Recently, I was invited to appear as a presenter on an online Summit that was focused on raising consciousness. Turns out it was likely all about spiritual materialism*.
When the invite showed up in my inbox, from people I didn’t know, I went to check out the material, check out their website, and see who else was presenting. Their website was a health and wellness product, and some of the marketing around the Summit didn’t feel quite right to me… Yet their presenter line up of those already confirmed included heavy-hitters in the industry. Some of them I’d met at events like Wanderlust and trusted.
Ok, yes. Wanderlust. Was it really focused on awakening and liberation – or… spiritual materialism? Or both. This is nuanced and tricky territory… anyway, I said yes, although I wasn’t sure how these people – who I didn’t know – had found me or why they wanted to interview me exactly.
I sent them an email saying ‘yes, I was in’. And I asked them what it was about my teachings that had attracted me to them.
The reply included this:
We actually discovered you on the Embodied Yoga Summit. We then looked into your story, teachings and podcast all featured on your website. We really fell in love with your work and feel that you have a lot to share to uplift consciousness. We’d love to share your work with our audience.
We would love for you to speak on the topic of Kundalini Awakening. We feel that it’s a topic that can really help everyone and you have a lot of wisdom on this topic. We’ve both had intense kundalini experiences through practices such as breathwork, plant medicine and tantra. The process of energy ascension is something that we are also truly passionate about.
OK, I can speak to that. Although I didn’t catch the phrase ‘energy ascension’ at that time, which would have added to the yellow flags.
Two days before the interview, I received another PDF with questions outlined. Those questions made me feel uncomfortable. The same questions asked by an individual having an experience are reasonable and can be answered (usually by directing the student to examine the question). But speaking in the abstract about these things is impossible because of the number of variables involved. And, it focuses on information, which is not what awakening and liberation is about. You can know all about things and it not take you one step closer to awakening.
For example – why does Kundalini awakening happen? Is it different for everyone?
There’s so many reasons why it happens. You could just say, because the conditions were right and it’s time. And yes it’s different for everyone, of course it is!
Going into the interview I was focused on being grounded, oriented to awareness, and being straight up. As in, not saying what was expected or wanted, and saying what was true.
The interview went sideways pretty quick – I found myself questioning the questions and pointing out the underlying assumptions contained within the questions. I found myself asking them, what are you really asking here?
I could see and feel that their view of reality was firmly mired in spiritual materialism which is focused on using spiritual practice and paths to bolster the false self, or separate sense of identity.
The view of reality I’m interested in focuses on truth and the real. On waking up to one’s true nature and abiding in awareness.
Neither is better or worse than the other – they’re just completely different destinations, one of which leads to a different paradigm altogether. Spiritual materialism leads to more bondage, and awakening leads to freedom from conditions.
When we spoke about Kundalini Awakening, I said it was no big deal, it’s not the point of the path, that there’s a danger in thinking you’re special because you’re having these experiences, that it can become another spiritual identity, and that the process of Kundalini is no different to the digestion process. It just happens.
I’m guessing now, reviewing all our correspondence, that wasn’t what they – who’d had ‘intense’ kundalini experiences – wanted to hear.
The focus shifted to ‘manifestation’ and I was asked about being able to manifest faster if Kundalini is awakened. This is where it gets tricky, because on one level, this is true. But the separate “person” doing the manifesting doesn’t exist anymore as such… it’s more that what one needs and desires shows up when one is in alignment.
All of which means, forget about focusing on trying to manifest and instead focusing on becoming awareness. That’s the spiritual path. Then, with alignment, the co-creation of the universe happens spontaneously. There’s no need to “do” anything.
However, from the perspective of someone still identified with being a person, the idea of being able to manifest faster is attractive. However… it ignores the fact that awakening DESTROYS the apparent individual… and therefore nothing is really wanted anymore. Things are needed, they show up… but divine will dovetails into personal will because the ‘person’ doesn’t exist anymore. That’s a rabbit hole and I’m not going to go into it right now – but this article from Jed McKenna may be useful if you want to know more.
I can’t remember exactly, but I may have said something in the interview along the lines of clarity – know what you’re doing and do that. If you’re interested in awakening and liberation, do that. If you’re interested in lots of money and a flash house etc, do that. But don’t confuse one thing with the other.
And recognise that if you want awakening and liberation, it may actually mean you have to let go of the big house, money, status, career and all that.
Although not necessarily. If it’s aligned, it will still happen. Because it can’t not. It’s just what’s happening…. and it’s no big deal. It’s not wanted, or not NOT wanted. It just is.
