Take the Test: How Spiritual Are You? ~ Z Egloff

Via elephant journal
on Sep 24, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual competition?

It starts innocently enough. You’re chatting with the woman next to you in yoga class. The conversation turns to meditation. You start comparing notes: how many years you’ve each been meditating, whom you studied with, how many hours a day you spend on the cushion.

Before long, the conversation veers into sticky territory. Are you and your yoga neighbor in a contest? It feels like you are.

Who’s been meditating longer? Who has the superior teacher? Who’s the best meditator in all the land?

You’re not sure if it’s you or her, but one (or both) of you has something to prove. And it’s not pretty.

That’s right, my friend. You have just experienced one of the stranger aspects of the spiritual path: The Spiritual Olympics.

Another phrase for the tendency to bring comparison and competition into our spiritual practice is spiritual materialism. But I like Spiritual Olympics. It lays it on the line:

Who’s better? Who’s the best? Who’s the most spiritual person in the world?

Can you imagine if there really was a Spiritual Olympics? How crazy would that be?

I can see it now: People from around the globe gather to compete in a wide variety of challenges designed to test their spiritual aptitude and agility.       

Spectators flock to events like High-Wire Yoga, in which yoga masters from around the world are challenged to strike and maintain pretzel-like poses while balancing on a pole 1,000 feet in the air over a crocodile-infested river.

Or, Meditation Smack Down, in which seasoned meditators are tested on their ability to sustain a deep meditative state while being pummeled with over-ripe mangos.

Or, Pranayama and the Pea, in which contestants sleep on a stack of mattresses with a single pea placed underneath. The competitors then engage in special breathing exercises to determine if the pea under the mattresses is organic or not.

And Affirmation Obstacle Course, in which self-help gurus race through a course filled with death-defying obstacles. The only way past the obstructions is to employ super-charged, mind-altering affirmations. The winner of the event, invariably, is the contestant who has most vehemently affirmed that he or she will triumph.

Sounds like fun, yes?

Our everyday experience may not be that dramatic, but those of us on the path know that Spiritual Olympics exists. It exists because our ego comes with us on the journey. It’s part of the deal. And the ego, even an ego on the spiritual path, likes to compare and contrast.

Talk about winning a gold medal! The ego wins, hands-down, in its ability to make us miserable by comparing ourselves to others. It doesn’t matter whether we come out better or worse, it’s still a miserable pursuit.

There’s a phrase I heard years ago: “Comparison is a down-payment on suffering.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

When I first discovered metaphysics, I felt so special. In my eyes, I was so much more enlightened than everyone around me. It’s only now that I look back on that time with embarrassment.

But then again, embarrassment implies judgment, and that’s not very spiritual, is it? And judging my judgment, like I just did, is even worse!

See what I mean? It’s a vicious circle. With no winners.

The answer, of course, is love.

The existence of Spiritual Olympics challenges us to love those who are asserting their spiritual superiority over us. It challenges us to love ourselves when we’re asserting our spiritual superiority over others.

It challenges us to love in spite of competition, in spite of comparison, in spite of fear.

That said, it turns out there actually is a test to determine how spiritual you are. You know what it is?

How accepting are you of yourself and others?

That’s it. That’s the test.

And let’s be clear. I’m not talking about acceptance in the sense of tolerance, or resignation, but in terms of true, heart-felt allowing of everything and everyone around us.

It’s not about how long we can meditate, or how easily we can stretch our bodies into the perfect yoga pose. It’s about accepting and allowing everything exactly as it is.

And if that’s not worthy of a gold medal, I don’t know what is.


Z Egloff is the gender-flexible love child of Ram Dass and Lily Tomlin. She lives for 3 things: spiritual growth, silliness, and soul-satisfying acts of creativity. Visit her blog @ Life in Z-D: A Goofball’s Guide to Enlightenment http://lifeinzd.com/


Editor: James Carpenter

Like Enlightened Society on Facebook.


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? Send to [email protected]


15 Responses to “Take the Test: How Spiritual Are You? ~ Z Egloff”

  1. Roger Wolsey says:

    Amen. …Kinda reminds me of the notion (and unfortunate reality) of "yoga competitions." : P

  2. Edward Staskus says:

    When someone is actually meditating, they are not in competition with anyone or anything, except maybe their own distracting thoughts. Even that is not really a competition. It is only when we talk or write about it, that competition, or as you say, the ego, enters into it. I guess the solution is to just do it.

  3. Z Egloff says:

    Hi Roger, __Ain't it the truth! I guess being able to laugh at ourselves helps. :)__Cheers,__Z

  4. Z Egloff says:

    Hi Edward,

    I love this. I agree with you. In fact, one of the reasons I love meditating is that it's totally absent of the competitive vibe. I would mention how GOOD I am at meditating, but that would kinda wreck it, wouldn't it?! 😉



  5. David says:

    As a RSc Practitioner at the Seattle church, another Practitioner and I had competitions to see who could get centered first. Of course, we were a couple of pranksters just playing with each other, because one would always shout out "I'm THERE!" which is, of course, the surest sign we're not. But it was fun and funny. She finally conceded that I was the overall winner when I became a minister.

  6. Z Egloff says:

    Hi David,

    Ha! That's rich.

    I'm in ministerial school now, so it's good to know that, when I graduate, I will dominate all spiritual contests. 😉



  7. Christopher says:

    Wonderful (again!), Z. Love your wit, your style, your grace – but mostly love YOU!

  8. I want to copy and post this to my Prac 1 class…they have to turn in a Spiritual Practice Log every week! EEEK! I imagine the intent was to get them to have a daily spiritual practice but CAN I COPY THIS TO THEM? LOL! i've read this twice today. Am I missing the option to email this to a friend? Or a group? ba he he he ha….love, love, love, Rev. Sharon Dunn…a fan.

  9. Shelly Fitz says:

    I LOVE this. For reasons too much to write here, I actually feel a sense of relief after reading this blog. A deep confirmation that the illusory competition that exists only in my ego mind is not rooted in Truth or Reality. This is BRILLIANT Z, truly. Thank you so much for breaking it down and sharing your gift in such a bright, funny and captivating way!

  10. guest says:

    I can proudly confirm that I am not spiritual at all. Also against pseudoscience and quack medicine.

  11. Z Egloff says:

    Hello Christopher,

    Thank you for the love! Always a good thing.

    Love back,


  12. Z Egloff says:

    Hello Rev. Sharon,

    Feel free to share this with anyone you'd like. There is a row of share buttons at the top of the post. The little green one enables you to send an email and share with others that way. Or you can just copy and paste the link into an email. Either way, share away!


  13. Z Egloff says:

    Hello Shelly!

    I'm so glad that you enjoyed this post. I learned that little "test" about acceptance years ago, and it still serves me today. I was so happy to be able to share it with y'all! Thanks for dropping by!!


  14. Z Egloff says:

    One of the great things about being human is that we can think whatever we want to think. Kudos to you for standing for your own beliefs.

  15. […] I first arrived and was checking in, I found myself scanning the room, sizing up the competition. I looked at the list of pitchers and recognized a few names. My competitive instincts bubbled up […]