How can we navigate loss of meaning on the spiritual path?

Ram Dass (and Chogyam Trungpa) on the Loss of Meaning

The attainment of enlightenment from ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment.

Chogyam Trungpa from The Myth of Freedom

Very often people report to me that meditation has brought an emptiness into their life. Everything seems meaningless. It takes great faith to ride through such heavy periods of spiritual transformation.

I recall the near anger I had towards spirituality as I saw my favorite rushes fall away.

Things I had previously gotten great thrills from became empty. For example, many years back one of my aesthetic highs was to visit Tanglewood, the music festival where the Boston Symphony played. I recall in particular a beautiful evening when I lay under the elm trees on a blanket with wine and cheese and listened to the symphony in the outdoor shell play Berlioz’ Requiem. I was in ecstasy.

A few years ago, some twenty years later, I was passing by Tanglewood and remembered that moment. I decided to drop by to attend an evening concert. Much to my delight, I found they were to play the Berlioz’ Requiem that evening. I immediately got some wine and cheese, took a blanket, and arrived very early so I would have a choice elm to lie under. The evening was beautiful, soft and warm. The music began to play.

Much as I tried, I could not recapture the ecstasy. The experience was incredibly beautiful, delightful and enjoyable. But it wasn’t as I remembered it. I had to realize that my memory of that moment was so high because by comparison the rest of my life was much lower. But now things had changed and each moment of every day had started to have a quality of newness and radiance and intensity. The driving to the concert, the buying of the wine, the lying under the elm were equally as high as the concert. Instead of peaks and valleys, I had a plateau.

Meditation brings this change. Each moment starts to have a richness or thickness of its own. Fewer moments are special as more of them become richer.

This lessens the rushes, the highs and lows. As they disappear we sometimes feel a sadness and depression, a sense of having lost the richness of the romance of life. Indeed, an awakened being is not romantic, for nothing is special anymore. Every moment is all of it. No romance. Just the coming and the going. Coming and going.

In a way it is sad to see one’s story line turn into empty form. The dark night of the soul is when you have lost the flavor of life but have not yet gained the fullness of divinity. So it is that we must weather that dark time, the period of transformation when what is familiar has been taken away and the new richness is not yet ours.

– Ram Dass

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