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In Yourself and In Others: Beware of The Spiritual Ego!

In Yourself and In Others: Beware of The Spiritual Ego!

One of the important rituals of spiritual practice is to understand the ego state and go beyond it. But one of the pitfalls of this practice is that many people end up thinking they have moved away from their ego only to find that they have substituted their ego with a new one….the spiritual ego.

This spiritual ego can create a new way of seeing and portraying itself. This ego can see itself as superior or more enlightened than others. The ego motivates the person to be in the presence of other spiritual like-minded folks. This reinforces and acknowledges the ego’s way of thinking.

The mind still seeks pleasure but it now adds a new goal. It seeks having mystical or spiritual experiences that reinforces the idea that it is special. The mind is still not satisfied with these experiences. It continues to seek new techniques and methods to reach higher states of being.

After revelations or peak experiences, the spiritual ego believes it has things to teach others. “If you follow what I believe and teach”…. you will also live more fully and be very special.

If the spiritual ego developed because of a specific practice of meditation or yoga or through the teachings of the Buddha or a Guru, the spiritual ego will highly recommend this teacher and path as the Way to Enlightenment.   When questioned, the spiritual ego will offer what was recited by more evolved authors, teachers or masters, as a way to substantiate the Truth.

How do I know this? Because this is what happened to me during my spiritual journey! In the later stages of my quest to achieve oneness, I developed a spiritual ego.

It was my belief that I knew so much more than others about what we are and why we are here on this planet.   I put in countless hours of meditation, devoured a library of spiritual books, devoted myself to multiple Gurus and had experienced out of body and mind altering moments.

I falsely thought I was well on my way to enlightenment and I wanted to share it with everyone that would listen ( But actually my spiritual ego was seeking applause. And my mind was fooling itself.

And therein is the problem. I was still using my mind and its thoughts and just did not realize that “what we are”, can never be known by the mind. The mind can only know what you are not.

I realized, during a peak experience, that enlightenment is just a concept made up by the mind to describe the indescribable. Seeking to go beyond ego was beyond the mind. We can’t use the mind to go beyond the mind.

Today I recognize that I still have an ego, the regular kind and the spiritual variety and probably always will.

However, I now recognize after years of witnessing my thoughts that I am indeed not what the mind thinks.   I am beyond my thoughts and memories and cannot be anything that I conceive or perceive. I am not special in contrast to others that do not seek a spiritual awakening.

We are all connected to something much More than we realize whether we seek to know it or not.

I share my experience of the spiritual ego with you in the hope that you will begin (if you have not already) to recognize this spiritual ego phenomenon both in yourself and in others.

Be aware of this mind/ego tendency and observe it from your own experience. Be cautious who you follow and what they teach. Accept it or reject it as you see fit. The Truth resides in you.

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What I learned Seeking Enlightenment

What I learned Seeking Enlightenment

I heard about “enlightenment” when I was 21 years old and my life was never the same. I felt an innate desire to attain a state of being that would take away my pain and suffering and give me eternal bliss. I became a seeker.

I had just graduated college and won the draft lottery. The government was going to send me to Vietnam. How I avoided going to the jungles of Southeast Asia can be told another time. But this was an important event in my life because it was a major impetus for questioning everything that I had been taught about our American culture and its values.

I started my journey to enlightenment with transcendental meditation and for the first time in my life I recognized that my mind could actually become quiet. Like a lot of young people during the early 1970’s I was dabbling in counter-culture activities like drugs, free love, rock concerts and philosophical discussions geared to tear down what we thought we knew about our world.

I was rebelling and redefining myself. I had long hair, a motorcycle, wore the uniform of the hippy culture and began to develop a spiritual practice. I turned my back on the corporate world, attained an advanced degree and dedicated my career to helping youth and families.

I thought I was on a path to self-discovery. After all, I was consuming spiritual books, reciting ancient mantras, following a spiritual master and attending lectures about out of mind and body experiences.

Through the years I married, had children and advanced in my career. In the perceptions of others, I appeared to be a normal upstanding citizen of our world. But internally, although my community activities had changed, I never stopped seeking enlightenment. I was dedicated to mediation, but the form of that practice was now driven by Kriya Yoga taught by Paramahansa Yogananda.

Through the years my seeking was reinforced by intense but short lived magnificent glimpses and experiences into the true nature of who we really are. But not all of these experiences were blissful. Some experiences brought me to a state of deep fear as my mind was not going to easily relinquish its grasp of reality.

Having a “peak” experience is truly wonderful but coming back to the mind’s reality is downright dark and depressing. I remember reading a book by Jack Kornfield that describes this. It was titled, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”.

These experiences eventually brought me to a new practice of exploring my mind and learning how it keeps me from seeing the truth of who we really are. I gave up the need to find enlightenment and was determined to watch my mind. My meditation even changed and I no longer sat for hours to quiet my mind. Now I was determined to watch how it kept me from being who I really am. In essence my practice changed from seeking enlightenment to seeking the seeker of enlightenment.

Eventually, as my mind relinquished its grip, I truly “realized” that enlightenment is a “concept” that is created by the mind and is part of the illusion we call life. Anything that is conceivable or perceivable in the mind is not who we are. We are beyond all thoughts, memories, ideas or concepts.

The mind is the seeker but it can never know what we are and never bring us to the state of being that the concept enlightenment portrays.   But it can help us to look at what we are not. And when we realize what we are not, this takes us to back to our true being. And that true being is beyond the concept of enlightenment, beyond the mind and body and beyond consciousness itself.

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