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Is Your Ego Driving Your Spiritual Path?

photo: Miquel C. on flickr

photo: Miquel C. on flickr

We’ve all been there:

We’re meditating. Or doing yoga. Or some really groovy, spiritual thing.

And we’re totally in the zone. We’re in the flow with everything around us. We’re totally getting the whole spiritual thing. We’re feelin’ it. We’re livin’ it. We ARE it.

And then it gets interesting.

We can’t help but notice that, in our state of flow, we are doing a really awesome job. Indeed, it could be said that we are the most amazing spiritual seeker ever. No one can deny our complete spiritual awesomeness.

And just like that, we’re knocked out of the flow. By taking score of what a great job we’re doing, our ego has come to call.

It has asserted its view of separation onto our sweet little scene, tearing us away from that blissful feeling of oneness.

We could get really pissed off at the ego for wrecking our spiritual party, but that would just keep us stuck in egoic muck.

photo: Anna Tesar on flickr

photo: Anna Tesar on flickr

Instead, it’s better to turn a compassionate eye toward our ego. It’s better to learn to be gentle with ourselves about this tendency to separate ourselves from life.

Learning to do this is ultimately what the spiritual path is all about.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.

The ego can certainly intrude on our spiritual paths by praising our progress. But there’s another way the ego can hijack our path, one that can be harder to detect.

The other day, I was listening to a guided meditation by a well-known spiritual teacher. As I listened to her voice, I relaxed my body and mind, slipping into a state of woo-woo oneness.

Everything was going really well, until I started to notice a pattern in what she was saying.

Her words were littered with superlatives. Everything was about opening up to the highest and best thoughts. About allowing our excellence to shine through. About the triumph I would experience as a result of this meditation.

I started to feel like I was in a woo-woo commercial. I would emerge from this meditation with the brightest, shiniest aura ever. My triumphant excellence would shine throughout the land.

photo: Daniel Novta on flickr

photo: Daniel Novta on flickr

It was the same as getting caught in my own egoic praise, only this time it was coming from the spiritual teacher herself.

I’ve seen this before, especially in New Age/New Thought teachings. Growth is all about better/faster/more. Egoic-driven materialism has come to call, corrupting the practice.

And yet the use of superlative phrases doesn’t have to reinforce the ego. In my affirmative prayer work, I often use the phrase “even better than I can imagine.”

By using this phrase, I let the Divine take over.

I move beyond my limited, ego-driven ideas of what is highest and best, and open to something even more magnificent.

Invariably, the result of such prayer work is way beyond anything I would have come up with.

Indeed, you could even say that this practice moves me into a state of triumphant excellence. Only I can’t get a big head about it, because I know it’s not me that made it happen. It’s me in conjunction with this Energy that’s both me and bigger than me.

photo: v1ctor Casale on flickr

photo: v1ctor Casale on flickr

And yet, by stating that my prayer practice is a good way to connect with a Higher Power, and the meditation I was listening to was a bad way to connect with a Higher Power, am I falling into yet another egoic trap?

Yes! Yes, I am!

See, what ultimately knocked me out of that guided meditation was my own judgment of the spiritual teacher.

Yes, she had definitely maybe allowed a competitive, materialistic, ego-driven vibe to corrupt peek into her meditation. But I had countered her ego with my own.

She was a baaaaaaad spiritual teacher. And I was an extra-special, super-enlightened smarty pants!

photo: Nickolai Kashirin

photo: Nickolai Kashirin

In this case, in order to move into alignment with the Divine – i.e. true triumphant excellence I needed to release my judgment of her. And my judgment of myself for judging her.

Boy, this stuff is tricky sometimes, isn’t it?

I still think that the ego can disguise itself in pseudo triumphant excellent spiritual teachings. But I can be a lot more gentle about the whole thing.

Or, if I can’t, I can catch myself. And laugh. And then remember to be gentle.

Is your ego is driving your spiritual path?

Yes, sometimes. It’s part of the price of admission.

But we get to catch ourselves. And laugh.

And that’s also part of the price of admission.

