I’ve kind of had it “up to here” with spiritual materialism: people spending $200.00 on yoga outfits, the abundance of self-proclaimed gurus taking ancient Eastern spiritual principles and repackaging them into fragmented Cole’s notes versions, and films that suggest if we simply repeat our daily affirmations we’ll attract the perfect partner and a high paying job. And if it doesn’t attract them, we must be doing it wrong. Suddenly, personal growth is all about outcome. Everybody’s jumping on the spiritual bandwagon. But hey, it’s hip. It’s cool. It’s fun. Let’s all chant, “Namaste,” together!
I don’t know . . . Personally, my spiritual path hasn’t always been so hip, cool and fun. It has often felt beautiful, but along that path there has also been pain. When I was in my early 20s being spiritual wasn’t hip at all. I spent my evenings hanging out with people 30 years older than I was in Buddhist and meditation classes. I remember feeling isolated, with my mind full of questions, wanting to share my path so desperately. I felt such frustration that everyone my own age was hanging out in bars getting wasted instead of wanting to discuss concepts such as impermanence and emptiness. It was a lonely time. Even now, I consider myself a happy person, but my current path is by no means a simple one.
I’m grateful to have connected with an abundance of authentic, aligned seekers and feel no lack of sangha. But similar to when I was younger, I still feel disconnected from the mainstream. Before, this disconnect was due to an absence of spiritual support, and now it involves me questioning the authenticity of fellow seekers and the teachings available. I find myself concerned about what the Westernized spiritual movement has become.
One of my favorite books is Cutting through Spiritual Materialism by 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.”
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