This seems to be the central dilemma of human life—that it is easier to desire what is over there than to appreciate what is right here. In fact, what is here seems to be so fundamentally inferior, less than, or inadequate compared to what is apparently over there, that it hardly seems worth the effort to look here. Why not just go over there?
Why, indeed? All spiritual paths, traditions, and schools have been attempting to answer that question for us for thousands of years. Each in their own way teaches that your spirit or your soul—your original unconditioned consciousness—exists only in you, so going elsewhere can never give you access to your essential nature, to who you really are. And the essence that is you is purported to be something quite magnificent: Your true spiritual nature is said to be full of love, peace, strength, beauty, joy, compassion, wisdom, and intelligence.
But even imagining yourself with this spiritual nature immediately conjures up the belief that you can only find these qualities somewhere else. After all, it is not what you experience in yourself now, right? You’re not there . . . yet. Spiritual paths and techniques thus become ways of getting there—to the place where you feel real, where you will become all these wonderful things. So you meditate, attempting to empty your mind or calm yourself or focus on an image or let go of all attachment. Or you chant and dance to invoke your spirit. Or you say prayers and go on vision quests. Yet all these techniques of finding your deeper self subtly imply that where you are now in yourself is not where you need to be.
You are seeking some ideal of the spiritual self and using these methods to attempt to reach that. The result is that the spiritual search can evoke the same dilemma that all other aspects of your life do. Since you cannot feel anything essential or profound in your present experience, you must travel away from here to find what you are looking for—even if it’s your own True Nature.
What if you found a spiritual method that focused completely on being right here? What if it did not require you to change yourself in any way in order to find yourself? What if you didn’t have to go away from yourself in order to go deeper? What if you could stop comparing yourself to something or someone that you imagine to be better or truer or more spiritual?
~A.H. Almaas (From his book, “The Unfolding Now“)
See also Rumi’s poem “Your restlessness is rooted in your seeking restfulness“