It was not your ordinary interview. I knew that. And I knew I wasn’t fulfilling their expectations, or propping up their worldview. I was blasting holes in it, in very uncomfortable ways. For them and me. But I couldn’t help it – truth is truth is truth. Awakening is dissolving the false identity, and spiritual materialism is creating a new identity out of being ‘spiritual’.
It was a misalignment. Between their view and goal, and my view and goal. And so it was no surprise that a week later I received an email saying that my interview was not going to be included on the Summit.
Although we were grateful to have met you. It honestly didn’t go as we had hoped. We don’t feel that the content itself will resonate with our audience. We initially thought it would be fine, but after giving it more thought we felt the need to express, which is why we won’t be including your interview on the summit.
We respect your teachings, however they will conflict with the overall message behind the summit.
Yup – figured that might happen. Turns out I’m not compatible with raising consciousness. Or energy ascension. And blasting holes in manifestation, or identifying with Kundalini Awakening as proof of being special… that was not going to go down well with their audience.
They did offer to pay me $80US for my time on the interview, which was gracious. But when I asked for a copy of the interview for my Patreon audience – hidden! behind a paywall! – they refused. And further distanced themselves from what I’d said on the interview.
Thank you for helping us understand what it means to walk the spiritual path, as a reflection of your unique journey.
You are right. While we respect where you’re coming from, it doesn’t resonate with the spiritual teachings we feel drawn towards. We feel a moral obligation to honour and respect everyone’s unique path and spiritual journey, without judgement.
So truth is truth, and the real is the real. And, as Jed McKenna would say, there’s actually nothing spiritual about waking up from the dreamstate at all.
And, also as Jed McKenna would say, spiritual materialism is the biggest trip in the world designed to stop people from awakening to truth.
Spiritual Materialism is just another game within the dream state, like the Kardashians, or the American elections.
Jed opens his first book with a long Spiritual Disclaimer – this is an extract worth reading here, as it outlines my points.
There is a difference between the white hot pursuit of TRUTH and awakening to one’s true nature… and using spiritual paths and teachings to feel better, have more money, and have more status (yup, spiritual materialism). One is a process of identity destruction and the other a process of creating a spiritual identity.
If you want a better life, just go for that. Forget about the spiritual thing! I’ve bolded the second paragraph because it feels very important to point out!
No promise of self-advancement, self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, self-gratification, self-satisfaction or self-improvement is made or implied. Likewise, self-indulgent, self-involved, self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-serving persons will not find satisfaction herein. The reader should construe no assurance of reward, rapture, empowerment, deliverance, salvation, enrichment, forgiveness, or eternal rest in a heavenly abode. No raising, altering, transforming, transferring, transposing, transfiguring, transmuting, transcending or transmigrating of consciousness is to be expected.
The pursuit and attainment of Spiritual Enlightenment may entail loss of ego, identity, humanity, mind, friends, job, money, respect, specificity in time, solidity in space, strict adherence to accepted physical laws, and reason for living.
It’s inevitable really that I’ll come into conflict with “spiritual” people, because they’re often trapped in one of the biggest pitfalls on the path. The self-construct is wearing new clothes, spiritual clothes. But it’s still a construct. It’s still Maya. It just feels like it’s spiritual, and so any challenge to it’s beliefs or worldview can easily be dismissed as someone else’s unique spiritual path. But truth is truth. No matter what ‘path’ you’re walking.
My final thoughts and takeaways on being kicked off this consciousness-raising Summit?
I’m so grateful for this experience, and for the creators of this Summit. It feels like I just passed an initiation or test… the tempation of ‘being an expert’. The other confirmed presenters are the best in the ‘spiritual field’. Some of them I’ve admired for years. And so to be invited to be on the same stage as them… was a big thing.
Yet if it meant that I had to forgo truth… I couldn’t do it. If I did that… THAT was spiritual materialism.
Fame and status are not the goal here, not for me anyway. If they are in alignment with the character I play in the dream state, they’ll happen regardless. And if they’re not, they’re not.
In the past, I took fame and status as an indication that I was good at what I do, or appreciated, or valued, or something. There was a sense of wanting that fame and status because then it would mean I was good, appreciated and valued.
That’s not true, nor needed anymore. The attachment has dissolved. And it almost feels like that big playful puppy that is the universe sent along this Summit just to test me…
That might be just the story I’m telling myself.
Or it might be true.
* Spiritual Materialism: A term from the book Cutting through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Spiritual materialism is a phrase originally coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche that he used to describe the grasping after material accomplishment within the context of spiritual pursuit. His characterization is not novel; rather, it echoes a sentiment that has been addressed by spiritual teachers and the wisdom teachings for centuries.Psychology Today