Healthy transcendence requires facing reality
Is there a way to resist the lure of spiritual narcissism? I think so. But the first step is to realize how incredibly difficult it is. A serious obstacle is the way in which spiritual practices are touted. Mindfulness meditation is big business in the US; their promises have one billion dollar industry spawned. Yoga is the most popular exercise for body and mind in western cultures. Many programs advertise reducing stress and anxiety, improving eating habits and sleep, increasing self-confidence, creativity, attention, performance, success and even happiness.
But healthy transcendence requires facing reality with serenity and loving kindness. It’s not about splitting off parts of yourself and rising above the rest of humanity, but about seeing reality clearly. Or as the psychotherapist Nancy Colier says: The point of mindfulness is “to perceive what is happening in us without wanting to evaluate or change it”. It is dangerous if the mindful witness becomes a different kind of ego, “a new identity that we proudly display.”
The real point of yoga is not for physically attractive people to proudly show off their bodies into a pretzel
Don’t get me wrong: I’m excited about all the different complicated yoga poses on Instagram. But the real point of yoga is not for physically attractive people to proudly show off their bodies into a pretzel.
Rather, we get most of it when we do not use the spiritual practices as a tool to satisfy any need, whether for security, belonging, or self-appreciation. We can become more mature, wiser, more compassionate and develop acceptance and unconditional appreciation if we practice observing our own thinking and behavior and catching the clever ego trying to benefit from the practices.