Let’s take a moment to be honest with ourselves. There comes a point in our spiritual journey when the very practices we engage in become more harmful than helpful.
However, many of us are so fixated on protecting our subtle egos from reality that we choose to live in a state of denial or complete oblivion to what is really going on.
When our spiritual practices subtly amplify and inflate our sense of self, commonly called ego, we find ourselves entangled in the web of spiritual materialism.
This toxic form of spirituality is where the danger lies.
But what exactly is spiritual materialism?
Simply put, it occurs when we use spiritual concepts, practices, and tools to strengthen and solidify the illusionary self, the ego. Since the ego is the root cause of all our suffering, strengthening it through spiritual endeavors goes against the very essence and purpose of the spiritual path itself.
Regardless of the specific practice or teaching, the ego lies cunningly in wait, looking for opportunities to exploit spirituality for its own benefit.
It is imperative that we hold ourselves accountable and recognize that none of us is immune to the lure of spiritual materialism. As long as we possess an ego, its primary objective is self-preservation at all costs, because it harbors a strong fear of non-existence.
However, true enlightenment, as defined by many non-dualistic spiritual traditions, involves liberation from the clutches of the ego.
Examples of spiritual materialism
There are many examples when it comes to spiritual materialism. With a closer examination of our individual paths and practices, we can easily identify instances where our beliefs, practices, or tools serve to bolster our ego. The main question we should ask ourselves is, “How does this belief, practice, or tool strengthen my ego?”
In fact, the deeper we delve into this introspection, the more instances of spiritual materialism we discover.
However, the point is not to judge ourselves, but rather to cultivate awareness and compassion. It is through our mistakes that we learn and it is essential to reflect on our impulses and motivations with a discerning eye.
Self-reflection can be challenging at times, so learning from the examples and behaviors of others can be invaluable. Consider four common examples of spiritual materialism often found in the field of spirituality:
- The “possession” and indirect claim of special status are associated with certain gifts such as clairvoyance, the ability to read auras, or communication with spirits. These experiences can inadvertently reinforce a separate sense of self or ego.
- Falling into the trap of excessive consumption in the spiritual market. This involves constantly researching multiple workshops, methods, and techniques rather than focusing on a single path.
- Practicing meditation with the hidden intention of avoiding suffering. It is important to recognize that emotions and the mind fluctuate naturally and it is normal to experience them. We cannot avoid them indefinitely by using meditation as an escape.
- Misusing the law of attraction to manifest only desires, neglecting gratitude for what is already present in our lives.
These examples just scratch the surface, as the list goes on and on. Now, here comes the challenging moment: Can you spot any of these behaviors in yourself?
It takes honesty and humility to admit when we have lost our way. However, being willing to face the truth about yourself is a vital aspect of the spiritual journey.
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11 Signs You’re Falling Into Spiritual Materialism
The lure of spiritual materialism can be a tempting trap in our journey. It is like adorning ourselves with fine gold chains; they may be pretty and shiny, but they connect us all the same. We become immobilized, trapped by the very bonds we seek to overcome. The goal of spiritual practice is liberation, not building a gilded prison with more comfort.
Take a moment to reflect: Have you found yourself entangled in the web of spiritual materialism?
If you hesitantly answered yes, don’t worry, because you’re not alone. Imperfection is part of the human experience. However, coming face to face with this truth is an essential aspect of shadow work. By diving deep into self-reflection, we equip ourselves with the necessary tools to avoid stumbling and falling in the future. It may be uncomfortable to admit, but the importance of this work cannot be overstated.
Now, let us examine the eleven critical signs that warn against spiritual materialism. Keep a watchful eye on these indicators:
1. Spiritual Elitism
Using spiritual “achievements” or “gifts” to disconnect from others and cultivate a sense of superiority.
2. Cultural Appropriation
Using other cultures’ words, practices, or lifestyles for personal gain or self-image while trivializing their significance.
3. Creating a spiritual resume
Compiling a list of notable spiritual figures, seminars, certifications, and achievements to impress oneself and others.
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4. Compulsive Spiritual Shopping
Mindlessly acquiring spiritual guides, tools, and objects or accumulating the blessings and initiations of revered individuals, solely to feel more “special,” “awakened,” or “aligned” compared to others.
5. Obsession about the Future
Believing that if you perform specific actions now, you will reach a heightened state in the future, disregarding the importance of living in the present moment and the role of the ego in driving this belief.
Constantly seeking bigger and better spiritual practices or teachers who promise instant joy, abundance, happiness, or enlightenment, falling prey to the allure of quick fixes.
7. Focus only on the Positives
Avoiding the reality of one’s own shadow by emphasizing purely positive aspects of spirituality, such as “think positive,” “be light,” “peace and love,” or “just good vibes.”
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8. Insta Spirituality
Focusing on aesthetically pleasing spiritual practices suitable for social media platforms, while neglecting the messy, transformative aspects of the spiritual journey that cannot be neatly captured in a visually appealing snapshot.
9. Hollywood spirituality
Seeking the extraordinary and supernatural in the form of angelic visitations, mystical visions, spiritual guides, or teachers with “extrasensory” abilities, instead of recognizing and honoring the everyday magic of ordinary life.
10. Self-improvement addiction
Constantly searching for magic formulas and easy results, shifting from teacher to teacher and practice to practice, without realizing that true change requires inner work and cannot be achieved through external quick fixes.
11. Spiritual Narcissism
The culmination of spiritual materialism, where the ego expands to such an extent that one unconsciously believes oneself to be more “awakened” than others, leads to harmful behavior towards others fueled by arrogance and narcissism.
By recognizing these warning signs within ourselves, we can navigate the treacherous terrain of spiritual materialism with greater awareness and authenticity. The path to true spiritual growth entails embracing humility, compassion, and a willingness to confront the illusions of the ego in order to transcend them.
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