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Spiritual Overwhelm Follow-Up: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Posted Apr 15 2009 11:00pm

I wrote about spiritual overwhelm about a week ago and it seems that many of you can relate. Some of you asked for more about this topic, so I'd like to oblige. My inspiration for this post comes from blogger, true yogi, and all-around cool lady Linda-Sama (this wonderful woman is the real deal, so check out her blog -- great stuff!). In response to my post on spiritual overwhelm, Linda brought up the concept of spiritual materialism.

What, you may ask, is spiritual materialism? It's when we deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our ego through spiritual techniques. Sound familiar? Is your ego saying, "No, that's not me at all"? If so, perhaps you should examine this concept a bit more. I know that I have been guilty of Spiritual Materialism quite a bit myself. My ego has denied it, of course, but I know better. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Or should I say, confused. Confused. Confused.

This concept comes from Chogyam Trungpa's book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Back when I lived in Boston, I attended meditations, workshops, and dharma talks at the local Shambhala Center. During that time I read quite a bit of Trungpa's work. Yet, somehow, this wonderful book illuded me (or my ego and I illuded it, which is probably a more accurate statement). Since I've been thinking about this topic lately -- and thanks to Linda-Sama's gentle reminder -- I bought the book and am now reading it.

It's just the thing for those of us who start believing our delusions of grandeur, thinking that we are awakened. I do have my moments, yes, but confusion often reigns. Just to give you a taste of the clearly stated, brilliant wisdom of the book, you can read an excerpt here. If you think you're above this or don't need to read the book in its entirety (let me assure you, you do), here's another nugget for you to consider:

"'But, we might ask, 'If our real condition is an awakened state, why are we so busy trying to avoid becoming aware of it?' It is because we have become so absorbed in our confused view of the world, that we consider it real, the only possible world. This struggle to maintain the sense of a solid, continuous self is the action of ego....If we become successful at maintaining our self-consciousness through spiritual techniques, then geniune spiritual development is highly unlikely."

"We have come here to learn about spirituality. I trust the genuine quality of this search but we must question its nature. The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality. Ego is constantly attempting to acquire and apply the teachings of spirituality for its own benefit. The teachings are treated as an external thing, external to "me," a philosophy which we try to imitate. We do not actually want to identify with or become the teachings. So if our teacher speaks of renunciation of ego, we attempt to mimic renunciation of ego. We go through the motions, make the appropriate gestures, but we really do not want to sacrifice any part of our way of life. We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path."

I think this excerpt speaks for itself. Read the book, consider what's presented, and rethink your level of awakenedness. Ego or true self? Sometimes it can be difficult to determine who's running the show. As I read the book, I'm reminded that I need to spend more time looking inside rather than outside. Yes, I practice yoga every day. Yes, I practice pranayama every day. But my meditation practice isn't where it could be. Sitting will most assuredly help with my discernment in regards to my being in ego or being awake.

Thank you Linda-Sama for your comment about this topic and for your mention of the important topic of spiritual materialism!

And since this is a follow-up post, I'd like to offer up a follow-up link to my Yoga & Journaling post from the other day -- check out this great blog post on Mad Ninja Journaling. If my post didn't inspire you to pick up a pen, perhaps this will.

Before I sign off, I'd like to offer up a gentle reminder that voting for the Chapeau Blog Awards started yesterday and runs through April 30. I'm proud to say that this blog is a finalist, so if you like what you read here please vote.


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