by Mateo Sol
Mateo Sol is a prominent psycho-spiritual counselor and
mentor whose work has influenced the lives of thousands
of people worldwide.
into a family with a history of drug addiction,
schizophrenia, and mental illness, Mateo Sol was taught
about the plight of the human condition from a young
spiritual counselor and mentor, Sol’s mission is to help
others experience freedom, wholeness, and peace in any
stage of life.
For a human being who hungers for truth, what is
most beautiful is that which is most truthful.
If the road to truth means having to learn what is
untrue and to face unconsciousness and obstacles
within ourselves, the lover of truth gladly accepts
Each time we expose and face that which is untrue,
we are that much closer to what is true.
When it comes to spirituality and personal growth, we know what
essential principles to keep in mind:
But how often do you hear about the importance of spiritual
discernment and sincerity?
Well... probably not too much.
Let's face it - these words and ideas aren't as warm-and-fuzzy as
concepts such as love and gratitude. Such ideas may even sound like
they've been taken from some heavy leather-bound book that has been
collecting dust on the bookshelf for the past 100 years.
Inevitably, the lack of feel-good-vibes that spiritual discernment
and sincerity possess means that they get glossed over - or at worst
- completely neglected.
But here's the thing:
to me both spiritual discernment and sincerity
are two of the most essential and powerful
principles on the spiritual path.
Yet in many spiritual communities these days, such vital practices
are totally neglected or ignored in favor of a carefree attitude.
This breezy attitude
"go and do whatever
you want, it'll all be okay."
But it won't.
The reality is that
there are sharks in the water.
The reality is that the spiritual path isn't as blissful as
people make it out to be.
The reality is that there are endless ways you can be taken
advantage of by so-called spiritual teachers, guides, gurus, and
The reality is that there are deep rabbit holes which you may
struggle to get out of.
Hence the need for
spiritual discernment and sincerity.
So let's take off our rose-tinted glasses and get real for a moment.
I'm going to explore exactly why practicing deep sincerity and
fiercely seeking truth (aka. being discerning) are so important.
So… What is Spiritual
Spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish between truth
and deception on the spiritual path.
That's it. It's quite simple.
spiritual discernment is called
viveka and is said to be the
"crowning wisdom" on the spiritual path, allowing us to discover
what is real vs. unreal.
Indian sage Patanjali believed that it was spiritual
discernment that helped us to achieve a "luminous state," also known
as spiritual illumination or
In fact, in the
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the
cultivation of spiritual discernment is said to be so powerful that
it has the ability to destroy ignorance and address the very root of
In a world full of sharks, spiritual discernment is the boat that
allows us to safely travel through the waters of existence.
But without it, we are
left flailing desperately around in the water while those who feed
off ignorance and folly come to feast on us.
Why is Sincerity So Important?
In order to practice spiritual discernment effectively, you have to
be honest with yourself.
What do you really
How deep are you willing to go?
What are your true motivations?
There is no use
pretending to be one thing and behaving in the opposite way.
Eventually, you will be
called out by yourself, others, or Life itself. Spiritual
discernment only works when you are first crystal clear about your
own internal drives and desires.
As psychotherapist and yoga teacher Mariana Caplan explores
To ask this question
"Am I committed,
or am I just involved?",
...and give an honest
answers helps us to make intelligence choices about which paths
and practices are best suited for the spiritual development we
The problem arises
when we profess one thing and live out another, because we
confuse ourselves and others, and we limit our growth.
If only we could say honestly, and without shame,
spirituality as a hobby," or "I want a spiritual practice
that will give me some inner peace of mind but without any
commitment or discipline," or "I'd like to keep spirituality
as my mistress but maintain comfort and security as my
spouse," or "I want to be seen as a spiritual man or woman
because that will make me more sexy"…
Or perhaps we could
use more simple, straightforward language, such as,
"I'm a serious
spiritual aspirant," "I'm a seeker of moderate interest," or
"I'm a part-time, casual spiritual tourist."
It is not wrong to
have such an approach to spiritual development.
We grow from where we
are, and if we pretend to be somewhere we are not and try to
move forward, we are likely to travel in a very crooked line and
become more confused than necessary.
Figuring out where we
stand on the spiritual path is the very beginning of discernment.
Here is our (myself and Luna's) perspective regarding discernment -
our principles page:
Be passionate and
sincere about the pursuit of truth, depth, and understanding.
Be open, receptive,
Be genuine and
serious about the spiritual path.
Be wholehearted (not
is a core principle at the center of our lives and work, and
everything we do revolves around it.
