Music Meditation

Consumption As The Path

Walking downtown today, I skipped over a homeless guy sleeping in the alley. All his stuff was there with him. He was passed out on top of most of it. There was the collection of junk, a shopping cart, his sleeping bag, and the proverbial puppy wagging its tail. I stopped and glanced over both of them. (Why do the folks that can’t take care of themselves always want a puppy? Love is a double-edged sword.) Strewn around him were three or four empty bottles of fire water he had consumed the night before. He was ‘consumed’ as they say.

I tried booze as a solution for about twenty years as well. I never wound up homeless, passed out, and living in an alley with a new puppy, but I know that I’m lucky. I could have easily ended up there. I know it’s only by the luck of the draw that I did not. My consumption ran its course on that level before homelessness happened. A moment of grace stepped in. It washed over me in the shape of a moment of clarity that I could not deny. Maybe that guy will have his moment of clarity too, but that’s really none of my business.

I know there is a solution, but that solution only led me to the futility of consumption at deeper levels. After the possibility of the drink was exhausted, I had to run the gauntlet of many more possibilities. It’s taken a lifetime of experimentation to realize there was no way of filling the God-sized hole of my inner world from the outside. It’s what’s supposed to happen. This is the spiritual path. People think that the spiritual path involves a lot of things—ideas, beliefs, love, church, surrender, acceptance, being good or righteous—including spiritual practice. But the most important thing that the spiritual path reveals to me is the exhaustion of the possibility of consumption as a finite solution to the problem of our infinite existence. I had to consume everything. I had to try every possible avenue of filling the God-sized hole from the outside before I could even fathom the possibility that the emptiness and energy swimming through the cosmos was the same emptiness and energy swimming inside of me. Only then did I start to experience myself as union, as yoga, as meditationas the spark of the mantra itself.

They say we must rid ourselves of desire. They say that desire is the problem. But really, desire is the solution. Desire is longing’s tool. The first reality is that there is a wound, and there is suffering—a deep sense of dissatisfaction with life. There is something in us that just wants a little bit more. There is something within us that feels incomplete. It’s like having a little piece of meat stuck in a back molar that you just can’t get out. We act on this feeling of dissatisfaction to no end, trying to solve the problem from the outside in. It’s the path itself. When self-inquiry is put into motion, it’s the train we can’t get off. What we are doing is trying to become one with something. We are trying to experience ourselves as complete and whole. What’s that something? What’s the separateness? Science tells us we are all one. We can do a math problem and see it in front of us on the paper but still, we experience ourselves as separate.

I’m an addict and an alcoholic. My first attempt at satisfying this longing was through substances. When we try to satisfy this longing through substances, we call this addiction. As soon as I exhausted the possibility of satisfying the longing with substances, I tried to do it through relationship or sexwhen this longing finds its expression in the physical, we call this sex. We desperately try to complete ourselves by becoming one with another. It might last for a while, but eventually we fall apart and smoke a cigarette while listening to the last few songs of that Sade CD. We exhaust that as a possibility as well.

After the cigarette and some coffee, I got on the subway and tried to solve the problem mentally. When we try to solve the problem or dilemma of separation mentally, we call this greed, conquest, or ambition. I will propel myself wholeheartedly toward a solution with my will. I found myself in the trap of trying to complete myself through my career. I raked my ‘Love Me’ cup on the jail bars of life for years thinking that if I could just get 100 people standing in line waiting for me to sign a CD and tell me how great I was, then that would complete me. If I could just make a living doing what I love, I would ‘arrive’ and feel whole.

Well one day it actually happened, and I tell you, it was the happiest and saddest day of my life, both at the same time. The happy part was that it happened. The saddest part was that it didn’t fill the God-sized hole. It didn’t complete me or remove that chunk of meat from my back molar. I had to consume everything in that realm and exhaust that as a solution to my problem before I could move on. I had to experience it for myself. I could listen to a Beatle talk about how fame and fortune wasn’t ‘it,’ but until I experienced it myself, it meant nothing.

The last thing I had to exhaust was the possibility of love. Yes, I said itlove. The emotional aspect of love. When this longing expresses itself emotionally, we call this love. Recently for me, this has been a big one. What I thought of as love was just an expression and feeling of my own emotional neediness to find wholeness through another. But emotions are fleeting. They are a bridge between the physical and non-physical world. The problem is that whenever there is some kind of exchange or trade off going on, this isn’t love. It’s something else entirely. People die as well, they move on, they live far away behind borders and the bars of their own countries and psyches. This kind of love still cannot transcend the physical world. Love, you say?  Love? Really?