All in all, it’s a pretty great ride.

photo: toNG!?

photo: toNG!?

How does your ego hijack your spiritual path? And how do you get back on track? Share your comments below!

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6 Responses to Is Your Ego Driving Your Spiritual Path?

  1. Sherry October 22, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    OMG – My head hurts trying to soak all of this in, Z.

    Just Kidding! Very well written.

    I love it when you cross words out and write a nicer way. It cracks me up!

    • Z Egloff October 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Hi Sherry!

      Glad you like the strikeouts. I love that technique – a development of our computer age. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      XOZ

  2. Karen October 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    The pictures are always wonderful, Z. Even those muddy boots. :) And like Sherry, I love the way you use the strikeouts again in this post.

    As for the ego, well, ahem. Instead of trying to figure out if I’m coming from my ego, super ego, id, or the chakra in my left earlobe, I love this approach:

    –If I’m thinking thoughts that feel good to me emotionally, I’m lined up with my joyful, divine Inner Being & I’m allowing my natural well-being to flow freely to me.

    –If I’m thinking thoughts that feel bad to me emotionally, I can reach for thoughts that bring relief & improve the amount of my natural well-being that I’m allowing to flow right now.

    Good feels good. Bad feels bad. Nothing to figure out — just inching along to joy. :)

    • Z Egloff October 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      Muddy boots are awesome! When I was kid, my nickname was Mudbutt. But that’s another story altogether. Perhaps another blog post. And I’ll make sure to use some strikeouts.

      Personally, I like the left earlobe chakra method of discernment. It’s served me quite well. But the feeling good method works quite well also! :)

      XOZ

  3. Nathsn K. October 31, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    So I just read this after coincidentally trying something similar however instead of a guided meditation I was just listening to a binural beat track to coax a headache to fade. No such luck when Spirit as I know would suggest Aleve or sleep. My ego now that I question it is as much a part of me as I can be. Also to note the “ego” as commonly known is a Westernized idea. According to the book, “Confusion no More” by Balsekar, the ego does not exist for when the sage becomes enlighten he still answers to his name. Meaning if the ego when something separate of which to surrender the me that knows itself via the ego would not exist. So if the ego is this burden of sperateness we feel, when I become aware of my presence out of the flow of God that could be my ego itching me to become aware of my choices, thoughts etc. This now comes to the topic of free will and personal doership. If we have free will then we are still troubled with our thoughts and actions. Just think of all the thoughts that may have lead to the right action which then lead to the precise results when the decision was made. If free will is resonpible for all the guilt and shame etc we experience then why not just let the ego surrender itself? Thus if the ego gave way to the will of God or Cosmic Law then that would mean total acceptance. In conclusion as the great Buddha said, “events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer of any deed.” So all that just to retort and say this, whatever the case may be, you, me, we are on the right path as we should be in accordance with Spirit, The Universal Mind aka God. This means that in any given situation what is one to do? The answer is to do what you think you should. Whatever happens – regardless of the consequences – would be unfolding exactly as it should in accordance with the Universal Law. So no ego, no worries, no problem. Just remember that whatever the ego thinks it should do it should because no one has any control over God’s will or Universal Law. Peace comes knowing and being aware of this Truth and even with thoughts, desires and feelings this awareness permeates the ego and that is part of enlightenment on the spiritual path. God bless. (And I’m out of breath).

    • Z Egloff October 31, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      Hi Nathan!

      Always nice to see you here. This whole question of the ego on the spiritual path is such a pesky one. Or wait, is that just my ego’s perspective? And what is wrong with pesky, anyway? I agree with you that ego is a part of us. That’s just the way it is. And I also agree that the ego can egg us on to move forward on our path. Indeed, the ego is part of the path. Although, in enlightenment, we see the ultimate insubstantiality of the ego. So is the ego ultimately an illusion? Perhaps. In the sense that a reality separate from the Divine is an illusion. Ultimately, it’s all Divine. Even the ego. And contemplating all of this is part of parting the curtain just a little more, and seeing the Truth.

      Thank you for your breath-filled comment! :)

      XOZ

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