Ridding Yourself of Spiritual Materialism

Find your why

We all have had our fair share of materialism. I mean, it’s everywhere: advertisements constantly surrounding us, social media endorsements, and the friends who seem to have it all. While this trend is nothing new, it has also “materialized” in the wellness world. But, materialism is the polar opposite of spiritual, and even physical wellness. The goals one aims for when venturing into self-improvement, are far beyond anything physical.

Two types of materialism worth noting exist: physical and spiritual.
Physical Materialism

First, let’s reacquaint ourselves with physical materialism. More or less, it involves lots of stuff. Cars, makeup, shoes, electronics, any sort of physical thing. The cycle of physical materialism never ends. It goes something like this:

  1. Experience unhappiness
  2. Try to solve unhappiness
  3. See sought-after item and believe it will fix everything
  4. Buy object and repeat the cycle over again

This sequence is truly heartbreaking to personally experience, and witness others go through. It may seem shallow and selfishly-driven on the outside, but underneath lies a lost soul. Beneath the buying and lust, someone needs internal and external compassion

But, on another note, doesn’t materialism also discredit our own potential? Narrowing the scope of our successes to only that which we can see. Such a materialistic world tells you that the physical things you surround yourself with dictate your worth and thought. This simply isn’t true and anyone who experiences the feedback loop of materialism can tell you the same.

Once you realize that truth, however, you must next clear the hurdle of spiritual materialism (no one said self-improvement was easy!).

Image via Quote Fancy

Spiritual Materialism

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche first coined the term “spiritual materialism” in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. This type of materialism involves one’s ego. Your ego most likely doesn’t come to mind when thinking of materialism, but it’s directly linked. A thought process dictated by what others will think of you roots itself in both spiritual and physical materialism.

You think that you’re ready to surpass physical materialism. You then go out and purchase spirituality books, take meditation classes, and buy incense. Bam! You’re on the path to enlightenment, right? Not necessarily.

Partaking in all of those practices is great, but everything boils down to intention. If you sit through meditation to merely tell others about it, instead of focusing on self-reflection, or if the most action those books you purchased on spirituality get is having the front cover plastered on your Instagram story, then you may need to do a bit more soul-searching.

Do it for YOU

While outside sources may aid your path of self-discovery and the world around you, these answers ultimately occur within. Taking classes and reading books can open your mind to new possibilities, but if you don’t consciously run with them, you’ll remain stagnant and unsatisfied.

Taking steps toward releasing yourself from spiritual materialism isn’t simple. You need to find your why, and that reason must blossom from within. Don’t do something because someone else says it’s the best thing for you. Deep down, you know what will and won’t improve your life. Value yourself enough to take these actions for YOU.

Find Your Own Personal Brand of Spirituality

Maybe your daily dose of spirituality isn’t meditation or praying but drawing or going for a run and that’s perfect! Spirituality aims to nourish your spirit, the “nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character.” So, who knows better what helps that entity grow, then you?

All in all, the best way to avoid spiritual materialism is focusing on the practices that nourish you spiritually. Through partaking in those, your desire to satiate anyone else’s expectation or opinion of you disappears. You become too enthralled with this newfound tranquility that pleasing others (and yourself) materialistically doesn’t even come to mind. The effort towards spirituality must be conjured via self-perpetuated desire, or materialism may just get the best of you.

For further reading on ways to escape spiritual materialism read the Top 10 Traps of Spiritual Materialism.

Cover image via Quartzy


Sarah is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Miami. She...