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My Pesky (spiritual) Ego!

If I could only point out your discrepancies, your flaws in thinking, I’m sure I could fix you. After all, I’ve read all the books and, having made some progress, am wiser than you might think! So goes my ego thoughts when feeling the need to impart my superlative ‘spiritual’ (or otherwise) wisdom to another.

Recently, I had the great (mis)fortune of doing just that. A client I’m consulting on a writing project was describing some of her spiritual practices, a few of which I had imbibed in during an earlier phase of my life. As she named several teachers/writers, I described them as being part of the ‘astral circus,’ which surely implied how I perceived her spiritual state. Oh, how self-righteous I felt, couching my presumed intention to impart something of value to her undoubtedly for her own good. How generous I was imparting my ‘advanced’ wisdom in helping her along her own path. Yet, as soon as I used the term I regretted it, knowing it was so far out of context not to mention incredibly ego-driven on my part to do so.

Oh, the arrogance!

Of course my behavior was to boomerang, a karmic consequence if there ever was one, coming fast and loose a few short weeks later. Upon stewing on this absurd display of impudence and pride however craftily I thought I had disguised it, my client called me on it. She told me she was hurt by what I had said, feeling I had denigrated her beliefs and therefore her. Regardless of whether I felt my perception was right or wrong I knew from whence my true impulse came: and that was from the ego, spiritually beneficent or not!

Once her assertion was leveled, I instantly apologized knowing deep down that my true intention was to position myself as ‘better than,’ ‘further along than,’ and ‘more spiritually evolved than,’ her. In rapid succession I became aware of two other things: of being exposed, having to confront not only her but, just as importantly, myself, and also that ‘being right was more important than being kind.’ Ha! How spiritual is that?

So we talked it through and I recognized the enormous value of owning (taking responsibility for) the truth of what I had done. What’s more, once exposed to myself, I was aware of doing this kind of thing throughout my life, whether imparting precious insights about politics, God, healthy food patterns, parenting, whatever. While becoming increasingly more conscious of the dynamic of “I know best,” it seems I have generated an opportunity for practicing humility and none too soon!

Fast forward a couple weeks after my lesson in humility and truth-telling to self and karma has surely sought me out. How? I was to be on the receiving end of someone else’s presumably ‘well-intentioned’ spiritual vanity when a friend told me I had made numerous ‘dualistic/causal’ statements that hampered my spiritual advancement. Oh, the justice in the universe! Naturally, I was angry and defensive, calling her on some of her own ‘causal’ beliefs even though her style is often different than mine. But dualism is still dualism and naturally, the paltry ego went into action right away to point this out. It also occurred to me that defensiveness can take the form of defending one’s integrity and it seems I owe myself that much.

Still, as the days wore on, I fumed. But something else was unfolding as well. My regard for my client’s honesty and integrity for communicating how she felt in the first experience grew in my estimation. In addition, in the karmic exchange that followed between she and I a greater ‘owning’ on my part occurred, which was a relief. With this, I felt profoundly better, allowing the emotions to surface and dissipate.

What’s more, I became aware that until such time as any of us truly become enlightened and transcend the ego altogether we are stuck with it. That doesn’t mean, however, we can’t take responsibility for the (ego’s) actions, quite the contrary.  Becoming ever more conscious of what we are doing is the way to reduce unwanted effects, ultimately taming the pesky illusion we all suffer from. I, for one, am only able to practice this process when conditions are right in combination with my intention to do so, when the opportunities present themselves, and so I must.

With that, I (dualistic description that it is) march on, practicing vigilant awareness on these, at times laughable at times cry-able, human characteristics we all suffer from: those of vanity, pride, and arrogance, juicing our own positions, juicing my own positions and perceptions, resulting in the unconscious habit to ‘make someone else wrong’. As Helen Keller so rightly put it: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

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