Against Spiritual Consumerism
Sit with your back straight and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing for 20 minutes. Congratulations, you just meditated. Meditation is the simplest activity in the world. This is why it is the ideal antidote to our absurd modern world— our days are full of over-complicated, unnecessary and delusional activities. We ignore natural truths in favor of human arrogance and wonder why our lives are full of confusion! Turning the gaze inward transforms the way we approach ideas, things and the self.
Meditation cuts out all the bullshit and allows us to experience consciousness without all of the silly baggage we convince ourselves we require to get by. Meditation reminds us that we don’t need the baggage, that it holds us back, and that we can only truly understand ourselves once we transcend it. We are enslaved not by specific things— money, sex, people, etc, but by processes: yearning, clinging, envy, vanity, restlessness, anger, dishonesty, jealousy, promiscuousness, laziness. Any activities that strengthen these processes hold us back. We must understand external circumstances with this mindset in order to see why treating spirituality like a vapid lifestyle accessory is a self-destructive impulse. Consumer spirituality is often nothing more than an escape hatch that leads one down a long winding tunnel back to the same prison cell.
This is why I find it so outrageous when certain individuals try to turn meditation into a product to be bought and sold on the marketplace, as if it is some sort of ‘intellectual property’. This is the most bizarre false conflation of values I’ve seen so far in my experience of Eastern philosophy. There is not a single great master from any tradition who has good things to say about those who try to peddle meditation as a consumer product.
Meditation as a product ceases to be meditation. If you’re paying to meditate, what does that say about you, let alone the person who’s telling you to pay them to meditate? Would you pay to breathe or talk? Only if you were a prisoner of sorts, or a fool. People are selling snake oil in the form of pop spirituality, and it’s getting more popular. I write this only to warn people not to get trapped. As soon as spirituality is turned into a consumer lifestyle, it stops being spiritual! It becomes purely imagistic and material. It’s like selling a photo of a cookie instead of the actual cookie.
I’ve tried teaching meditation lessons for a miniscule amount of money and even that feels whorish. Why? Because it is! All you have to do is sit. No assembly required. When you make the decision to sit by yourself and for yourself, you empower yourself to be consistent and disciplined. If someone else has to charge you to be disciplined, you are not doing anything other than strengthening your reliance on the external world. Would you rather work to develop an ancient skill deep within yourself or remain reliant on external benefactors for your sense of self? Grasping onto a lifestyle for salvation is just another attachment. Looking within helps you shed these attachments, and it’s why meditation requires no external supplementation. This is the magic of it.
Pretending that meditation is a product is antithetical to the very lessons of meditation. Someone who is an honest and experienced meditator knows how simple the act itself is; outside of teaching lessons or advising people on posture, there is no fanfare required. There’s no need for seminars, supplements, fancy cushions, classes, mats, etc. All you need to do is sit! Even reading too much about meditation distracts you from the path. The path is right in front of you. There are no frills and no requirements other than your commitment and discipline. I know that in writing these articles, I can only lead you to the water. I can’t make you drink. If you can muster up the strength to sit everyday without needing to pay for a teacher, a service or a fancy place to go, you are making a giant stride towards self-knowledge.
What to avoid / inspiration for this article here.