Years ago, back before I was an “official” author, I had a very strong urge to write a book on spirituality. I’ve learned to listen to those urgings, so, with some time on my hands, I jumped in and started writing. When I was done with it, I wasn’t sure what to do, so figured I’d send it off to a few spiritual book publishers and see what they thought. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know how to write a query letter, didn’t even know what they meant by “platform” (lol), and am pretty sure I came off (accurately!) as completely naïve. One place sent back a nice, handwritten “no thanks”, which I appreciated, but everyone else just ignored me. So, I shrugged my shoulders, and forgot about the whole thing.
But today, an email conversation I had with a friend reminded me of that book. It’s not doing anyone any good where it is, and I do happen to have this blog, so why not just post it here? The techniques in there helped me a lot. Maybe they’ll help someone else too. As far as marketing goes, I’m just going to trust the Universe to do that thing it does best: find a way through coincidence and circumstance to get this in front of the people who it is meant for at just the right time they’re supposed to read it. That might be only one person, and if that’s you, welcome! 🙂
It won’t all fit on one blog post, so I’ll just post a chapter at a time over the next few months, and will try to figure out a way to link them all together. Yeah, I know I’m a sci-fi and fantasy author. But I’ve also written a memoir, as well as a whole bunch of financial books. Why not a book on spirituality too? I think they can all be friends.
Without further ado, here it is.
Chapter 1 – Welcome!
In this book, I hope to share some of the lessons learned in our weekly Compassion in Action meditation group, which my wife Laura and I launched in 2014, and which we hosted at our residence in Napa until early 2016. The official name was actually “Compassion in Action: Meditation for Addiction and Attachment”, which was immediately polarizing for many attendees (and potential attendees).
I remember one meeting in particular, the very first one that I led myself, where one person came up afterwards and told me that he actually didn’t have any addictions or attachments. In the moment he phrased it more like a question, but the intention behind it was to make very clear that, despite having enjoyed the discussion and meditation very much, he was not an addict, and should not be lumped into that category with all the other addicts who were present at the time. Specifically, it was very important to him that I personally know he wasn’t an addict, and that I shouldn’t think of him in that way moving forward, as he and I knew each other outside of the group. He then – in the very next breath – went on to describe how when the person next to him was sharing, that person’s knee was doing a nervous bounce, and it took a great deal of control for him not to reactively grab that person’s knee to make it stop.
Unless you are a fully awakened being, having seen through the delusion of the impermanent relative world to realize the nature of your true Self, you’ve got attachments and addictions. There’s no way around this. You may not be struggling with substance abuse, but duality is a very sticky thing, and it gets all over your mind. If you sit next to a person with an annoying habit (like a nervous knee bounce), how do you react? Are you able to let the sight of that bouncing pass through your perception, like a breeze through an open window, or does it get stuck somewhere, pulling on your emotions and slowly causing anger and irritation? Or what about your personal reaction to a label like “addiction”? If you find yourself in a meditation group for addiction and attachment, does that make you feel uncomfortable? Does that uncomfortable feeling challenge your personal self-definitions to the point where you have to declare openly to others that you have been incorrectly labeled?
The key word here is reaction. If you react, you are attached. Attachments are like strings, and like a puppet, when those strings are pulled, you jump. The stronger your attachment, the stronger your reaction.
So although my friend might not have been addicted to alcohol or drugs, he was addicted to something else: his own preconceived notion of who he was. Or, to put it a different way, his ego was very strong.
The ego is like Pinocchio. It’s not a real boy, but it really, REALLY wants to be one. The ego is the side effect of the descent from a realm of oneness (at the soul level) to the realm of the body in duality. Instead of one, now there are two. There is you, and there is me. Near and far. Good and Bad. Pleasure and Pain.
The soul, upon finding itself separate, immediately reacts. Wait a minute, it thinks, I am here experiencing sensations through this new body, and it appears that there are all these other beings out there that are not me. How can I determine what part of all this is “me”, and what part is “not me”? And so lists begin to be made. I am the child, and this is my mother. I love her, but she is not me. I have control over this body, so it must be me. But I don’t have control over that other body across the room, so that is not me. The list making continues, and sub-lists, and sub-sub-lists are soon added. All of these lists serve a single purpose: to define to the soul what it is, and what it is not. And the ego is born and grows, and can get very strong, and cause all sorts of trouble.
And so when an ego walks into a room, and finds words like “addiction” and “attachment” involved, the first thing it does is consult its lists. Are these words me, or not? Oh, here they are, on the “bad” list. Uh oh! This is NOT me. Now I’m going to be uncomfortable. Now I’m going to react.
As we meditate, we naturally start peeling away layers of the onion, and begin to drop the need for all those definitions. Not everything has to be good or bad. Eventually, if we keep at it, we’ll start having experiences of non-duality in our meditations, and in our waking lives. And then we’ll suddenly realize the whole thing was ultimately just a big misunderstanding. It’s not you and me, it’s us. There are many characters in this drama, but only one actor. And once you’ve had a peek behind the curtain and seen the truth, then you get to work on deleting the whole list, and all the associated sub-lists and appendices, and life becomes simple.
This is why we meditate. It is the antidote to attachment and addiction in all its myriad forms, and it is applicable to EVERYONE. Ultimately, in the end, we actually did change the name of our group to “Compassion in Action: Meditation for Everyone”, which appealed to a wider audience.
The discussions we had during those meetings drew from many religions and spiritual traditions, as (despite what you may have been told) no one tradition holds a monopoly on Truth. And so in these pages you’ll find tools from many different sources. I don’t claim ownership of any of this knowledge myself. It has come to me, and I’ll do my best to pass it forward without inserting too much of my own confusion along the way.
The one thing to remember is that, as my teacher used to say over and over, “an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theories.” If you want to break through the strings of attachment that bind you to unhappiness and suffering, just reading and talking about it is only going to do so much. You have to take the shears of knowledge and apply them, and cut those bonds by force. That can only be done with your attention focused within, as that’s where this all began and where it all will end.