that too is an escape. There is nothing wrong with escapes. It is a stepping stone. An expression of human life. A safety valve when no other option is open to us.  (Because other options are not familiar to us, or do not appear to us.) One of the ways the universe is exploring itself. A part of the terrain we humans can explore and become familiar with. An invitation for others to notice and inquire into their beliefs about escapes. And it can be an invitation for us to take a closer look at what is going on.

That said, here are some ways spirituality can be an escape:

Spirituality can mean many different things: Belief in religion. Participation in religious institutions. Genuine glimpses and opening experiences. Airy-fairy sentimentality. Hard-nosed testing and application of pointers from spiritual teachings. The world as it appears when reality notices itself.

In each of these, apart from perhaps the last, spirituality can be an escape. It can be made into a belief, and any belief is an escape. It is an escape from allowing experience as is. (Taking a story as true is a distraction.) And it is an escape from what is more honest for us.

Said in a more ordinary way, it can be an escape from anything in our life that is uncomfortable. Spirituality can be used to fuel wishful thinking. Imagine that our views and path are “right”. Feeling that we are on track. Telling ourselves we are better than others. Imagine that we will get something out of it in the future. Attaching to pointers and maps as inherently “true”. And whatever else comes from taking a story as true.

For instance, the story of reincarnation can be very useful. We can take it as a question for science and solid research. And we can look at the story of reincarnation as a tool, and explore how it can be applied in a way that is helpful in our daily lives, in a purely practical sense. How can I apply the story of reincarnation in my life, in a way that seem most helpful? Can it help me find compassion with others? Live my life as if everything I do counts? Notice simple causes and effects in everyday life, and use that in a more wise and kind way? (When I am kind to others, others tend to be kind to me. When I count my blessings, my mood improves. When I stabilize attention, I function better in daily life.) And maybe most importantly, when I imagine past or future lives, can I find it right here now? Can I find those specific qualities or dynamics in my own life, with specific examples? Can I use those stories as past and future lives as pointers for what is here?

The story of reincarnation can also be made into a belief, in which case it is less helpful. It can easily lead to wishful thinking. (If I do these prayers or activities, I will get a good rebirth.) Getting caught up in ideas of the past or future. (That past life was wonderful, I’ll spend some more time imagining it. That other life was horrible, and the cause of much that is wrong now.) A sense that “I know what is right, they don’t”. And much more.

And that applies for just about anything. Buddhism or Buddhist teachings, taken as a belief or “truth” comes with what beliefs usually comes with. And applied as pointers for own exploration, it can be immensely liberating and helpful.

Joining a Zen center can be a way to learn and practice. But it can also be a way to feel that “I get it”, “I am on the right track”, “I know how things are”, “these maps are true and accurate”, and each of those comes with problems. (Which in turn comes with solutions, as all problems do.)

All of this may be well and good, but it is a story that itself has limited usefulness. It may be useful for people who are ready for working with spirituality in this way. But for others, getting caught up in projections may be exactly what they are ready for and need to experience.

……………………
……………………

  • spirituality as escape
    • as soon as stories about spirituality is made into a belief, then an escape
      • from reincarnation to “what we really are”, Brahman, Tao etc.
        • example: reincarnation
          • useful
            • a question for science and solid research
            • look at the story of reincarnation as a tool, and how it can be most useful/helpful
          • less useful
            • when believed in (sentimentality, wishful thinking)
      • also, try to feel that…. I know, I am on track, I will get something out of it, I am good and noble, etc.
      • and bask in reflected glory
    • escape from fear + don’t know (in a conventional sense)
    • also, seeking awakening etc. can easily be an escape
      • escape from not allowing experience
      • escape from stories saying something is wrong (with us, others, life etc.)
      • so instead
        • allow experience, inquire into beliefs, focus on healing and maturing as a human in the world
        • more comfortable with oneself, more meaningful and rich life, more well-being and satisfaction
        • then, can notice that quiet longing for truth, reality, god – no longer hidden behind the human drama

……………

Spirituality can easily be an escape. In fact, it often is. (And yes, I know it is true for me as well. I always describe myself, even if I pretend otherwise.)

………….

Spirituality can easily be an escape. In fact, it often is.

Spirituality can mean many different things: Belief in religion. Participation in religious institutions. Genuine glimpses and opening experiences. Airy-fairy sentimentality. Hard-nosed testing and application of pointers from spiritual teachings. The world as it appears when reality notices itself.

In each of these, apart from perhaps the last, spirituality can be an escape. It can be made into a belief, and any belief is an escape. It is an escape from allowing experience as is. (Taking a story as true is a distraction.) And it is an escape from what is more honest for us.

Said in a more ordinary way, it can be an escape from anything in our life that is uncomfortable. Spirituality can be used to fuel wishful thinking. Imagine that our views and path are “right”. Feeling that we are on track. Telling ourselves we are better than others. Imagine that we will get something out of it in the future. Attaching to pointers and maps as inherently “true”. And whatever else comes from taking a story as true.

For instance, the story of reincarnation can be very useful. We can take it as a question for science and solid research. And we can look at the story of reincarnation as a tool, and explore how it can be applied in a way that is helpful in our daily lives, in a purely practical sense. How can I apply the story of reincarnation in my life, in a way that seem most helpful? Can it help me find compassion with others? Live my life as if everything I do counts? Notice simple causes and effects in everyday life, and use that in a more wise and kind way? (When I am kind to others, others tend to be kind to me. When I count my blessings, my mood improves. When I stabilize attention, I function better in daily life.) And maybe most importantly, when I imagine past or future lives, can I find it right here now? Can I find those specific qualities or dynamics in my own life, with specific examples? Can I use those stories as past and future lives as pointers for what is here?

The story of reincarnation can also be made into a belief, in which case it is less helpful. It can easily lead to wishful thinking. (If I do these prayers or activities, I will get a good rebirth.) Getting caught up in ideas of the past or future. (That past life was wonderful, I’ll spend some more time imagining it. That other life was horrible, and the cause of much that is wrong now.) A sense that “I know what is right, they don’t”. And much more.

And that applies for just about anything. Buddhism or Buddhist teachings, taken as a belief or “truth” comes with what beliefs usually comes with. And applied as pointers for own exploration, it can be immensely liberating and helpful.

Joining a Zen center can be a way to learn and practice. But it can also be a way to feel that “I get it”, “I am on the right track”, “I know how things are”, “these maps are true and accurate”, and each of those comes with problems. (Which in turn comes with solutions, as all problems do.)

All of this may be well and good, but it is a story that itself has limited usefulness. It may be useful for people who are ready for working with spirituality in this way. But for others, getting caught up in projections may be exactly what they are ready for and need to experience.

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