The spiritual ego is the sneakiest disguise the ego can take.
As you’re getting closer to Truth, your mind really learns how to turn all those old obvious stories into spiritual stories. And so you don’t catch yourself repeating all your old conditioning because now you’ve got a spiritual spin on it. This makes it harder to sniff out.
In this blog post, we will look at common disguises the spiritual ego can take and how to cut through them to live more authentically.
The Spiritual One
One thing that Rupert Spira (teacher of the Direct Path) says which is quite helpful is that if there is an ‘I’ who thinks they don’t get it or do get it, that’s an indication that this ‘I’ cannot be trusted.
The one that’s saying "I had a beautiful spiritual experience" or "I have lost it". There is no ‘I’ that could have gained or lost it. And there’s no ‘I’ that ever had a spiritual experience. For him, there’s no such thing as a spiritual experience, there’s just experience.
It is the mind and spiritual ego that will say "this is a spiritual experience and therefore a good one" and "this was not a spiritual experience and therefore a bad one". But your True Self doesn’t have such distinction.
As well, we go through life with these certain personalities. The funny one, the angry one, etc. Then we hear about spirituality and it’s like ‘oh finally!’ The spiritual one. And it comes from good intention but a misdirection of that pure intention. The mind starts to attach or identify to the story that we’re spiritual. ‘Me’ I did this or ‘me’ I can have this experience. If there is a strong identification as an individual spiritual person, this is a way to sniff out the ego quite quickly.
Sharing of Experiences
Another way we can sniff out the spiritual ego is to check in with our intention when sharing what we might call "spiritual experiences".
In Tibetan Tantra, for example, you never talk about the practices. There are some which are open but many are closed. You don't hear about them from those who practice. In Indian spirituality, it’s less rigid in a way. This is because if we get caught up in sharing these profound experiences, they lose some of their power.
If you take this mind-blowing experience, you stood at the top of the mountain seeing the earth in all her glory, and you try to explain that to somebody, you fit that profound experience into a little box. And it’s no longer as profound. It can become a story you like to tell to appear special. The mind does this comparison with others, it always wants to appear better than the other. So we sometimes share these stories for recognition.
This is not to say you never share your experiences, there is definitely a time and place. For example, sharing experiences in meditation with a teacher who is helping you with your meditation can serve you very well on the path.
You don’t have to fear that you will lose that taste of something, but it’s important to be attentive to why you're sharing it. If you're sharing it in hopes to get some guidance or in an intimate conversation, this is purer. Sometimes it comes up to help explain a point or to understand a perspective. But it’s not for recognition, there’s a humility behind it.
Often times it is the spiritual ego who believes they are here to help everyone. It might say "I’m sharing all of this because I’m helping people" or "I’m bringing more light into this person’s life." We may tell ourselves that all of this sharing was being done to help others when in actuality it was making you feel pretty good about yourself.
Many authentic teachers are not saying they’re sharing to "help others" because they’re not trying to be anyone. They don’t judge whether they’re doing well based on their Instagram likes, the number of students, or praises they hear.
Some great teachers refuse to even have websites. As well, some wonderful teachers are on youtube, Instagram, all the socials. But it’s very important to check in with this one that thinks they’re sharing to help people. Again, the intention is very important. The story around it is very important. ‘I’m a healer, a helper, enlightened, etc.' Who is this for?
How to Chop Through the Spiritual Ego
The spiritual ego is so close to us. It mimics our True Self and so it can be hard to distinguish between the two.
One way to catch it and chop through it is checking in with the ‘I’ and its commentary.
Am I sharing/helping for personal gain?
Am I identifying as the spiritual one?
Do I feel better than another when I share this? Or help another?
As well, there’s the path of having a Guru because this creates humility.
How could I be so special when in the presence of such a master?
In their shadow, can I see I am still living with ignorance and ego?
And maybe it’s a dance between these two to really sniff out the spiritual ego. Again, this one is so close to our being and can be very difficult to catch and even more difficult to look at once we see it. You can recognize it, hold it in compassion, and come back to your intention time and again to not identify so strongly with/as it.
As well, by establishing yourself more and more as the True Self, the attachment or identification with the spiritual ego will fall away naturally. Our courses, trainings, and retreats are all based on the foundation of knowing the True Self and allowing its light to shine forth in the world without anything special to prove.
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