Walking the spiritual path can be a tricky adventure. Sometimes we make progress and become more free and loving and wise; sometimes we may think our meditation or prayer or ritual is leading toward enlightenment, but really we’re just treading water or even going backwards. The great Tibetan meditation teacher, Chogyam Trunpa, wrote that we are often “deceiving ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques.” He called this kind of self-deception spiritual materialism. We all deal with spiritual materialism; here’s a list, from my book The Seeker’s Guide, of 10 common pitfalls of spiritual materialism you may encounter on your spiritual journey.
There’s a thin line between narcissism and “following your bliss.” Without some degree of sacrifice for the greater good, self-discovery eventually leads to plain old self-indulgence. Be aware of your tendency toward excessive self-centeredness even as you work to heal and love your own tender self.
3) The Never-Ending Process of Self-Improvement
4) Instant Transformation
Just as some people get seduced by the never ending process of self-examination, some are disappointed when they don’t achieve inner peace after reading a book, or in a day-long workshop, or even after two years of weekly therapy. Spiritual awakening takes patience, hard work, and the grace of God.
5) Desire for Magic
7) Romanticizing Indigenous Cultures
There exists a kind of reverse prejudice in our politically correct times that just because something or someone is from another culture, especially an indigenous or minority culture, that it/he/she is somehow more valuable, spiritual, or wise. “Whenever teachings come to a country from abroad the problem of spiritual materialism is intensified,” writes Chogyam Trungpa.