The Peaceful Feast

Healing Materialism
November 21, 2009, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday, I strolled the aisles of Vitamin Cottage, blissfully tossing “gluten-free this” and “allergen-free that” into my cart, full of glee bordering on euphoria over my “clean” and “good” and “healthy” purchases.

My goodness, I thought, is it possible that I can be any more materialistic?
My ego retorted: “What’s so materialistic about wanting to be healthy?”

But It’s not necessary to spend more to be healthy; it’s just that I’ve bought into this notion that being healthy means buying extra things. I am a healing materialist.

Speaking in Boulder, Colo., about 40 years ago, Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa warned his students against what he called “spiritual materialism”:

Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism.

There are several ways this spiritual materialism may manifest: capitalistically, through new age stores selling enlightenment through expensive gee-gaws and doohickeys, for example. But also, we may manifest our materialism through our humanity by seeking to reward our egos by buying expertly packaged things, becoming experts ourselves, or by … ahem … publishing a blog. 🙂

All this is a long way of getting to the question I’ve been pondering about whether one can take too materialistic an approach toward healing. I think it is possible, but I haven’t quite figured out how this works, or how to avoid healing materialism. I’ll be returning to this topic from time to time and welcome any ideas.


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