Spiritual Word Games

Humans seek emotional security. We want to feel good about ourselves. Deep down, we rarely achieve those good feelings because the “self” we wish to validate is built on a fantasy we have created rather than our true essence. In the struggle to keep our self-image positive, we even distort our spiritual values and beliefs in service of our egos. We play spiritual word games.

We are identified with our egos. The ego is that collection of thoughts and feelings about ourselves which is based on our past. The ego wants to feel good about itself. The ego rarely enjoys genuine fulfillment because it is not real; it’s made up of ideas and concepts, rather than of true Being. It’s bound to be insecure. The ego compares itself with its perception of other people. It seeks validation in reaching a superior comparison. If you know something that others don’t, you think you’ll feel better. If you prove somebody wrong, you feel special.

Humans are creatures of conditioning. We are taught as children how to approach the world and we model our approach to new activities based on our past actions and successes. Whether it’s in the field of school, business or romance, we’ve learned to climb the ladder of success by molding ourselves relative to the predominant culture (or counter-culture) and rising in stature with effort, cunning, and increasing sophistication. We learn to evaluate the status of others by their dress, demeanor and company. We learn our place.

It shouldn’t be surprising then, that when we find the spiritual path, some of us apply our worldly formulas of success to it. We try hard, study the literature, use the jargon, and adopt the dress and mannerisms of the spiritual culture we are adopting.

It’s worth contemplating the pitfalls of the egoic model of spiritual advancement so we don’t waste our time building a new, seemingly improved, personality that’s merely a more self-righteous version of the unhappy person we’ve become.

With that in mind, I’d like to address playing “Spiritual Word Games.”

I call it “Spiritual Word Games” when a person manipulates spiritual concepts for ego reinforcement or ego justification. Here are some examples that might be called “Spiritual Word Games:”

“Everything is illusion. Nothing really happens so you shouldn’t be upset when I skin you alive.”

“I feel my body is telling me it needs to eat a quart of ice cream.”

“It’s not my problem if my wife is upset that I’m going to the ballgame instead of her family dinner. I’m detached about it.”

“God is in everything, even in this line of cocaine. I see the perfection in everything.”

“You say you feel divine love within you but someday you’ll realize that Love just ‘is’ and there is no ‘within’ and ‘without’.

We don’t need to debate if there is truth at some level in the statements above. They are “Spiritual Word Games” if their intent is to manipulate people, inflate the ego, or justify selfish actions. You have to be honest with yourself about ‘why’ you say something. ‘What’ you say is merely the content concocted for the intent. The temptation to be dishonest with ourselves is itself a warning that we are avoiding truth in favor of an upgraded rendition of our illusions.

“Spiritual Word Games” often rely on selectively surfing the layers of relative truth in search of what we want. Detachment arises from the virtue of accepting reality as it is, of remaining contented in the Self. But detachment makes a poor excuse for not caring about people’s feelings. If our actions are selfish but we detach ourselves from their consequences, we’re trying to work a loophole in the cosmic scheme, trying to claim a karmic exemption. To forgo justifying our actions doesn’t mean condemning yourself. Just be aware. Forgive your own folly as your forgive the folly of others, with understanding and compassion.

If we have our own bliss, we don’t have to grasp at the world for happiness or validation.

“Spiritual Word Games” can also mean using the Absolute level in support of some relative or selfish idea.

It’s true that a stick of chalk is made of vibrating energy; that doesn’t mean we can use it for a camera battery.

If you think you can smoke cigarettes without consequence because “Everything is God” then you might consider a meal of Dog excrement, that’s God too right?

If “the world is just an illusion” and “nothing ever happened,” why bother posturing yourself as spiritually superior to anybody else?

In India there is a story of a man whose Guru told him “Everything is God” The man went to a parade and fearlessly stepped in front of a mad elephant, even though the rider of the elephant was waving for him to run. The elephant squashed him but he managed to survive. His friends asked him why he stood in the Elephant’s way. He said he thought that since everything was God, that he should be safe in front of the Elephant. They reminded him that the driver who warned him to flee the elephant was also God.

Using spiritual knowledge or dogma to justify what we want to believe is a temptation for mainstream religious people as well. A passage from Leviticus is commonly cited to prove biblically that homosexuality is “an abomination.” Those same people would never dream of following the dietary laws of Leviticus, nor endorsing its view of slavery nor the death penalty for minor crimes of morality.

Beware of this phenomenon in Love and Relationships as well. It’s easy to demand unconditional love and non-violent communication when you’ve mistepped, just make sure you give as well as receive those blessings.

