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What Are We Really Seeking?



The general narrative goes something like this: life in Oz becomes, shall we say, unsustainable.


So, Dorothy leaves, seeking home.


Along her path, she encounters a lion seeking courage.


She encounters a tin man seeking heart.


And she encounters a scarecrow seeking brains.


So, as the one seeking becomes the four seeking, perhaps it can be said that our narrative becomes – among other things – a narrative of seeking. And I imagine each of us can relate. Seeking seems to be a theme of modern life in the western world. Its battle cry goes something like this: "if I can just get there, I will be happy."


In secularity, we are encouraged to seek higher incomes. We are encouraged to seek fancier titles. We are encouraged to seek greater accomplishments. We are encouraged to seek younger faces. We are encouraged to seek better bodies (whatever that means in any given moment).


In secularity, we are encouraged to mindlessly hum that chorus through our waking and our sleeping hours: "if I can just get there, I will be happy."


And in religion we are encouraged to seek greater deservability. We are encouraged to seek better behavior. We are encouraged to seek higher ethic. We are encouraged to seek piety (whatever than means in any given moment).


In religion we are encouraged to mindlessly hum that chorus through our waking and our sleeping hours: “if I can just get there, I will be happy.”


And so it is that in this seeking, I might suggest that we inadvertently affirm our perpetual lack – our perpetual lack of heart, our perpetual lack of courage, our perpetual lack of brains. For our seeking places the Oz of satisfaction at the end of some yellow brick road with no end in sight.


And so it is that we are encouraged to inadvertently affirm our perpetual lack of deservability, our perpetual lack of control, our perpetual lack of ethic, our perpetual lack of piety. For our seeking places the kingdom of heaven at the end of some gold staircase with no end in sight.


In the secular and in the religious alike, we are encouraged to seek. At the level of consciousness, I might suggest that we are encouraged to affirm our perpetual lack of whatever it is we seek, for what is a consciousness of seeking if not a consciousness of perpetually lacking that which is sought?


And yet in the secular and in the religious alike, the yellow bricks continue to pass, and the gold steps continue to fall, and we hum the celebrated chorus: “if I can just get there, I will be happy.”


And we in traditions we would call “New Thought” are not immune. We are encouraged to seek nobler inspirations. We are encouraged to seek purer energies. We are encouraged to seek godlier choices. We are encouraged to seek higher consciousness (whatever that means in any given moment).


So, let me offer you something from my personal, spiritual practice. It’s my working theory that behind each of my worldly seekings, there lurks something of what we might call a spiritual quality. In other words, it’s my working theory that so many, if not all, of the things I seek are merely serving as masks for broader, more universal and eternal realities.


And let me pause to say that the end game for this spiritual practice isn’t that we are to avoid, forgo or denounce the many trinkets and treasures of this level of reality. I don’t believe that. It seems self-evident that if we’re here – in this garden of sensory delight – it’s appropriate that we experience this garden of sensory delight. It’s appropriate that we taste dark coffees, it’s appropriate that we smell baking breads, it’s appropriate that we hug beloved friends, and it’s appropriate that we hear Tchaikovsky concertos.


So no, the end game for this spiritual practice isn’t that we are to avoid, forgo or denounce the many trinkets and treasures of this level of reality. The end game is, rather, that we are to establish right relationship with the many trinkets and treasures of this level of reality.


Said another way, while many in my role would teach consciousness as the means for getting trinkets and treasures, I would teach trinkets and treasures as the means for consciousness; that the earthly ever points to the eternal, the transient ever points to the timeless, the individual ever points to the universal.


So, to return, it’s my working theory that so many, if not all, of the things I seek are merely serving as masks for broader, more universal and eternal realities.


We think we want money but when we do a little spiritual excavation, we find that, deep down, we long to realize and unleash the abundance that we already are.


We think we want relationship but when we do a little spiritual excavation, we find that, deep down, we long to realize and unleash the worth that we already are.


We think we want newness but when we do a little spiritual excavation, we find that, deep down, we long to realize and unleash the creativity that we already are.


