Why Is Ego So Prominent In So Called "Conscious" Communities And "The Movement"?

in Abundance Tribe2 months ago (edited)

This is my response to @abundance.tribe's bi-weekly question, just about getting in before the cut off I think!

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I remember my first Big Green Gathering a couple of decades ago, walking around the 'healing field' perusing all the usual spiritual trades and freebies - of course the Kadampas were there, a couple of Tai Chi tents, several Chai Tea tents (not sure what that's got to do with spirituality but the play on words was too easy), the men's tent, (which looked terrifying), a very stout woman offering a rebirthing experience (at the time she was lying on her back with some dude resting on her feet, maybe birth was like that?) the Crystal Skulls guy (they open a portal to another dimension, apparently), and much much more.

At some point I heard a voice behind me chucking out complements -'You're looking great today', 'Man, such great energy' and so on.

I turned around, and there was a dude sitting there next to a simple sign which read 'free ego massage'.

At the time I just lolled - given the context it was just fucking hilarious - I'm not so much a 'deep-green', I'm more of a 'social ecology' green (more a Mandela than a Mandala man, if you like), and when I say 'perusing' the healing field, that's what I meant, I was never going to get involved, I was at that gathering for the Permaculture and Monbiot-baiting, not the spiritual-market.

So it was nice to see a bit of humour in that healing field, all too often those people offering spiritual services take themselves a bit too seriously.

So why is there so much Ego in the conscious communities?

The the same reason why we see so much ego in any other sphere of life - from business to celebrity culture, whether IRL or on social media.

In Buddhist terms, Egoistic action is ultimately down ignorance, or delusion of the truth of no-I, and those in the Sprituality movement who trade off their ego-identities unfortunately haven't realised the irony of this: that all they are doing is attaching symbols to themselves, constructing an ego-identity through that attachment, and then projecting this limited self out there into the world, and in some cases, making a living out of this: through Tai Chi, Rebirthing, Crystal Skulls, etc. etc. etc.

The irony when this happens within the Spirituality Movement is that frequently, part of that ego-identity is built out of projecting a 'self' which is supposedly free of worldly attachments, whereas in reality, that 'self' might be free of material possessions and certain habits, but it is very attached to the idea of itself being free, and helping others to be free, rather than actually being free, or helping others to do so.

It can get extreme: I remember a friend of mind telling me about one Yoga retreat he went on where the teacher spent 40 minutes outlining her life-history at the introductions over the first night's dinner - he lost it, I think that's a legitimate response.

It's not all bad


There are some genuine spiritual guides out there - you just need to avoid anyone selling themselves as such - a good example is an old Tai Chi teacher of min - Paul Brewer - here's his web site - just enough information to show you what he does, and tell you what the discipline is about, and not a great deal of info about him, he's just an ordinary bloke - pretty free of ego, perfect - you can tell that from one of his on site photos:

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Honestly, no one with a significant ego would teach Tai Chi in spandex shorts and loose fitting tank top, just what you should be looking for in a spiritual guide!

Social reasons for ego in Spirituality


I guess we have the problem of ego in Spirituality (or 'spirituality') because of the age in which we live - so many people go through their working lives building up ego, realise they've had enough and becoming some sort of Spiritual teacher is an easy path to retire early and maintain all that status into your 50s and beyond - I bet if I'd have surveyed those people offering services in the healing field 20 years ago, the majority would be in their 50s and be recently retired from middle class careers, mortgages paid off already.

And it's just got worse with social media and the need to publicize yourself to make connections and money.

How to protect your self!


You need to tread very carefully around these people, for the sake of your own spiritual development, and theirs.

For your sake, you need to realise you have nothing to learn from them, and avoid them.

For their sake, you need to find your own way, it is pointless preaching to them, they are probably incapable of listening, the best hope for them is that they stumble across someone who is genuinely on the path to egoless living and themselves realise how far from the path they themselves are, it can happen, but it has to come from them I think.

