A Deeper Understanding of Spiritual Principles

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Empathic healer and spiritual teacher Matt Kahn breaks down some challenging spiritual concepts about awakening and the role of the ego to help us on our spiritual journey.

Omega: The idea that everything is happening for our growth is one of your core teachings. Can you help us understand how bad things are good?

Matt: Unless something feels good to our emotional body or nervous system, we’re hardwired to think we’re in danger. Often we’re not in danger, however. We’re in a state of growth and are being pushed over a threshold. But there’s part of our old self that can’t join us in that expansion. It’s afraid of what’s being lost or coming to an end and is unable to open up to the excitement of what’s new and expanding. 

The way we evolve is by training our nervous systems to be safe, to be open, and to be aligned with our highest consciousness. We do this by loving ourselves more than anyone else has ever dared to love us. As we love ourselves, we’re able to identify with the rebirth of the new expansion coming to life within us instead of identifying with the dying old parts. 

Things in life can be aggravating and frustrating. But these agitated and frustrated feelings are mini-deaths of the part of ourselves that can't go any further. As our nervous systems learn to open up, we can actually say goodbye to these parts and everything they've done to bless us and bring us this far. When difficult things happen, we can take the opportunity to identify with what's being expanded and what’s coming to life instead of identifying with that which is coming to an end.

Omega: How do we help our nervous system relax so we can open up?

Matt: I think that the only way to truly cultivate this is to be honest with ourselves. When people hear an idea like this there is an innocent tendency to adopt what I’m saying as a new value system. I’m not saying people should leap from victimhood to all of a sudden thinking everything is here to help you. What I'm suggesting is you define the trajectory of where you're going, and you owe it to yourself to get there at whatever pace is authentic to your journey. I think sometimes when people hear things they say, “Oh, that's the right answer. I'm going to ditch what I actually believe because this is the right answer.” But that’s not truly stepping into the framework of that insight.

When you hear the idea that everything is here to help you and there is a big, “Yes!” inside you, that’s because I just reminded you of your soul’s highest values. Then you can ask yourself, “How close can I get to that statement?” Or, perhaps you say, “Maybe it’s true that everything is here to help me, but I just don’t know how to hear that. When all hell breaks loose, I can’t help but get triggered and shut down or lash out.” So that’s where you are. You can step into whatever imperfection feels the most authentic and maybe have a little less judgment about it as you begin to soften into a deeper level of self-acceptance. We have to be willing to accept ourselves and all of our imperfections in order to reach deeper perfection.

Omega: Is this what it means to be on a spiritual journey?

Matt: Yes. We’ve been taught to objectify ourselves and our goals. We objectify goodness and badness. We wonder what we’ve done to cause whatever is happening to us, good or bad. We run toward desire and away from the object of punishment. In this we don’t have a true respect for the process.

A spiritual journey is not about trying to get to or away from some objective as fast as possible. It’s about learning to slow down in full respect and reverence for the process, for the journey. In that way, we are more heart-centered, more loving, and more aligned with what we truly need in any given moment. 

Omega: Does our ego help or hurt us on the spiritual journey?

Matt: I define ego as the imagined identity of the overstimulated nervous system. I think one of the simplest ways to discuss the ego is to think of it as the emotional armor that we have learned to wear to protect us from the anticipation of future pain, loss, and regret. 

Most people can be put into two categories—you’re either on the trajectory of being a heart-centered being or you’re on the trajectory of self-absorption and narcissism. People that are in narcissistic patterns are just people that are shut down and afraid of being hurt. They protect themselves with this armor—the ego—and they’re willing to die to maintain it and keep it assembled. Most heart-centered people are victimized by those kinds of people, but they’re also not without their ego challenges. When there’s an imbalance in their ego, it’s not overconfidence, nor is it arrogance—it’s unworthiness. It’s a lack of ego.

The whole purpose of spirituality is to integrate your ego. Your soul can’t fully come into your body unless there’s a balanced ego to ground it and process that consciousness and light so you can use it in a focused way to take care of yourself, to treat yourself as the embodied divinity that you are, and honor all people that way, whether they’re at that level of consciousness or not. 

I think it takes some ego to integrate the ego, and I think we’re well past the time of having this conversation. Not having an ego is not the answer. Having too much ego is not the answer. The more you make peace with your ego and having a more loving relationship with it, the more it can act and express itself as the consciousness of your soul and less as a reactive emotional armor.

Omega: Since all of this egoic drama is playing out in our bodies, what role do you think the body plays in the awakening and integration process?

Matt: On an emotional level, our bodies tell us on a regular basis whether we're still in the fight or flight survival mode, where we’re fearful and anxious, or if we’re in the more relaxed, open, patient, and receptive mode. The state of our nervous system is what tells us the level of our consciousness and how much of it has been integrated. It’s giving us a progress report moment by moment. 

I think that love is how we directly address the nervous system. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t need to gather information from outside. All the wisdom is in you, you just have to integrate it. If you love yourself more often, the wisdom that’s already encoded in you will awaken and become known and integrated. So instead of thinking you need to gobble up all these teachings and discourses and then you’ll have something to integrate, you can take the bigger, bolder leap of jumping to the next level—love.