By Scott Kiloby
Nirvana is overrated. There, I said it. To understand why I would say such a blasphemous thing, you have to hear my history. The first time I found Nirvana it came in the form of a rock band by the same name. I would sit for hours listening to Kurt Cobain’s deliciously angst-ridden melodies (usually in a drug-induced haze). That Nirvana didn’t last. Kurt unfortunately died and my music tastes moved on a few years later. Bow to Kurt.
I also found Nirvana in a pill. It was a blue and yellow pill. Most people who are addicted to drugs are either addicted to downers, uppers or opiates. I wanted all three. And I found Nirvana in this pill which packed all three. I would swallow up to ten pills at a time. That was Nirvana. Make no mistake about it. It was like a soft warm hug from God. But that didn’t last either. The high would wear off and eventually the enslavement to addiction became too much.
Once I found my spiritual path and did some skillful practices, I found Nirvana again, several times actually. The love, the light, the bliss – all of it. But what was so seductive about that was not the state of having no or very few thoughts. The seduction was in all the by-products – the good feelings, sensations and states. But they were just by-products. Just as that little blue and yellow bill brought good feelings, sensations and states, so too did the spiritual experiences. I wasn’t interested in just sitting for days without thought. I wanted the by-products. I wanted the high. But eventually I learned that these feelings, sensations and states are just temporary. They are the body’s way of giving a sort of reward for no longer being heavily identified with thoughts. Like all rewards, the newness wears off and those initial by-products do also. I realized that those feelings, sensations and states were also not what I was looking for either.
Everything comes and goes, even the good stuff. When I finally found what I was looking for, it didn’t come at all in a form I expected. It came as a change in my relationship to life, to thoughts, to feelings, to sensations, to states and to experiences. It was a deep and profound willingness not to attach to those things anymore, whether they came from music, pills, spiritual practices or experiences or anything else.
And in that seeing, I also fell in love with the whole movement of life. Not just the good stuff, but the grief, the heartbreak, the pesky addictions that wouldn’t leave, the contractions that felt like my insides were coming out.
In falling in love with the whole movement of life, however it showed up, I get to be me, whatever that is and however that reveals itself in any moment and in any movement. This is not a state. It is not a feeling or an emotion. It is not an experience. It is a change in my relationship to those things. It is a letting be and a continuous letting go of everything, since everything comes and goes naturally anyway. To align with life in that way, in all its forms, is truly heaven.
Is that Nirvana as people usually define it? Probably not. But others can chase those things that carry the common definitions of Nirvana if they want. They can have it. I tired of it. It was so truly exhausting.
Have I found what I’m looking for? The answer is not as simple as the question implies. What I found was no longer looking for Nirvana in any form. And then somehow all the forms in life are exactly as they should be, coming and going just as they do. The welcoming of the bliss, the anger, the love, the peace, the fear – all of it. That feels like Nirvana – a really sane Nirvana. If I were to grant myself one wish, it would be to never chase Nirvana again and therefore to always find it in each moment.