Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beware the Spiritual Ego

Ego is important. It has a role to play in our lives. It gives us a way to sort through millions of big and tiny experiences, sensations, ideas, and feelings to make some semblance of it all.

What is that I am feeling? Ah, that is hunger. When I feel this, I should eat. What should I eat? This kind of hunger usually means that I need to eat a salad.

Just in that very basic situation, you were deluged with a variety of information to review and decisions to make. This is the power of the ego to help us make sense of this crazy experience of being human

Authentic, But It's Still an Ego
So while the spiritual awakening will tend to detonate a small bomb inside our current egos, there's a tendency to think that we've transcended all the ego nonsense. But that's just not true. Typically almost immediately after clearing out all that junk, we immediately start building a new ego. While I don't consider this a bad thing if consciously done, many people keep playing the same game only it's got new packaging around it. Instead of getting high-paying jobs, fancy cars, fancy clothes, culturally sexy girlfriends/boyfriends (I say culturally because social standards on beauty and sex appeal are seriously messed up), the spiritual ego desires and obtains high-state experiences, connection, gurus, etc.

Game Number 1: High Falutin Language
There's a whole kind of new agey, spiritual-type language that's sprung up. Used too much, it's just another empty vessel that obscures how we feel in the moment. Nonetheless, I hear people using a lot of these "spiritual" type words, and it comes off as false. It's just a new ego trying to hide itself behind these words. It's not all bad, and sometimes, I know that people are practicing these concepts and words, bringing them into a deeper knowing. It's one thing to say, "Everything is Beauty," but it's a whole other thing to know this in a full-body, gut-feeling, in-the-marrow-of-your-bones way.

Spiritual lexicon can even be used to obscure issues when the whole point of things is to be able to better deal with old wounds and open yourself in new ways. Consider that whenever you are sharing your experiences. Be sure that others understand what you mean (and also be sure that you truly understand what you mean). That's how you can stay in integrity with whatever words you so choose to use.

Game Number 2: The Spiritual Experience

So you're all awakened, eh? And now you just want spiritual experiences? Well, what is it that is wanting that? Your spiritual ego. Seriously, this is okay just as long as you know that this is a new game you're playing. Go run around and connect with people, sit with spiritual teachers, be a spiritual teacher, heal people, donate to charity, volunteer, and do all these beautiful practices. I'd love to see tons more people doing this. But don't forget that this is still an ego desire. Remember that it is all about "how" you are and how you come from a deep space of awakened love in your being.

The more you naturally move from that space, the more it doesn't matter quite as much what you are doing. The love and intention are already at work shifting things in remarkable ways that none of us can fully intellectually know or see. This truth is a real challenge for the ego which needs external validation, merit badges, and benchmarks to know if it is making a difference in your experiences or in others' lives. So let these go, and trust a little more that how you are is the perfect awakened experience to be experiencing right now in this moment.

Letting Go of Spiritual Ego
The deeper you doesn't need a "spiritual" context. The deeper part of you moves to do things in a much subtler way. One day you may be in a bar drinking a beer, swearing like a sailor; the next, you may be on a plane to Uganda. There's much less planning...or at least much less definition. Life without attachment to an ego is without boundaries. It allows you to be anyway that you want. And that's the real gift of life; you can be anyway you want.

In many ways, the spiritual ego (the ego that thinks it is spiritual, but still looks to validate itself in some way) becomes its own trap. Any time you think you need to be a certain way, you're falling away from the truth. Initially, it's scary to be so free of ego that you can't tell what you'll want or who'll you be from one day to the next. In many ways our ego controls us with that fear of the unknown.

The Ego Is Just a Tool
But the truly spiritual ego understands that the ego is just a tool. It understands that the ego is temporary and meant to be used in service to spirit. Like a tool, it can be brought out of the shed for a little while for a specific purpose (like the hunger example above). After that, it can be retired and put away, and it's not such a big deal to do so.

Today's picture comes from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her beautiful photography on this Flickr link.
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