There are lots of self-help and wellness blogs out there. Oftentimes, bloggers use their digital accomplishments—i.e. lots of social media followers and/or a freewheelin’ digital nomad lifestyle—as a platform to offer unsolicited advice on how to have an equally awesome and fulfilling life. Some posts on my personal blog have veered toward this style, but I realize I’m uncomfortable with this approach. First of all, I don’t have thousands of followers, so who the heck am I? Second of all, reducing any lifetime of spiritual work to a few hundred words of clever platitudes and quotes from Enlightened people is bound to mislead.
In the end, healing is never as simple as reading a blog post.
While wellness blogs can offer nice reminders, so can they distract from the deep work necessary for profound transformation. Each moment spent reading a wellness blog is a moment away from the meditation cushion or yoga mat, where the most difficult—and therefore most profound—confrontations of self occur.
I recognize the irony here, the way I’m saying “be wary of posts like this” while writing a post like this. I’m not saying posts like this aren’t inherently negative. They can offer reminders, quality advice, and even inspiration. They can make you feel good. Yet don’t mistake those pleasant feelings for healing. Those pleasant feelings are closer to the comfort we feel in knowing we are not alone. Spiritual growth has never been about comfort. In fact, for folks like Jesus and Thích Quảng Đức , the Vietnamese monk who burned himself to death in 1963 to protest the government’s persecution of Buddhists, the path seems to get more uncomfortable the deeper it goes.
But stopping there would be misleading, for that perspective doesn’t acknowledge the profound love for the universe and humanity’s role within it that these masters and other Bodhisattvas undoubtedly feel. The fruits of the path are limitless. Yet acknowledging these masters’ teachings without recognizing the remarkable struggle and discipline of their paths disrespects what these masters endured to reach such wisdom. And can the essence of Ghandi or Mother Teresa’s teachings really be communicated through a blurb amidst ten million blurbs linked via social media for people to read while more than likely sitting on a toilet? Highly doubtful.
A consistency amidst spiritual masters is dedication. To achieve spiritual fulfillment, these masters make tremendous sacrifices. They battle unforgiving demons and tricksters come to sway them from the light of truth. Time and time again, they return to the altar or cushion or mat to undergo a consistent ritual of breath or prayer or movement to connect more deeply to a higher source of wisdom. The ego is sneaky, and it tends to distract. It takes getting outside of the ego to recognize the self’s shortcomings. No blog post will do this work for you.
Aligning with this higher source of wisdom, however, is never a given, no matter how advanced one’s practice becomes. When I start telling myself I’m “there”, that “I don’t need to meditate today,” I know ego has invaded once again to distract me from my practice. If I am to alter my negative behavioral and cognitive patterns—or at least prevent them from poisoning my life—I must be patient, humble, and disciplined. I must dedicate myself to my practice every day. If I simply accept my drawbacks as unavoidable realities, my path will be forever stifled.
Yet working with patterns of struggle does not end at recognition of their reality. Recognition is the beginning. Once stifling habits and behaviors are recognized, the seeker must then act to change them. Some of these habits have been passed down ancestrally through many generations. It’s not as simple as reading a blog post that tells you, “All you have to do is face yourself,” or a bumper sticker that says, “Persevere, and all will be well.” These axioms are nice to hear, but if they are seen as answers, they will ultimately distract. Action must be taken. We must sacrifice pleasures, alter habits, and release addictions and attachments if we are to progress deeper into the boundless love nesting within, the enduring source of goodness of which all these masters speak.
But remember, healing won’t come through reading this blog post. I am no guru. I’m just some dude on the path, pointing out things I notice. Not much can come through reading this post apart from a few friendly reminders of stuff you already know. If you’re reading it, you’re likely on a path to self-discovery, too. I wish you all the strength and courage in the world as you move through the many challenges that will continually arise. Moving through them will take great effort and commitment, but in moving through them you will continually grow, and through that growth, your ability to give and receive love will permanently expand.
So why are you still reading this self-serious, unnecessarily-ironic spiritual post? The meditation cushion is calling!