What does it mean to live spiritually? To some it may mean following a certain religious path. To others, it may mean recognizing the power of the unseen, or seeing life as sacred. In all cases, living spiritually is looking inward and striving to transcend the part of yourself that might lead you to act selfishly, greedily, fearfully and unconsciously. Some may call that part in us original sin, temptation or the devil; I know it as the ego.
The ego is selfish, defensive, takes everything personally and always assumes the worst. Even it is something to overcome, your ego is not necessarily your enemy. It is what gives us the sense of ‘I’, of being an individual, and it has played an important part in our evolution. All egos are a hereditary gift from our ancestors who only survived because they were obsessed with consuming food, passing on their genes, and fighting off others who might put the two latter activities at risk. Such proclivities ensured our existence, but made us greedy, lustful, fearful creatures. Even though we are capable of great acts of kindness, altruism and collectivism, we seem to only be able to get so far before the obsession of ‘I’ creeps up again.
The religious stories of battles between demons and angels, struggles between good and evil, god and the devil, to me, seem like perfect metaphors of the eternal battle within each of us. We are imperfect beings. We are all “sinners” because we can never completely get rid of our ego. And as long as that ego exists, there will always be humans who steal, adulterate, lie, and kill.
So what do we do with all of this? Some say repent, confess or shine light on the devil; all of these mean the same thing. Look inwards and face all parts of who you are. Even the nasty parts… especially the nasty parts, because only when you can face your ego, does its power over you fade away.
For many, Christ is the way to transcend their ego. While some interpretations of Christianity have led to fear mongering, exclusivity and other ego-based problems, the true message of Christ is based on great wisdom. He was a man who transcended his ego. He lived his message of unconditional love and acceptance. He wanted everyone to know that the slate was wiped clean, that we needn’t continue to be slaves to our history.
We are all “sinners” but we are all worthy of love and forgiveness, and we all have the power to evolve consciously. When we live spiritually, we awaken from auto-mode, and take manual control over our lives and of our personal and collective evolution. By creating a habit of choosing love, forgiveness, kindness and trust, we evolve past our inherited ego, and inspire others around us to do the same.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12: 2)