Granted, we're human and
we're not perfect. We do stumble, fall, and become lazy at times.
But spirituality is much more than a hobby to us, and we hope to
encourage others to be passionate and wholehearted about
spiritual growth as well.
So next, let's take a
look at the most serious dangers of lacking discernment.
The Dangers of
Lacking Spiritual Discernment
Where do I even start?
I realize that it may be an inconvenient truth for many. But the
spiritual path can be tremendously perilous when you don't practice
Here are some of the MANY traps, pitfalls, and dangers present (and
inherent to) this journey - also known as "spiritually transmitted
(using spirituality to strengthen your self-identity)
'fast-food' spirituality (cheap, low quality, and unhealthy
teachers (who use you for
money, sex, fame or power)
narcissism (using spirituality as a defense mechanism to
protect the ego)
(pretending to look, talk, dress, and act like a "spiritual
motivations (confusing the desire for belonging, validation
or escapism for seeking spiritual growth)
spiritual experience (sometimes an 'ego
death' experience can
the ego as feeling
cult-mentality (being in a spiritual community that rejects
individuality, questioning, or any type of personal
difference outside of the accepted norm)
pride/superiority (this happens to seasoned seekers who have
attained a certain level of wisdom but use that as an excuse
to shut down further growth)
codependence (finding a spiritual guide/teacher who mirrors
your own repressed desires, and vice versa, e.g. your desire
to be "protected" or "saved" and the teacher's desire to
feel special, needed, and loved)
"Chosen-People Complex" (believing that your
group/path/teacher is the best in the world)
Falling for the
cult of personality (bolstering your self-worth by
associating yourself with a powerful, charismatic or perhaps
Complex or believing that "you have arrived" (prematurely
claiming to be enlightened and to know everything, which
severely limits further growth and harms others)
bypassing (avoiding facing reality in favor of escaping into
feel-good spiritual fantasies)
This is by no means an
Furthermore, all of the above traps arise from one or all of the
The inability to
distinguish reality from illusion (or truth from lies)
The inability to
discern what is
ego-based and soul-based
psychological growth and maturing
inner work and exploration
of shadow motivations
Lack of honesty
and sincerity with oneself
How to Stop
Spiritually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Practice Spiritual
If our goal on the spiritual path is to be authentic and sincere
lovers of truth, we need to practice spiritual discernment.
As Indian master Paramahansa Yogananda once said,
"Truth is not afraid
If you want to prevent
yourself from contracting spiritually transmitted diseases
(STDs), there are a number of practices you can make use of, which
can include the following:
Go soul-searching and study yourself
To study yourself is to know yourself. Self-study means going on
a journey to explore the deepest realms of your mind and heart.
synonymous with the idea of soul-searching:
diving deep into places most people tend to avoid.
Valuable avenues of
spiritual and psychological teachings
workshops and self-development classes
spiritual mentor or teacher
...the list goes on.
There are many forms
of self-study on this website.
In fact, simply
reading this article is a form of self-study, so praises if
you've read this far!
2. Be brutally
honest with yourself
Easier said than done, I know.
spiritual discernment means being willing to face the hard truth
and facts about yourself. If you don't like facing reality,
you'll find it close to impossible to be honest with yourself
and therefore practice spiritual discernment.
discernment go hand-in-hand, you cannot have one without the
One powerful but simple way of being honest with yourself is
asking the question,
"Why am I
Try your best to dive
deep into the core reason.
If you start feeling
defensive, uncomfortable or threatened in any way, you have
likely found the truth.
If you feel like you want to run, stop
questioning or if you get the urge to distract yourself with
something else, you have likely stumbled upon the truth.
Being honest with yourself requires sincerity and
The good news is that
you can develop and strengthen these qualities by asking
questions such as,
"why?" and "what
is happening exactly?"
Other ways of being
honest with yourself include, for instance:
when you make mistakes
strengths and weaknesses
of your thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses, and
and reflecting on your habits, decisions, judgments, and
the willingness to be wrong
Because being honest
with yourself can be so confronting, it's essential to show
Make sure that you
forgive yourself and treat yourself kindly, otherwise being
honest will become more traumatizing than nourishing.
3. See from
Explore alternative viewpoints.
Look into the pros
and cons, the evidence and contradictory evidence, the for and
against. To practice spiritual discernment means to go beyond
your limited perspective and determine what is real vs.
What do others say -
popular and unpopular, famous and infamous, educated and
uneducated, etc. - about the subject at hand?
Be careful of biases.
