Stillman Brown is not impressed with your fireworks.
I recently entered a state of amorous crush (crushiness?) and this passage from Pema Chodron’s book The Places That Scare You made me squirm with uncomfortable self-recognition. She is talking about the three lords of materialism, which “represent how we look to externals to give us solid ground” and thus distract us from being present in the world:
The third lord, the lord of the mind, uses the most subtle and seductive strategy of all. The lord of the mind comes into play when we attempt to avoid uneasiness by seeking special states of mind. We can use drugs this way. We can use sports. We can use falling in love. We can use spiritual practices. There are many ways to obtain altered states of mind. These special states are addictive. If feels so good to break free from out mundane experience.
Er, uh (looks for nearest exit).
I still know men and women who are addicted to falling in love. Like Don Juan, they can’t bear it when that initial glow begins to wear off; they’re always seeking out someone new.
Even though peak experiences might show us the truth and inform us about why we are training, they are essentially no big deal. … As the twelfth-century Tibetan yogi Milarepa said when he heard of his student Gampopa’s peak experiences, “They are neither good nor bad. Keep meditating.”
Reading this, I had a moment of strong deja vu involving my friend Alex. I thought, I feel like he’s said this to me before, but he would have said it differently -“Fine, Congratulations, you’re in love. Fuck you. Hit the Cushion.”
Alex knows I have a tendency to fall hard and fast for someone, and then become disillusioned just as quickly. His level pragmatism has become a necessary corrective for me, and if he were a metitator, he’d say exactly that.
We all (or we should) have a friend who speaks unfiltered truth to us. Sometimes they’re an annoying know-it-all, but sometimes they touch the core of our vanity, self-deception, and foolishness. Alex is that person in my life. He slaps me back to earth simply by being unimpressed when I get caught up in unconsidered enthusiasm or hyperbole.
This attitude applies to spiritual practice as well. The fireworks, the transcendent experiences, can feel spectacularly illuminating, but ultimately they are thoughts, just like everything else. My physical therapist is a meditation and yoga practitioner who is having trouble with her teacher of several years. “Lately I’ve been so bored,” she told me this afternoon while thrashing my back with what appeared to be a sack full of scorching rocks. “I don’t leave anymore feeling pumped up or like I’ve gone someplace new.” Perhaps that’s ok, I suggested. “I might try this new place in Union Square,” she said absently.
So, if spiritual practices can become escape without proper oversight, what is my crush? Emotional entertainment? My own summer romantic comedy, showing in general release inside my head? I don’t think so, but I’m in the middle of it so how can i tell? The word “crush” itself means an intense, unthinking infatuation. Whatever the case, I think Pema would advise me to wait and watch – genuine affection outlasts butterflies.
Who is your I Don’t Give A Crap person? If you don’t have one, I’d be happy to offer my services.