We think we want control but when we do a little spiritual excavation, we find that, deep down, we long to realize and unleash the faith that we already are.


It was (I think) the great teacher and theologian Joel Goldsmith who said something akin to this. He said: behind every longing is really the longing for God. It’s the same idea, to my thinking.


When I was growing up, I went through a number of iterations. I spend the better part of one year as a cat. Now, I don’t pretend to know what that was about, nor have I considered it worthy of the time that would be required to excavate that particular era. But suffice it to say that I spent the better part of a year sitting under tables, rubbing against calves and licking my hands. Thank God for understanding Grandmothers!


I also spent some time as a cowboy. To this day, I can feel the weight of that holster on my hip and that hat on my head. And yes, to this day, I can feel the weight of those boots on my feet as well. Thank God for understanding Grandmothers.


In yet another incarnation of my youth, it was on a steel-frame school desk with a veneer flip top that I carved the name, “Mannix,”. For those of a certain age, you have already correctly concluded that most notable among my childhood identities was that of a private investigator. The next to catch my eye was James Rockford with his Pontiac Firebird, but I digress.


I was Mannix. I wore dark suits and I solved any and all mysteries presented to me by any and all 8-year-olds on the west side of town in Osawatomie, Kansas. Having said that, let me admit that I don’t actually recall any such mysteries, but even if I didn’t solve any, the real point is that I was certainly ready to do so. And again, I say thank God for understanding Grandmothers.


Now, in truth, I didn’t become Mannix. And I like to think that I didn’t become Mannix because I wasn’t supposed to become Mannix. I wasn’t supposed to cling to the form or to the mask; I wasn’t supposed to pursue how another discovered his talents and unleashed his spiritual gifts. The role of Mannix in my life was to inspire me to discover my own talents and unleash my own spiritual gifts.


The earthly ever points to the eternal, the transient ever points to the timeless, the individual ever points to the universal.


The spiritual life isn’t to unfold along the path of another. Great souls don’t say, “Look at me.” Great souls say, “Look at you.”


I think of my friend (friend to many) Rev. Mary Omwake. And for 20 years following her tenure at what became a megachurch in the Midwest, I found myself saying to the countless would-be ministers who wore her same clothes, who coiffed her same hair, who used her same music, who employed her same strategies, who hoped for her same results – I found myself saying to the countless would-be ministers, “Even Mary Omwake, doesn’t dress like Mary Omwake anymore!”


The message of great souls isn’t, “Try to get some of what’s awesome about me.” The message of great souls is, “Try to give some of what’s awesome about you.”


I like to think I wasn’t supposed to become Mannix. I wasn’t supposed to wear dark suits, to interview confused adults, to solve adolescent mysteries. But I was supposed to discover my talents and unleash my spiritual gifts.


I was supposed to begin to explore what would remain to this day, a deep passion for a personal accountability.


I was supposed to begin to explore what would remain to this day, a deep passion for a daring curiosity.


I was supposed to begin to explore what would remain to this day, a deep passion for a creative intellect.


I was supposed to begin to explore what would remain to this day, a deep passion for a purposeful life.


And so it is that my encouragement of you The Wizard of Oz charactersis to reinvigorate that tool of excavation which society has – usually to some degree – domesticated out of you. My encouragement of you this week is to reinvigorate that tool of excavation I call “Why?”


In your moments of seeking, ask, “Now why do I think I want this?” And then as deeper considerations begin to come forth, ask again, “Now why do I think I want this?” And as even deeper considerations begin to come forth, yet again, “Now why do I think I want this?”


And if my working model proves true for you, you’ll eventually discover that lurking behind the many masks of your outer human seeking lurks something of an inherent God quality.


In such moments, you’ll realize that for all the journeying for that which would be sought without, the destination was something of an eternal truth that would be discovered within; that home was always as easy as clicking those heels. You’ll realize that in the end, Glinda was right: that “You had the power all along, dear.”


And in such moments, all manner of human seeking shifts from egoistic manifestation to soulful unfolding, from human will to divine power.



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