Seek to expand your understanding as far and wide as possible.
realizations and discoveries of others can help fill the missing
piece of the puzzle and inspire us to connect with higher
4. Listen to your
intuition or instincts are a
manifestation of unconscious knowing.
When you "feel
something is off" it's because deep down, a part of you (whether
on a heart, mind and/or soul level) calls bullshit. Pay
attention to how your instincts feel in your body.
spread through you when faced with a bad decision, an
ill-intentioned person or even a dangerous situation?
For instance, some
people feel butterflies in their stomach, pressure in their
head, a lump rise in their throat, a feeling of dread, or like
me, tingles up and down the spine.
So connect with that
wise and primal part of you and use it as an ally.
5. Seek and be
receptive to feedback
Get feedback from trusted friends, peers, teachers, and
One way to test both
yourself and others is to seek out a spiritual advisor and ask
them to help you see where you're going wrong. A competent and
honest spiritual advisor won't be interested in affirming you at
the cost of being truthful.
Instead, they will
help you to see any spiritual or psychological disease you may
be carrying - and how to remedy it.
The next step is
perhaps the hardest: will you be receptive and listen to the
observations? It can be difficult and confronting for the
inflated ego to handle honest
feedback as the entire purpose of the ego-self is to protect,
pretend, and hide.
So be gentle with
yourself but also open to growing and evolving.
It's okay to feel
emotionally reactive, but don't let that prevent you from
accepting and integrating the truth.
6. Ask questions
(and test your theories)
If you suspect something within yourself or another may be
false/disingenuous, get to the root of it and ask questions.
Examples of questions
you could ask include:
Is this true?
Am I being
What is an
opposing perspective that might be equally as true?
What is this
Why does this
not feel right?
intuition or fear speaking?
Are there any
There are an endless
amount of questions you could pose, but these provide a
springboard for you to create your own (or just use what's
The next step is to test your theories. For example, if you
suspect that a public figure you admire and follow is not being
authentic, test your theory.
Go through their work
and see if you can find any instances of transparency, humanness
or vulnerability. If the person is presenting an invulnerable
image, something is most likely off.
We are all human
after all, and even spiritual gurus aren't exempt from weakness
7. Reflect and
Self-reflection is an important stage in spiritual discernment.
How else will you
discover where you may be going wrong? The easiest and most
widespread way to self-reflect is through journaling.
Journaling is simply the process of writing down your thoughts,
feelings, and discoveries in a journal or diary. I recommend
creating a calm and atmospheric space for this practice.
Light a candle, burn
some incense, make yourself a cup of tea, and put on some
soothing music if it helps. Getting yourself into a reflective
mindset requires you to be quiet, still, and removed from the
hustle and bustle of daily life.
You don't need to
dedicate a lot of time to this activity - just ten minutes a day
will do - but obviously the more time you can spare the better.
Find a time of day in
which you feel particularly lucid (or mentally clear) and make a
habit out of exploring your thoughts, mindsets, feelings,
habits, beliefs, and shadows.
Start with one area
of life that you would like to evaluate, for example, your
relationships, work life, family commitments, personal goals,
habits, addictions, patterns, etc.
Next, explore your thoughts and feelings towards this one area
of life. You don't need to write a whole book - just a few lines
or even words are fine.
Then, explore any
dark or looming feelings you have been experiencing such as
anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, jealousy, shame, etc.
Equally so, explore any overwhelmingly positive feelings you may
be having such as joy, ecstasy, immense gratitude, relief, etc.
Next, explore why you
might be feeling these strong positive or negative emotions.
What are the
pros and cons of them?
you not be considering?
you be bypassing, escaping or ignoring?
Reflect on your
answers. You are always free to add to your self-evaluation
throughout the next few days or weeks.
Although this process can be difficult and challenging at times,
you will find with time that it is worth every ounce of effort
As Henry Miller wrote in his book
Tropic of Capricorn,
shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we
deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end.
What seems nasty,
painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and
strength, if faced with an open mind.
Discernment is Like a Sword…
It cuts through all of the deception, traps, and B*S*...
It truly is one of our
greatest tools of protection on the spiritual path. I hope this
article has emphasized just how essential discernment and sincerity
To close, I'll leave you
with a few inspiring quotes on spiritual discernment:
Sound judgment, with
discernment, is the best of seers.
Discernment is the
ability to see things for what they really are and not for what
you want them to be.
We must learn to
practice the art of discernment in making choices without
judgment, to monitor carefully what enters our field.
Where there is not
discernment, the behavior even of the purest souls may in effect
amount to coarseness.
Henry David Thoreau