And if they die deluded, there's always their next human life! i

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about one Yoga retreat he went on where the teacher spent 40 minutes outlining her life-history at the introductions over the first night's dinner - he lost it, I think that's a legitimate response.

There's nothing that would make me walk out of a retreat faster. I get my inner clipboard out:

  • Egotistical? Tick

Actually there's only one check on the inner list before I'm out.

And it's just got worse with social media and the need to publicize yourself to make connections and money.

Absolutely. It's why I just couldn't be a yoga teacher. I just couldn't find the energy or the will to promote myself in an image focussed world - again, it went against everything I'd been taught and believed in. And it made me ill, because my ego started working overtime too - I don't 'look' like a 'yogi' - what a load of codswallop to headfuck myself with. But no way was I going to compete with 21 year olds doing forearm stands.

I do think a lot of people who get into this 'game' are narcissists - I was going to write a post about it but I forgot or just didn't want to get into it. And the people who find them are usually really needy, and can't look within for the answers because they don't know how, or have been raised in circumstances where they need a leader or guru or father figure to guide them. It's not that I don't understand - it's human psychology - but that's never been for me. Whilst I love learning from people wiser than me, and love listening and reading from people who are essentially sayiing the same messages but in beautifully different ways that constantly reminds me of the path, I know that the real answers are within.

Yoga (I dont mean just the physical postures but the whole 8 limbs) helps me find my way - I'll never follow a 'woke' leader whose ego is bigger than their extra large chai hemp milk latte.

Tell me about it - thankfully I'm quite inflexible and wouldn't touch public yoga with a bargepole anyway, which I'd need to reach it given my inflexibility.

Practising on my own however, is fine, but I'm protected - I can shield myself from all of that, I can just imagine how horrendous it is - it's sort of fair enough in gym culture, but when it's dressed up as something extra in Yoga, oh god I just can't stand it!

Hahaha, I love it when people say 'I'm too inflexible for yoga' - I love the response 'that's like saying you're too dirty to take a shower'. The reason you do physical yoga is so you become more flexible - but it's also about strength, and philosophy too. To me yoga isn't about the physical at all - that's just one limb. Through physical movement, you access the deeper layers of the body, mind and 'soul', as trite as it sounds. It's a fascinating subject. But yeah - ugh - all that glossy yoga stuff with leggings and pretty girls and people pretending to be gurus, ugh.

A good friend of mine (white suburban-type) was searching years for meaning. he had a huge ego of course, and tried everything. Buddhism, yoga, new age, and finally Native American spirituality. He was accepted by a tribe and would camp out there on the weekends. Then one weekend they held a sacred ceremony and he asked to join. They told him, ”We like you but you must drink from your own well.”. He never went back. But then he recovered his own native traditions of the Europeans and has been happy ever since. I think the main issue is (for white people especially) the set out searching for meaning and suffer a huge identity crisis. Americans especially, live in a foreign land raised with middle eastern beliefs there is no grounding. Anyway that my take on the huge ego in these type of groups.

That reminds me of the tales of Europeans who go to Japan to learn mediation and end up getting told to face a wall and sit there.

They quickly learn they could have just as well have done that at home, and saved themselves the cost of a plan ticket!

Same sort of thing!

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Ah Yoda!

Wisdom for the ages!

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For me this kind of so called spiritual groups aren't philosophical nor spiritual but religious and supersticious groups. There isn't any difference imo in a person that thinks that god will rule their lives and another one that thinks that making some practices like yoga or tai chi will find enlightenment.

Is a way to evade the reality and to not face it directly as for most of us is hard and painful. If I want enlightenment just light on a joint, is all the enlightenment I could aspire to anyways 😂.

Haha! I'm not against drugs but I'm not so cynical about Spirituality - just about people who try to sell it to you!

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I like this one

Great post! And I agree with your points, I had very similar experiences

Spiritual hubris is absurd