Breaking Out Of Spiritual Materialism


The only thing worse than living a shallow life, with no curiosity whatsoever about why you were born or what you are here for and what you need to learn and do, etc., is to get stuck in the world of “spiritual materialism”.

The first person to coin this phrase was Chogyam Trungpa. In it, he offers the following passage about spiritual materialism: “Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism.”
What Spiritual Materialism Is

What happens is that under the guise of becoming more conscious, we actually become less. The more seminars we attend, the more classes we complete, the more eco-friendly products we use, the more “conscious” we feel we are becoming, but that just isn’t so.

The ego is ugly and it rears its head in many forms. Getting attached to its various forms actually takes us further away from the Truth. If you are mostly OUTWARD directed – need to be doing something, anything, most of the time – that is the OPPOSITE of spirituality. If you think that enrolling in course after course will give you happiness, that is not the case. There is NO course, no pill, no vitamin, no laser pulse machine, no book, no food, no anything, that will change your energy other than the hard work you do to quiet your mind and open your heart.

It’s not just that these extraneous things don’t do it. It’s that they actually take you further away from your true Self. It’s a double whammy that ends up making you feel self-righteous and not delivering any real sense of peace.
How to Be Truly Spiritual

To begin to access your inner Self, there is nothing more important than being present. This is NOT an easy task. ONLY when you are present are you conscious. At all other times you are either in the past or the future, one step away from the action. It means stepping into life and doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention.

If you multitask, text and talk at the same time, or constantly answer your phone when you are having lunch with someone, not only is your energy scattered, but you are virtually asleep. The more we move about, the more important we feel, but a life of movement and drama is not the same as a conscious life, a life of substance. How can you connect when you are not present?

Connecting is what breaks the walls of separation and dissolves the ego. It is our ego that makes us feel separate, disconnected from one another, cut off from love. Being present is what connects us. This takes discipline and hard work and is not for the faint of heart. By slowing it down we actually get more done. Nothing conveys love more than paying attention.

So are you courageous enough to put down all your tools – the pills, the journal (yes, even that!), the courses, the healers, the chanters – and walk bravely into life with no props other than life itself? The lessons that come to you on a daily basis are the lessons that will set you free. They are the universe’s way of providing you with the perfect path, one meant exclusively for you.

Whether it’d be extracting yourself from an unloving relationship with an abusive spouse or parent, or finding work that nourishes your soul, if you are brave enough to not get distracted, you will automatically do the “spiritual” work that is meant for you. This is the beginning of Self-love: the real work of the spirit.

Chandra Alexander

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