Spiritual Egotism

Somethin’s goin’ on and I wanna talk about it.

I have hesitated for fear that I will tick people off. I have hesitated in honor of making sure I am coming from the place I want to come from with my words. In the end, self-censorship is useless as I feel the pulse underneath these wonderings as the collective desire to have hidden thoughts revealed.

Personally, I’m not totally sure what to call these phenomena, but others have named them before:

Spiritual Egotism

Spiritual Materialism

In the past couple of weeks, I sat with two of my teachers and received messages from them that activated something within me. I paraphrase them here:

Message #1: No matter how much you spiritualize the Ego, you fail to engage with the pure essence of Spirit.

Message #2: To remain hidden is a deeper level of spiritual cultivation.

For context, here’s a bit of background on me. I am an Astrologer and Sacred Movement Artist based out of Asheville, North Carolina for the past 5-plus years. During that time, I have been on an in-depth journey of spiritual training and discovery, primarily spanning the realms of Taoist Inner Alchemy, Energy Work, Yoga, Bellydance, Shamanic Ritual, and Astrology. In general, I have a passion for living the life I want to live. So, I have embarked in the process of turning my lifestyle into my livelihood (i.e. a business).

Asheville, North Carolina is on the map. A couple of years ago media claimed it was the “Yoga capital of the United States.” Locals call this place a vortex. There’s all kinds of lore about massive quartz crystals stabilizing these mountains, generating heart frequencies and what have you. This place is a magnet for people who want to get their healing and spiritual practice on. That is why I love it!

And, that’s why I get jaded sometimes. Because many Asheville inhabitants have a know-it-all problem. Everybody’s studied this and taken that class and followed that guru (who they now call a “teacher” or a “guide” because “guru” fell out of style in the last couple years but it’s really still the same game). So I can walk up to some people and strike up a conversation about the weather, and before I know it they are telling me all about how according to Chinese Medicine theory winter is actually starting later than the gregorian calendar and I should only be eating seaweed and pickled vegetables for the next 4 weeks so my spleen doesn’t get out of whack.

Seriously. Some days I feel like no matter where I go, somebody’s gonna try to gift me some kind of spiritual knowledge or technique, when all I do already is study spiritual knowledge and techniques and I kinda have my fill of that now, thank you. And by the way when you talk to me that way it makes me think I need to be “healed” and I’m doing things “wrong” and I start to get stressed out and suddenly my glands are swollen because I’m worried about whether or not Wholefoods is gonna have 4 weeks worth of kombu.

This funny thing happens when people start on a healing journey. Lots of folks start to feel like they know things. They go on their cleanses and do their mantras and lead their meditation groups and suddenly I start to feel judged when I’m around them.

I legitimately meet people who feel that they are ‘enlightened’ on a semi-regular basis. They may not say it out loud because enlightenment as a concept is going out of style, but actions speak louder than words. These folks are drugged with bliss and euphoria, which must be awesome for them, but when it comes time for them to interact with others in respectful and mutual ways, there are problems.

Spiritual Egotism. By no means is this limited to Asheville. It’s something that is happening everywhere where spiritual communities enrich the environment. It is a normal phenomenon.

In my experience, spiritual cultivation is quite tricky. I have written about the Ego before to say that I think it gets a bad rep. The Ego is our conscious, creatively expressed personality. We need to be fully ourselves in order to shine our light into the world. That said, the ego (like the mind) can be our own worst enemy and a huge obstacle to true spiritual discovery.

I love that word, dis-covery. The process of uncovering what is underneath.

There are so many new-age memes and schemes out there encouraging folks to be the brightest, biggest, richest, and freest they can be. You’ve heard them: The law of attraction. The power of positive thinking. Live your dreams! Think you way to permanent happiness. One book I personally own even says “The world is yours for the taking.”

I am not here to say whether these memes and schemes are effective or not. Because honestly, I don’t know. I am limiting my experimentation with these techniques because there is something about it that just feels kind of smarmy.

Like.. privileged-consumerist-propagation-of-the-same-crap-that-got-the-world-here-in-the-first-place kind of smarmy. Suddenly so much spiritual jargon sounds like empty marketing to me. The world is yours for the taking? Last time I checked, that is the complete opposite of how native cultures engage with our Earth. Enter Spiritual Materialism.

It is awesome to get people into their power and creative energy. I think that is a beautiful way to impact their lives for the better. Goodness knows we can all use a heavy dose of empowerment within current realities. Living your dreams is something I hope a lot of people do shoot for - it’s what I am currently doing and hoping to do more of in the future. That’s why I launched my business.

And that’s why I’m writing this article. Because in lieu of spiritual materialism (which seems to go hand-in-hand with spiritual egotism), I’ve come across ten-billion websites of people telling me they have the “6 tips” that can turn what I love doing into a multi-figure biz. Everyone and their brother suddenly has the secret to living a lifestyle where I run my life from my laptop and fly on private jets around the world on a regular basis - you know, because that’s what I should be shooting for!

Yes! I would love to work for myself and get continual income from my website. Awesome. But why do I feel ready to sell my soul and shelve my life after thinking about the glorious one I could have when I’m rich and “free”? The worst part is, many of these promises namedrop the words “spiritual” and “soul” - as though if you didn’t make 6-figures doing what you love for a living, something is wrong with you on an essential level.

We are living in a new economic climate on this planet. Since the crash in 2008, people have been creating their own jobs. We really do have the opportunity to change the economic sphere and make it better suited to the lives we want to live. It is important to think about your dream life.

Having financial freedom is one thing, but is it really important to get rich? What does financial freedom look like to you, anyway? I’ve noticed the more people make, the higher their living costs are and the more they tend to spend. This puts financial freedom in a new light, as I’ve known plenty of people who make way more than me who have much more stress, bigger bills, and more on the line than I do. I get it, worrying about money sucks and we’d all like some pressure off in that department. But it seems to me that part of the issue is a desire to have easier and easier lives. I often think my life will be awesome if I have more money to do x and y, but then life reminds me that I get the most enjoyment and fulfillment from the simple things that are free.

What if we made peace with the fact that life is often difficult?

What if we practiced contentment with what we have (“santosha” in the yoga sutras)?

What if we got into the challenges that life presents?

I will be honest; the most spiritually-rich times in my life have come from when I have been the most broken down.

Spirituality is not about bolstering your ego. It’s not about feeling good in your life. It’s not about elevating yourself above more “base” human condition. It’s not about being as wild or untethered as you can possibly be. In order to be spiritual, one doesn’t have to change a thing.

Spirit is.

Spirit, we are.

And the more we allow ourselves to merge with presence: life on Earth right here, right now, exactly as it is

this is spiritual.