Imposter Syndrome, Mantra, and Doing Things We Don’t Want to Do

August 30, 2023

Shambhavi and the Jaya Kula community gather for satsang and get real about all the questions we humans want answered. Intimate, courageous, heartfelt spiritual talk about pretty much everything. So happy you are here! A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Hi, this is Shambhavi. Welcome to my weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion, and waking up while living in a messy world. The Satsang with Shambhavi podcast is recorded live each week with students of our nonprofit community, Jaya Kula. For more information and to find out about attending a satsang, visit Thanks for listening. Much love to you wherever and however you are.

Can you talk about how imposter syndrome is part of the Titan Realm? No reason. No reason. [laughter] Asking for a friend. [laughter]

For those that haven't taken teachings in the six realms or heard about them, the six realms come from Indian, Hindu puranas. Teaching stories that have spiritual teaching. Big, sprawling, exciting stories that have spiritual teachings built into them.

The six realms relate to the six classes of beings that we can encounter, but they also relate to six ways that humans can show up. These are very big categories.

I don't want to say they're a psychology. They're more like a karma-ology than a psychology. But they somehow relate to the feeling filters that we're wearing most of the time.

Then the Tibetan Buddhists codified these teachings into a set of more organized teachings and practices that we can do to try to work with the six realms in our lives. This is a really core teaching for Jaya Kula. For all of us, and for me also.

The six realms are Hell Realm, Hungry Ghost Realm, Animal Realm, Human Realm, Titan Realm, and God Realm. The signal quality of a Titan Realm sort of feeling orientation is that you have a deep-seated insecurity about your worth, about your real value.

And you try to medicate that or fix that by accomplishing things in the external world. So you try to fix your feeling of insecurity by being the best at things. Or being chosen.

Being number one. Being the best. Being a master. Having some perfection. Being—what was the word a favorite titan of mine used to use? Impeccable.

He always wanted to be impeccable, which really meant no one can criticize me. So we live in a Titan Realm culture, where we're valued by what we produce and how we score. The Titan Realm is a big measuring realm, measuring your external accomplishments.

We have all participated in Titan Realm to some degree or another. I have never met a single person who grew up in the United States who doesn't embody this realm to some degree or another.

At the far end of this realm, the spectrum, the Titan Realm spectrum, there's a medical diagnosis now that maps to that, which is narcissistic personality disorder. People who are narcissists to that degree really are very, very self-doubting.

And they're trying to fix that by becoming unassailable in their grand accomplishments. And everybody around you becomes fodder for that.

And one of the things that's most interesting to me about Titan Realm is that there's this vigilance about it. People who are really deep into this are often scanning to make sure everyone's responding to them in the right way.

And if you're not, if you're not buying their story about themselves or being admiring, then you get focused on. And you get basically gaslit into reorienting, so that you give that person what they want and what they need.

But at the core of it is this just incredible self-doubt. So imposter syndrome is when you succeed, but you have self-doubt. In a sense, imposter syndrome is wisdom showing up as, I achieved something, but it didn't solve my problem of self-doubt. [laughter]

I achieved something, but I am still doubting. I'm still insecure. I'm still shaky inside. And imposter syndrome is one of the key elements of the Titan Realm, which is fear of unmasking and subsequent humiliation.

The Titan Realm is trying to avoid, first and foremost, being humiliated. And they feel humiliated by not being confident enough, not achieving enough.

They don't want anyone to discover how insecure they really are. And so any accomplishment, if you're parked in this realm, is going to, if you're being honest with yourself, have an aspect of imposter syndrome.

Because really, and again, think of it as wisdom. Because it's telling you, it's giving you the message that no matter how much I achieve, no matter how much admiration I get, no matter how much likes on Facebook, I still feel self-doubt.

This isn't going to solve my problem. The external achievements are not going to solve my problem. So think of it as a message, not a psychological problem.

Sometimes people try to antidote imposter syndrome by saying, friends or even a therapist, maybe, say, no, it really was great what you did. You should appreciate your accomplishments.

