I have been through personal alchemy that is, have had parts of my being changed from its lower aspects to a higher nature, numerous times since beginning the Great Work; enough to understand the established pattern that I experience each time...alas another round has me in its grasp. Although the end result is usually in a category different from what I think I need to work on, this time I think I may have caught onto to the nature of the change. It seems as if I am becoming thouroughly dissolutioned from the world, either lacking interest in or becoming angry with material nature. I haven't lost interest in all things, instead I am seeing it for what it is worth for the first time, a place to nourish the body and senses and far as it can serve the Lord of the Universe ( I use this moniker to note that I believe in one God/Goddess that is the creator of the underlying nature of all things, not a religious affiliation). To put more stock in it than that is to heap upon oneself all kinds of pain and misery, pain and misery that I have witnessed time and time again. Truly, we all allow ourselves to become addicted to these things, and thus the material rules them, and not the other way around.
This may seem to be a very remedial topic in spiritual matters but when your consciousness begins to change towards that actual state rather than an intellectual understanding, the depth of the knowledge is striking, almost as if you are living in a new world. But, what am I learning from this? What can I share?
Primarily I am seeing what the great Buddha taught, that the material is needed, but not to excess. However, on a more subtle note, excess is different for each person depending on thier level of attachment to the physical world. Instead of saying, "Today I had this icecream so tomorrow I will refrain from sweets" a more beneficial way to the spiritu spiritual would be to analyze one's attachment to it at that moment. How much does you desire to simply have a few moments of pleasure (which I believe there is nothing wrong with), and how much do you desire it because you are attached to the experience of it, need it to fill an emotional need, or are letting a craving run wild? I don't believe the experience of pleasure is an anithesis to the spirit, but in one instance there is control, you decide when you've had enough, you are unattached to it. In the other you are letting something else, something lower control you. This goes beyond dieting and self-control, and instead looks at things in the material world in its proper place, as a tool for one's spiritual growth, and to properly experience the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.
Secondly I have learned that mostly we are not even aware of the hold the material has on us. For example, the other day I was taking a tour of an eating disorder clinic and examining thier meditation program. I had studied eating disorders duing my undergrad but had never been face to face with anyone who severly suffered from disorders such as anorexia. I was utterly stunned by the state some of these women were in, and I left contemplating the issues of body image and materialism in our culture. ( another experience to add to my alchemy) Over the next week, I started noticing each time I looked at a reflection of myself. It was very scary at first, as if I had the knowledge a thief was following me. Over and over again on impulse I would find myself looking in the mirror, the reflection in a window, and each time, judging myself. I realized for the first time that I literally do this at least 50 times a day, every time I use the restroom, everytime I look to check my form at the gym, everytime,I pass a car window...It saddened me to realize that I focus so much on something so trivial, and saddened me even more to realize what a deeply ingrained habit it was. I then started thinking about how women put down thier bodies to each other while speaking as if it was a topic to bond them together ( one reason I am not drawn to hanging out with women).
Thus, this situation along with many has begun to add to a further dissolutionment with the physical realm, the realm that seems to betray. It promises so much only to turn around and rip the rug out from underneath you. Am I being bitter or jaded? Amazingly no, I just feel the change coming, that state of not being so easily swayed by the material. I am sure this will not happen quickly, but I am hoping that if I put my effort into it, I will speed up the process so that I may turn all of that wandering attention back to the Lord. I have to admit though that I am experiencing a deep inner sadness, and I wonder if it can be likened to the state in The Dark Night of the Soul, where the Lord is weaning the child from its breast so that it may learn to walk on its on two spiritual feet, not needing to be goaded along by feelings of bliss at every turn.
So what does it take to break free of this attachment? I don't believe its a retraining of ones thoughts, I believe instead it is being spiritually ready...not that I would say that I would know that I am ready, that is for the Lord to decide. But, after much thought, I believe that one can only detatch themselves from the material, by doing spiritual work. Thus a person tills the soil and fertilizes it so that it may be ready for the Lord to bestow the difficult but worthwhile transition.