I love what Leonard Cohen had to say when asked about it.  

“What about love, though?”

I believe we know that love is a terrible wound itself and that it presents a bewildering landscape to stumble over. Love is a fire: it burns everyone, it disfigures everyone, it is the world’s excuse for being ugly.

I think in people’s hearts, they understand that the heart is cooking like a shish kebab in your breast. No matter what you do, the passions come and go, and they sear you, they burn you. If it’s not your lover, it’s your children. If it’s not your children, it’s your job. If it’s not your job, it’s growing old. If it’s not growing old, it’s getting sick. This predicament cannot be resolved. That is the wound that does not heal, and rather than approach it from the point of view of stitching or cauterizing it, there is wisdom in living with the wound.

The same goes with acceptance and compassion. We have to exhaust all possibilities. Once we have exhausted all the possibilities, we get to the experience of living life beyond consumption or closing the wound as a solution. As we have had an experience that consumption is futile.  

I’m an experiential guy, a hard nut, a yogi. I refuse to believe anything beyond my own experience. What I’ve experienced through the path of consumption is that the hole can’t be filled. We are the hole. The polarities and opposites that come together to manifest the physical world come with an energy that creates this feeling of incompleteness. This energy is the truth of reality itself. Reality is not complete. The rub of opposites creates an impermanent physical form that we call the world, and it’s a living, breathing expansion that is the impermanent us. The feeling of wholeness comes from realizing incompleteness. Failure is success, good is bad, and eventually, the rain is no different than the sun. Whether in failure or success, the result is the same. Duality is transcended. It all just is. Here, we start to experience the part of ourselves that is beyond name and form. It’s the part of us that exists beyond the five senses.

This is why in the first yoga a sutra it says “and now yoga.” Why? Because we have tried everything else. We have exhausted the possibility of consumption as a solution.

Of course, there is a bigger fish to fry than our own karma. There is collective karma as well. But at least at this personal level, we can start to experience ourselves in a different, more profound way. Our energy flows differently here. Our minds start to evolve and shape themselves in a different way when there is no resistance to this feeling of separateness brought on by trying to solve the problem of the wound.

Looking back at the drunk homeless guy, all I can see is myself. Here I find compassion. I see the hopeful puppy wagging his tail against his sad eyes, and I can relate. Somewhere in there lies a solution that is profound and that no one seems to be talking about. The streets are filled with trash. The wind blows it down the block. I can feel the fall blowing in. The state of the Earth is no different from the drunk guy. It’s Sunday. I think it’s gonna rain.

Excerpts from 365 Days of Yoga

All I am attempting to do in this daily reader is share some of the things that stuck with me along the way.  Herein lay little nuggets of knowledge related to my own experience that have come to mean so much to me. – Jeff

In the end, meditation is not something you do or practice.

How can you practice who you really are?  Meditation is not

something you do.

It is experiencing your fundamental state of being.  It’s

beyond the cause and effect of doing something.

We do our practices to experience the space within.

We become meditative.


In our addictions we have hot wired our minds and bodies.

If we are lost in our craving, we can be sitting in the most

beautiful situation and still we are not able to see it.  Can we

develop the awareness to see how our addictions and cravings

manifest themselves as a separate voice in the mind and body? If

a man starts talking about the feelings associated with drinking,

a slight ping goes off in my head.

Can I notice it without reacting to the thought?

Can I pause when agitated like this?

This is important to notice.

Giving and getting

What happens when you get something?

How long does the feeling last?

What happens when you give something?

How long does the feeling last?

The Opening of the Heart

After a lifetime of protecting my heart, I came to a point where it could not do anything but open.

The resulting onslaught of tears and emotions over the next couple of years, sometimes seemed overwhelming.

I thought I was crazy.

I would fall apart at the drop of a hat.

I’m so grateful to warriors who went before me.

I was able to validate my experience through theirs.

What a gift.

About Jeff Finlin

Born in Cleveland Ohio, songwriter and writer Jeff Finlin was the grandson of Irish railroad workers.  Jeff has parlayed the insatiable urge to travel into a catalog of 15 records. His song “Sugar Blue” was featured in The Cameron Crowe classic film ElizabethtownJeff has struggled with addiction to alcohol throughout his career. It was not until he paired AA with yoga that he felt his recovery truly began. In 2017, Jeff, newly certified as a Yoga for Recovery Counselor, founded RecoverYoga, a therapy and consultation program. Jeff has written two books of poetry and prose and a book on yoga and recovery. He has written extensively for the East Nashville Magazine and has been published nationally in American Songwriter. Visit for more.

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