Am I compassionate enough? Have I experienced a satori? Have I had a kundalini awakening, or was that indigestion? Am I as Zen-like as I should be, considering how much I meditate? Am I betraying my divine essence by buying new clothes? Does my anger or lack of love and light make me a fraud? Welcome to the world of spiritual imposter syndrome, feelings of fraudulence in a spiritual context.
In Ideology and Insanity, Thomas Szasz expresses concern over classifying people with mental illness. Szasz noted how classifying a person has a direct influence over their self-image, and what they believe is possible. Decades later, research by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, captured in Mindfulness, shows the extent people unconsciously adapt their behaviour to their identity. We are what we think, and the concept becomes reality, a lens through which we see the world.
“Knowledge of man is the beginning of wholeness, but knowledge of God is perfect wholeness. Therefore, as it seems, it is the greatest of all disciplines to know oneself; for a man knows himself, he knows God.”
Clement of Alexandria
Should you kill the ego? Destroy it? Annihilate it? The truth is, the ego is not the enemy, but can become an important ally in your journey of spiritual growth.
Having chosen death over exile, Socrates’ last words were: “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t fully agree. Socrates’ words are saturated with truth but they’re harsh. It may be presumptuous to alter the dying statement of one of the world’s greatest philosophers, but I will anyway. “The unexamined life is not lived fully.”
Is self-enquiry selfish? On the surface it may appear this way. In this video, I compare the philosophy of solipsism and the experience of oneness, or nonduality, to explain why exploring deeper elements of our own unconscious mind paradoxically connects us to the interconnected web of existence.
Solipsism is the philosophy that no knowledge outside of the self can be known. Reality is subjective, and I only have knowledge that I exist. Therefore, everything within my reality is all I can, and all I will ever know as truth. How can I know you exist outside of me? Solipsism says I am the centre of the universe.
I view solipsism as ego-centred. From an intellectual perspective, this argument stands to reason. Viewing the universe as mechanical and material and consciousness restricted purely to the body and brain, of course I will follow the path that “I” am the only verifiable element of existence.
A Vipassana retreat is a special experience. How often are we gifted 10 days of silent solitude, away from busyness, obligations and responsibilities? Meals prepared, an hour-by-hour schedule, accommodation sorted?
The environment is primed for laser-like focus on meditation, self-enquiry and insight. Even so, thriving on retreat, and maximising the benefits… that’s down to you.
I attended my first retreat in April. I’d waited six years from when I started meditation. I knew the time would come when it felt right. And I’d known for a few years I wanted to jump in the deep end with a 10-Day silent Vipassana retreat.
I was attracted to the level of self-discipline. It was a challenge I wanted to prove myself capable of overcoming. Even more, it was an act of gratitude and dedication towards a practice that has added so much to my life.