by Robert Lee Camp
The human condition, under the control of the ego-identified mind state, is one of constant craving. This is what over 99% of us suffer from. It has become so normal, that rarely does anyone even notice it. If you look at your activities, goals, plans, dreams and everything you do and think, and look carefully, you will see that all of this, your entire life, is about having certain experiences.
Just take something you are doing right now and ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this?’ or ‘what do I hope to achieve by doing this?’ These sorts of questions will lead you to the realization that you are seeking specific experiences. Often it is helpful to ask the question again and again. Example: you are washing the dishes. Why? Because you want to have clean dishes. Why do you want that? Clean dishes give me a good feeling about my house and myself. Your answer may be different. But if you hone in on it, it will result in some experience you want to have.
Going to work, talking to your friend, shaving or having your nails done, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about having some experience that you want to have. This is true for nearly all of us, all the time. And it gets extreme in some cases. If you watch advertising on television and other places, they show people doing amazing things in amazing places with other amazing people. They want us to associate their product with these amazing experiences, often called peak experiences. They know that we all are seeking better experiences.
So we see videos of people skydiving and other extreme sports, or living the life of a secret agent, or dressed to the tee in a lavish expensive party and then they show us their product at the end, as to say, ‘buy our product and you can experience all of this!’ And research has shown that this absolutely does increase sales. Even if the presentation has actually nothing to do with the product, if they flash it at the end, we will make this association and want to purchase their products, because we so desperately want to have those amazing experiences.
Wouldn’t we all like to win the lotto, go sailing on a million dollar sailboat to exotic locations, party with the rich and famous, be on stage in front of millions of fans, etc. Think about it for a moment. What are the experiences that motivate you to do all that you do in a day. Even spiritual people, seekers of the truth, are seeking some sort of spiritual experience.
People will meditate 12 hours a day for ten days and come back and tell you about the amazing experiences they had. Or you may live a very low-key, simple life, be non-materialistic to the hilt. But even this person is seeking something, some experience. No class of people is immune to this. Nearly all of us do it, with the very rare exception of someone who has awakened from the dream of maya. One of my favorite teachers, Jed McKenna, says the most spiritual people “don’t want to wake up from the dream. They want to dream they are awake.” Again, it is just seeking some rare ‘spiritual’ experience, like oneness or universal love.
Remember for a few moments about the best experiences of your life. What experiences in your past were the most fulfilling, exciting, amazing, and better yet, important to you? Like me and others you may have had some experiences that absolutely changed the course of your life. An experience of profound insight can do this, or one of intense tragedy. What experiences are you seeking at this point in your life? Be as honest as you can. Examine what you are doing and ask yourself, what is the experience I hope to have by doing this?
My favorite game of all when I was a kid was playing war with my friends. Now, I play a game called World of Warcraft. It is a game that has many levels of things you can do. Personally I go for the real time fighting matches against other people, which is called PVP in the game, for player verses player. To get a character that I make up to the level where he or she can compete in PVP, I have to spend many days and hours leveling the character up, getting the proper equipment, making sure he or she has the correct enchantments, gems, glyphs, talent points, addons, and other things necessary.
Sometimes I have to research online for the best things to get, best combat techniques and other things. As I am doing all of this, I do enjoy it. But I can see, all the time, from beginning to end, that what I want to experience is having a character that can fight so effectively that I win most of my matches. Why do I want to win? Well, when I examine it closely, I see that it gives me a feeling of security in myself to know that I am superior to others in the game. I can beat them. This is my real motivation for the many hours I spend working at it. This is a total ego pastime. If I do well I feel good about myself. If I lose, I don’t.
Sometimes in the midst of leveling a character up, it is easy to forget why I am doing what I am doing. I can just get caught up in the doing of it all. There are quests, for example, that I have to do every day so that I can better my chances of winning on the battleground. These daily quests are like doing the dishes. Playing the game can become routine, just like in life. We forget why we are doing all the crap we do every day.
But here’s the real thing about experiences. No matter what experience you seek, you will find that it is transitory and fleeting at best. It will not last. No experience lasts. Recently I was making love with my girlfriend. It was absolutely the most amazing sex I have ever had. And to me at that moment, I could honestly say it was also the most amazing experience I had ever had, in my entire life.
I realized in that moment that this experience was, for me the epitome of living in a physical body. I could not think of anything that was better than being there with her in those moments. And at the same time, a little voice in the back of my mind said, ‘Yes, but this is only an experience. It will not last.’ And I knew this was true. This is the best life can offer, but it is not enough. It just isn’t real.
And the interesting thing about experiences is that they become stories. As soon as they are over, they are gone, forever. Now, all that is left is the memory and story about it, which does not fulfill on any level at all. Once an experience is over, it is over for good. Now, maybe I can recreate that moment with my girlfriend again, but even then, it will not last. And for most of us, we keep wanting to make a certain experience happen over and over, somehow hoping it will satisfy us, which it actually will not. It can’t really satisfy us, even though we think it can.
The satisfaction will be temporary and short-lived at best. No experience can give us what we really want. And yet, for most of us, it is best we can hope for. It is what all advertising promises us, but never delivers. All of our doing, thinking, planning and all does not result in anything lasting. There is no lasting security or anything. We trick ourselves into believing there is. But it just doesn’t exist.
To be real is to be lasting forever. Anything real is like that. The real truth is like that because it is the same. And real truth is what we are actually seeking with all of our actions, plans, etc. But we are looking in the wrong place. We sort of give in to our second class reality and keep recreating as many so called ‘good’ experiences as we can and minimize and avoid the bad ones.
This is life. It’s not great, but it is the best we can do. And we settle for this because we know not of anything better. But ever so often a person gets fed up with this fake life they are living. They look around and see all the suffering and their own suffering and follow an inner instinct that says, ‘Life doesn’t have to be this way. I know there is something better than this, something truly real.’ The wording may be different for each individual but some people just wake up to the fact that their life is a sham, that it is really not going anywhere. And they get fed up with this.
Often they get angry with themselves, for being so ignorant. They start asking questions, like, ‘is there anything real in this world?’ and ‘what is really true here?’ They just want to know the truth about life and themselves, no matter the cost. People at this stage often depart from most of their activities to take time to examine themselves and what they are doing, and why. They delve into their feelings and thoughts for clues about what is real and what is not. And this is when the truth about our lives begins to emerge.
Very few people really do this, even the many spiritual seekers that think they are. The maya/ego thing that resides in each of us is very tricky. And most of us just want a better story, not real truth. Once we have had some great spiritual experience and our lives are going ahead fairly well and we are getting all the things we wanted, we stop really looking for truth and fall back asleep. And many at this stage develop a much stronger ego than they had before. It’s a tricky path, full of pitfalls and traps. Few even attempt it and even fewer make it to the end. But if you realize that all you are going to get from seeking experiences is a better story and useless memories, you too might start on this journey.
Have you ever visited a nursing home and talked to some of the residents there? Each person is more or less just a collection of stories from their past and when you talk to them, they just say the same things over and over, sort of like an endless loop recording. That is all they have, their memories. Is that where you are headed? Maybe you are already there? Or maybe that’s your destination. Think about it.