"Cactus in Bloom"
-At the Desert Retreat House-
Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times about a new "booming" business first begun in Rhode Island and now quickly spreading all over the country. The new company produces charm bracelets, bangles and necklaces that, when worn, provide spiritual seekers with a quick and easy fix for all their spiritual needs.
The promotional literature for the company asks, "Do you want limitless power, limitless karma and limitless wisdom?" If you do, then all you have to do is buy the Buddha Charm Bangle, available for $28. The promotion goes on to ask, "Do you want divine direction and soulful enlightenment?' If so, they recommend the Saint Anthony Charm Bangle. How about a "union of masculine and feminine energy?" that's available through the "Star of David Bangle - also priced at $28.
In yesterday's New York Times article, the owner and founder of the company went on to explain,
"Before any of these articles are sold in a store, every product is blessed by my priests and by my shaman friends." This is done to help assure that they will achieve the desire effects.
So there you have it- wisdom, enlightenment, spiritual power for people of every religion, walking any spiritual path, and all available by simply wearing a $28 bangle blessed by a priest or a shaman. I suppose it's no wonder that the company is becoming a booming business, big enough to be reported in an article in the New York Times.
Oh, would that it could be so easy!
When I read that story yesterday, I just sort of shook my head. It reminded me of those pills that people take to lose weight instead of going on a diet or visiting the gym - take a pill, off comes the weight, it's quick and it's easy. But, of course it never works that way. If you want to lose weight, you usually need to commit to an ongoing program of healthy eating. If you want to lose weight, you have to exercise every day on a regular basis.
As I think about it, the quick fix "spiritual bangles and bracelets" fit right in with today's contemporary culture in general. We can strike a computer key or pop a pill and we expect instant gratification - quick and easy answers, instant solutions to all of life's complex problems.
When I read the article yesterday, I thought about some Buddhist monks I met when I visited South Korea a few years ago. They devote their entire lives walking a spiritual path in pursuit of deeper wisdom and enlightenment - hours of contemplation, prayer, and daily meditation. I remember them telling me how wisdom and enlightenment is an unfolding process for them, and that even after all their many years walking the path, they have only just begun the journey.
It seems rather incredible to me that someone might actually believe that by simply wearing a twenty-eight dollar bracelet blessed by a priest or a shaman, they might actually attain "limitless wisdom and soulful enlightenment."
The cactus in front of my Desert Retreat House has bloomed in the springtime. It has faithfully endured the heat of summer and the cold winds of winter; and now in the spring, exquisite, beautiful yellow flowers have blossomed out of the rough, thorny bush.
I look at my cactus and I learn from it.
Every single day I get up out of bed and I begin the journey anew. I sit in my garden and meditate and pray. I try to lead a mindful life, awake and aware, trying to pay attention to the revelations of the moment. I try to be a compassionate person in the way I live my everyday life.
Sometimes I fail. Sometimes my spirit feels thorny - dried up by the heat of the day or the howling winds of life that blow rough against me. But I try to be faithful and persevere through it all. There is an exquisite, beautiful flower in me blossoming out of the thorns into the bright light of a fresh spring day in the wilderness.
And so I walk the path of wisdom and enlightenment and even after many years, I have only just begun the journey.