Chris Cade's Blog » But spiritual people don’t play poker!

But spiritual people don’t play poker!

Written by Chris Cade on . Posted in Spiritual Development

A couple of years ago I was at a satsang with Adyashanti and somebody asked him what he does for enjoyment. His answer: “Sometimes I like to ride my motorcycle or play poker with my friends and take their money.”

In that moment, I felt a lot less alone. For several years, I played poker with the same group on Monday nights. Over those years I’ve grown in many ways, but that hasn’t changed that I really enjoy the dynamics of a good poker game. What has changed is the place I come from while playing poker.

I get a lot less caught up in the ego aspects of the game, and instead tend to be more present and aware of just enjoying the moment. Enjoying the way the money shifts around to different people on the table, enjoying the flow of energy involved with that and observing how people act and react in different situations that arise during the game. What I enjoy most though, is that every now and then there arises a ‘perfect’ moment that is only possible by my non-attachment to winning.

Why play poker if not to win?

My ideal poker game is one in which there are a lot of highs and lows, a lot of wins and losses, and in the end everybody walks away with close to what they started with. It doesn’t always work out that way… sometimes I win a couple hundred dollars or lose a couple hundred dollars, most of the time it’s closer to about +/- $20. Back to the point, though.

Last year I was playing with a relatively new group and with only a $20 initial buyin, and after a few hours of play I was already profiting about $250. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but somehow I merged with the moment… in an indescribable unity where I was not separate from anybody else or anything else. In that moment, I made a $150 bet that put two of the other players to the test… to make a very hard decision.

The thing is, I wasn’t thinking during any of this. I was playing mindlessly… and though that might explain why I lost the $150, what it also helps bring to light is that it is possible to be engaged in mind-based activities yet without using the mind. Playing poker, for me, has become a lot more intuitive-based. I think a lot less about the plays I make, and sometimes I don’t even think at all.

It is in this space of non-thinking… this complete open space combined with a nothingness… that joy arises from. Had I been attached to winning that hand (there was about $400-$500 in the pot including other players), I would have been quite upset about losing. However, I wasn’t upset. In fact, I felt a great amount of gratitude that I could witness somebody else derive such pleasure from winning that hand.

It wasn’t until I was driving home after the game that I realized I had been experiencing joy in that moment. Generally speaking, most people are unaware when they are truly ‘in the moment’ because it is a combination of that nothingness and complete spaciousness without thought (so without thinking, they don’t ‘know’ they’re experiencing joy in the moment). I certainly didn’t realize it until I was driving home later that night and I reflected on the evening.

People often have a misconception that joy and happiness are the same thing, yet in that experience I was clearly shown this is not the case. Joy is a state of being that is underneath any emotional experience we can have, and therefore it is possible to be both joyous and happy, as well as joyous and deeply sorrowful. Joy does not exclude any emotion, but rather, it includes all of them without attachment nor exception.

P.S. If you’d like to explore joy more fully, be sure to check out my friend Apryl Jenson’s websites and She focuses a lot on empowering ourselves to experience more joy in our everyday lives.

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