Are you a narcissist? Or have you overcome your narcissist tendencies with meditation? Well, if you were raised in our highly individualized western culture, then there’s a good chance that at least a little narcissism drives your life. Your professional life, your personal life, and perhaps even your spiritual life. This is the topic I dive into in the “Dharma Bite” I had with Aikido Sensei, meditation teacher, and psychiatrist Dr. Dominique Cassidy about “Meditation, Narcissism, & The “I.“
Narcissism – It’s All About “Me”
Our Western culture puts a high value on individuality. There’s my profession, my education, my direction, my purpose, my potential, my truth, and so on. “Everything”, says psychiatrist Dr. Dominique Cassidy, “is self-referential.” In other words, it’s all about “me.”
This narcissistic trend in our culture is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially when it drives you towards self-knowledge, and the realization of your unique potential. A pursuit that eventually may even overcome the very drive of narcissism itself.
However, our hyper-individualized culture creates a few problems for all post-modern seekers. Problems that can easily sneak into your meditation practice.
Following are 2 problems to be aware of for anyone taking on a committed meditation practice… and how to correct them.
The Problem Of The “Spiritual Ego”
It is a fact that the “ego” is an identity-making machine. That’s what the ego does. It will take any part of your experience, fixate it, and create a self-identity. Your history, your family, your culture, your education, your groups, your beliefs, etc. Any aspect of your experience can, and usually does become a fixated identity.
Your ego is not a problem per se, because a clear identity gives you a stable sense of who you are. But when “stability” becomes “fixation,” it creates limitations; limited openness, limited flexibility, limited adaptability, limited relatability, limited creativity, and perhaps most importantly limited freedom.
The classic spiritual path is one that leads you to transcend your ego. It is a path that leads beyond limitations. This is why the classic spiritual practices are called “paths of liberation”.
But with the “Spiritual Ego,” the narcissistic drive appropriates your meditation practice. The very premise of “spirituality as a path of liberation” becomes just another identification. The ego cleverly learns to hide out in spirituality. “Spiritual Transformation” simply becomes another identification, another fixation.
With the “Spiritual Ego” the very idea of Awakening becomes just another narcissistic pursuit. Like Dominique Cassidy says “We take this narcissism with us on our spiritual path… how exciting it is to become ‘The Awakened One’.”
The Problem Of The “Wound Of Isolation”
Another problem with our hyper-individualized culture is what Dr. Cassidy is calling the “wound of isolation.” This is a specific type of psychological wounding that occurs in cultures with a preference towards individualization. This preference can inadvertently create a sense of separation from the world around you.
This can even become more problematic when combined with a traditional approach to meditation, with its strong emphasis on “seclusion.” Seclusion of the body, seclusion of the senses, and of course, seclusion of the mind. If you want to have an effective practice then you need to seclude yourself.
So the emphasis on seclusion in meditation can inadvertently increase the sense of isolation. Instead of healing the wound, you learn to skillfully by-pass it.
Purifying The Mind, Healing The Heart
Meditation is a process of purifying the mind. This purification process is activated each and every time you activate mindfulness by detaching and observing your experience. Unskillful thoughts, difficult emotions, and yes, even your narcissistic tendencies will become purified with mindfulness and meditation.
However, when it comes to the psychological “wound of isolation” you need to slightly adjust your practice. Do not use your meditation to detach and observe, but rather use your mindfulness to locate and feel into the “wound of isolation.” And to do this effectively there is no better preparation than meditation.
The combination of the practice of detaching and observing, together with the practice of feeling into creates a powerful integral practice that will not only purify the mind but also heal the heart.
Check out the short “Dharma Bite” from a Dharma Discussion I had with Dr. Dominique Cassidy on “Meditation, Narcissism, and the “I.”
Question: What is your preference in meditation? Are you more drawn to the “detach and observe” practice or the “connect and feel into” practice? After watching this “Dharma Bite” leave your comments below!
Special Online Event
An Online Meditation Gathering w/ Miles Kessler & Dr. Dominique Cassidy
Sunday, Sept. 16th, 10:30 CEST
The “gradual” and “sudden” paths of awakening are often a point of disagreement between spiritual teachings. But are these dual paths really in opposition?
Do we have to choose one to deny the other? Or can they be complementary and enrich each other?
Join Miles & Dominique in exploring the beautiful complexity of these different approaches to the spiritual path, with talks, guided meditations, and open discussions.
All “Meditation Beyond Boundaries” events are offered for free, with the opportunity for donations. All proceeds collected go directly to supporting “Ganga Prem Hospice”, an NGO that provides free medical, psychological and spiritual care to patients suffering from cancer, in the rural, impoverished, and underserved areas of Rishikesh, India.
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