Spiritual materialism may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a very real concept—and it’s not nearly as uncommon as you might believe. It essentially represents the subversion of your spiritual journey.
Spirituality is rooted in the cultivation of virtues that not only enrich your own life, but help you relate better to those around you. It’s about making meaningful changes to your character. The value is found in your progression.
However, it’s possible to lose sight of this and slip into a mode of acquiring. Your approach can shift from one of learning to a ‘collect-a-thon.’ This is when you hoard techniques and experiences without ever truly appreciating their meaning, as you’ve always got one eye trained on what’s next.
It’s perfectly natural to be enthused about what the future has in store, but the reality is that it’s not here yet. You can’t affect it, except by doing certain things in the present. Your real priority should always be what’s going on right in front of you.
It can be hard to ground yourself in this perspective, especially if you’ve recently found yourself on a spiritual path. Suddenly, a whole new world of possibility opens up before you, and your instinct is to grab it with both hands. But there’s a fine line between passion and obsession.
Insecurity is the mother of haste, and the clamour to always be moving forward is the biggest detriment to progress, as you may fail to properly integrate any of your experiences.
The art of allowing vs. chasing
There are no special prizes on offer for your ‘spiritual attainments.’ Spirituality is a purely personal endeavour that’s about you and your progress. However, there can sometimes be a sense that you’re running against the clock—that you’ve got to make up for lost time. But the genesis of that thinking is the comparison mindset.
You can only run out of time if there’s a goal that you must reach—one that’s perhaps superficial. Maybe you feel inadequate within your peer group, because the others have amassed more experience on their path—and, I stress, ‘their path.’ Each one is unique. They have theirs just as you have yours.
You’re each starting at a different point with a different set of challenges, so whatever pace you find yourself setting is perfectly fine. Spirituality isn’t a competitive sport. Everything will always find you when you become a signature match for that experience. If it’s not in your field yet, it’s not relevant for you at this time. There’s no need to feel unworthy.
On your journey, your expectations will often create your limitations. Left unchecked, they can also feed into a sense of entitlement, and nothing will happen for you while you occupy this state.
Spiritual growth works in much the same way as creativity. It’s all about the ease of flow and the path of resistance. When you have to push too hard for the next milestone, there’s a good reason why it’s proving to be so difficult. And that’s because you’re not quite at the level you imagine. But it will happen.
The greatest discoveries always come when you let go and just allow things to unfold organically, much like a musician who loses themselves in a trance-like moment before an idea simply ‘comes to them.’ They’re not actually playing, but they’re allowing inspiration in by dissociating from any attachment they have to an outcome.
Nothing forced ever truly works, and you can apply this same approach to all areas of your life. Let go. It doesn’t mean that you must become a passive observer or detach from your responsibilities. You still need to participate in life, but remain grounded in the present moment.
Move away from feeding your ego
At its core, spiritual materialism is an ego-trap. It’s a means of over-compensating for your inability to deal with or manage challenges in your life. When you adopt this mindset, it sees you trying to reinforce your ego with faux-spirituality.
You may be active in your pursuits, but there’s a hidden agenda at play that stops you from making genuine progress. Your spiritual practice serves as a form of virtue signalling. There’s no fundamental change that takes place in your character—no development. It’s not so much about the outcome as it is about status. Your practice is used as something to elevate you above others.
This elitist attitude represents the very worst deviation you can take from your path. You may not believe you’re doing anything inherently wrong. You may even view your motivations as being healthy—wanting to ‘improve’ upon those around you. But all it does is reinforce a hierarchal structure in which you need to outdo people to remain fulfilled. Your ‘progress’ is based solely on competition.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s the ‘devotee.’ In this scenario, you’re equally as attached to your spirituality, but more from an emotional standpoint. It’s the only thing that’s keeping you going. You may suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem or stress, and find solace in your practice.
But that’s all it is—functional. There’s no enjoyment. You simply try and extract as much as you can from your experiences as a form of escapism. Again, there’s no change in character and no desire to address your real issues. Instead of working on yourself, you employ a handful of techniques, which you rely on for short-term relief.
In essence, they act as a crutch. You become addicted to them and form a co-dependent relationship. This has been known to be prevalent in people with substance abuse issues—turn, as an example, to kundalini yoga. Although a positive change has been made, the high of the kundalini replaces the high of the drug, meaning there is still an unhealthy fixation at play.
An extension of this is the obsession with self-improvement and the need to always be cleansing yourself. You seek out endless workshops and teachers, with the hope that one will serve as the magic bullet for your challenges. But this form of power giveaway is hope taken to the nth degree, which ultimately leads to a crashing low and a repetition of the cycle.
Expressing gratitude and playing the long game
The antidote to the instant gratification of spiritual materialism is gratitude. It’s an often-cited practice that perhaps suffers from being offered without much explanation or context. And because of this, it’s become somewhat of a disposable concept.
Gratitude is the foundation on which real happiness is built. When you can be truly grateful for what you have, there’s no need to chase endless ‘enlightenment experiences.’ There’s no longer anything lacking, or a need to find that special something. You shift from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance.
As a result, this brings about more of the experiences you want from life. When you couple your state of allowing with gratitude for what you already have, it completes a circuit that serves as a continuous feedback loop of manifestation and synchronicity.
It’s that simple. Challenge yourself to appreciate the little things—those you may have been taking for granted up to this point. Don’t judge or try to assign a value to them. Just allow your experiences to be what they are, and look out for the synchronistic moments that trickle into your life.
Shedding the weight of expectancy is one of the most liberating feelings there is, and it all starts by just allowing. Let the cultivation of gratitude be the next ‘big thing’ on your journey.
You’re neither in a race, nor a competition. You never have been, and never will be. The only thing holding you back is yourself—not the amount of spiritual credit you have in the bank. All your experiences, techniques and insights don’t matter. They’re vanity metrics, although that’s not to dismiss them entirely. They can obviously be helpful, but only from a practical standpoint, not in the accumulative sense. You need to make these things matter.
If there’s no substance backing up the pursuit of any of these concepts, then your practice is merely recreational at best, and superficial at worst. Harsh words, perhaps, but if you are serious about spirituality, wouldn’t you like to know where your true intentions lie? Only you can answer that question. You don’t need to be chasing experience after experience in some kind of spiritual rat race.
Truth be told, you don’t need to do any of that. All those things mean nothing unless you’re capable of acting from your heart. Spirituality really is all about basic goodness.
Your practice can be as simple as expressing gratitude, acting out of kindness and showing compassion towards others. That’s all you need. That’s spirituality. If you were to do just these three things on a consistent basis, you’d soon find you already have everything you need right in front of you.
«RELATED READ» THE BHAGAVAD GITA: A metaphor for fighting a spiritual war against ego»
image 1 Pixabay 2 Pixabay 3 Pixabay 4 Pixabay