In the religious arenas, we are often told that the highest endeavor is that of submitting ourselves fully to the One. This is, in my view, absolutely true… but not in the way that religious organizations would have it, where the voluntary servitude is to a proxy of the One. No, our voluntary servitude is not to books or organizations, not to guiding principles and moral laws, but rather to the hand of the Beloved who reaches for us at every moment. For it is, for all religions, the case that we serve a living God and He needs no intermediaries.
This weekend, I am endeavoring to release a false idol – that of caffeine. For decades, I drank a pot of coffee a day. I have now been guided – absolutely, clearly – that the time has come to release that dependency. Yesterday was my first day of resigning from that voluntary servitude, and it was a beast. Low, low energy. That slowly-growing, insistent headache that feels like a weight one is carrying. A lack of focus so complete as to confuse the very endeavor of existing.
This morning, now the second day, I look forward very much to my morning meditation. The voice of physical addiction speaks loudly to me now, and – as ever – it is only in the silence and stillness of meditation that I can hear the deeper song of creation. It occurs to me, though, that we do not readily see these chains with which we bind ourselves, yet these chains form the entire world for us. If my denial of my beer mugs of coffee can change an illuminated landscape to a dreary one, if the cyclical highs and lows of the day are in truth nothing more than a substance arising and subsiding in the blood stream of this body, then is not the voluntary servitude I am casting off a false worship?
For it is in worship that we transform the world. Whether we worship in meditation or prayer, or something else altogether, each time the world is born anew and we find ourselves in a new landscape. Some might say it is not the world that’s changed, that it is us or our perceptions, but I do not know how one can draw those lines. And so, each time our eyes are washed or dirtied, each time our minds are cast high or low, surely the change arose from worship.
We cannot submit ourselves fully to the One while worshipping others. Whether your vice be coffee, alcohol, tobacco, sugar, salt, or something more “severe” in the eyes of society, surely all these are spirits and false idols. Surely all these little addictions and compulsions, all these little waves of emotional dependency that come from them, are false selves that must be discarded. I think it’s probably the case that we do not, as a people, properly perceive our addictions.
Some choose voluntary servitude to the clearly-visible spirits of worldly success, greed, anger, or sloth. Others choose the less-visible spirits of overwork, physical addiction, or habitual compulsion. And still others choose organizations with their social hierarchies and written laws. But, in all cases, all this is the choosing of the self over God – or, if you prefer, the embracing of duality. There is no difference here: the choosing of God over self is accomplished in the Buddhist way of laying down all attachments.
Ah, the addiction to sweet coffee. Not a sin, rather just another weapon we rebels must lay down.