Spirituality is a state of “Being” and not a state of “Believing.” The ability to be very present and centered in pure “Being” with an open heart makes a person especially spiritual. Expertise with spiritual word games is a cosmetic that attempts to make us look better but doesn’t add anything real or enduring to our inner beauty.

It’s not only words that we use to make ourselves feel more spiritual. We learn to dress a certain way, speak in certain tones, and act according to our image of what “spiritually advanced” looks like.

On one level, projecting a spiritual image can lead to progress. There is a certain power to “Fake it until you make it.” When you behave according to your intent, you strengthen the energy of it, and release past patterns. We can choose to face the light, decide to be happy, and embrace truth. Our energy will flow into the mold of our intent and establish a new pattern that serves us better.

But if the motive behind our spiritual fashion is to climb the social ladder of a group, to influence the perceptions and opinions of our community, or to convince ourselves that we are better than we fear we are, then we are cheating ourselves out of the bliss that comes from a spiritual heart.

It’s hard to love people when we are rating ourselves against them in our minds.

Ironically, people don’t particularly like those who appear superior to them and they can sense when someone takes pleasure in their assumed superiority.

Peace and Love are our very nature. Seeking fulfillment from playing spiritual games means looking to your self-image for satisfaction. That’s bound to divide your personality from the Source of your Love. You are satisfaction itself if you open yourself to BEING. Immersed in your contented bliss, you see the best in people, you bring out the best in people, and your communion with the world banishes thoughts of ranking yourself or elevating your status.

It’s hard to get used to the idea that being yourself is more a matter of undoing habits, distractions and illusions than of building an upgraded persona. It’s easy to get energetic and enthusiastic about doing something. Letting go of our old doings while remaining content with ‘openness in Being’ is subtler. Our habitual desire to fall into the tracks of our old ways makes us restless for the comfort of the familiar. Be patient with the restlessness and just observe the tendency to cast past habits into new ideas. The energy of the past will dissipate when we stop feeding it. It just takes a little time.

Don’t judge yourself or be disappointed if you catch yourself indulging in some spiritual ego. That would just be another, more negative, expression of that ego. They are twin sides of the same insecurity: the desire to be ‘good enough’ and the fear that we are not ‘good enough’. Treat yourself with the same love and compassion that you would offer others. Accepting yourself goes hand in hand with accepting others.

So the trick is to ‘be present” with your motives and actions, without denial or judgment. Compassionately and honestly observe yourself. Maintain your awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Pointless spiritual games will lose their meaning when seen in the light of Awareness. The ‘Observer’ who can be aware of our thoughts and feelings without judgment is the gateway to the real self. Observe as the Self by Being the Self. The “thinker” that can lament about our weaknesses and failures is a facet of an illusory identity that separates us from Truth and Love. The ‘observer’ can be aware of the thinking without getting wrapped up in it. Don’t lose yourself in the train of thoughts.

It’s good to recognize these contrary forces that can be primary obstacles to transformation: we say we want to change because we’re not satisfied, and yet we habitually inhabit our usual state of consciousness because it’s a familiar rut that’s a challenge to unlearn. Stop playing the ego games you are addicted to by observing yourself playing them. Let go of inner assumptions about who you are that are really just habits and past conditioning.

Learning to step away from your habitual state of consciousness is one of the most powerful transformative skills you can learn, because otherwise, whatever you learn and do will be undone by your unconscious will to cling to the familiar.

Reside in your own BEING and observe. Embrace yourself and others with the Love that springs from within you. Abiding in yourself and being present and open to the world around you without judgment is a new orientation toward life that takes a willful mindfulness to establish as new awareness. Once you’ve lived in mindfulness for awhile, the peace and fullness of your being will make reverting to old negativity seem unthinkable.

Most people have lived in a negative bubble for so long that layers of mental and emotional clutter have obscured the wellspring of Peace and Love that is their own Being. They might have to endure a period of emptiness as they take out the inner trash before the inner light begins to shine. If spiritual work feels unrewarding at first, be patient and nurture yourself. The inner trash needs to be taken out sooner or later. Once you have observed negativity and tension within yourself, you understand that it doesn’t serve you. If you have to bear the sight and smells of your stinky inner trash while you purge yourself of it, bear with it realizing it’s better to be free from it than to have it darkly festering within you.

It’s only a matter of time and transformation before you know Peace as your very nature each moment.

Love yourself, Be yourself, and the world will shine in beauty around you.