All that's doing is saying, yes, your value is outsourced. You should always be looking outside of yourself for validation. And that's not where actual self-worth, confidence comes from.

I wrote about this last week or so on, this Substack that I have, about Vajra Pride. Vajra Pride is mainly used in Buddhist traditions, but it's very useful. It's a Sanskrit concept.

But it's about feeling that indestructible value that we all share. How does that feel when you make contact with that, versus externalizing your sense of value and trying to get feedback to make you feel better?

The only reason why we have anything like Titan Realm, or narcissistic personality disorder, is because we don't know where to look to find that unshakeable sense of value. We're looking in the wrong place.

It's not about doing it better, having more admiration, having more awards, more people recognizing us. That will never, ever resolve the issue.

Because we have value simply because we're made of wisdom and virtue. And we have to discover that. That is the only sure way of experiencing our value. Everything else is ephemeral and can be shaken.

And then there's the other realm that also partakes of this same quality of measuring and achievement to achieve a sense of self-worth, and that's Human Realm. But Human Realm is more focused on mind accomplishments.

Being the smartest. Having the fastest answer. Having the most vocabulary words. [laughs] Doing the crossword puzzle better than anyone else. Whatever. Something like that.

Titan Realm is more about external achievements, and building things, making things, having the best wine collection. The most expensive watch. Whatever. Stuff like that.

Whereas Human Realm is more about how smart you think you are and your intellectual accomplishments. But they're still both very mired in measuring something. And they are extremely dependent on what other people think of you.

I was interested in talking a little bit more about the realms, how we can interact compassionately when people are really stuck and/or suffering in whatever realm they're existing in.

The reason why the realm teachings, I think, are so useful is because they teach us that human life is full of openness as well as boundness.

It might be that someone likes to hang out in a particular realm more than others. But basically we all could express all of the realms at different points during the day or in our lives or whatever.

So there's a lot of movement of our emotional lenses that we have, our feeling, constitution, and we get breaks from it. We get breaks when we self-reflect.

Or we can actually step out of realm, karmic realm vision, at different points, even very, very briefly. And this is the actual beauty of human life is that we aren't condemned to be in a particular realm. So that's one thing to consider.

The other thing that really, I think, brings compassion for anyone who's experiencing any karmic realm vision is understanding that every single one of the realms is an attempt to connect.

It's an attempt to make a connection with others. To feel a continuity. To feel intimacy with others. And if you can go back and look at your notes on the realms and see if you can discern, in each of them is an attempt to connect.

Even though they are failed attempts in many, many cases. But all of the realms depend on making connections with other people to keep them going, to fuel them.

And they all, or involve, reaching out to others in a certain way. Even though those ways of reaching out might have the opposite effect of what is intended.

And my favorite example of this is when someone's very angry. You don't just—well, you do just sit in your room being angry—but at some point you're going to go and talk to someone and say, I'm really angry at you. Or whatever, something less nice than that.

And that is a very powerful way to try to connect and form a connection. To throw anger at other people forms this almost like pillar of energy between you and other people.

And of course, other people then are magnetized because nobody likes someone else to be angry at them. It's very, very rare if someone comes up to you and expresses a lot of anger for you to go, oh, okay, no problem, and walk away.

You're like, wait, what? [laughter] And suddenly there's this big connection. And the person who's very angry can really keep you enthralled in their anger. And that's a way of trying to be connected.

So every single realm is like exactly that. A very powerful way, whether it works well or not, of trying to connect. And every realm has inside of it, like a jewel inside of a lotus, the wisdom that gave rise to it. And the wisdom that can be rediscovered. Where more natural connection, more easeful connection can be discovered.

When we understand that every single person is trying to make a connection in some way and trying to rediscover their continuity. Trying to get out of loneliness and disconnection and separation.

When we understand every person is doing that all the time, no matter how horrible it looks, then we can begin to feel natural compassion. It doesn't mean we can fix what's happening.

But in terms of fixing people and wanting them to be not suffering in that way, first of all, you have to look at your own motivation. Sometimes we want to fix people because we want them to be the kinds of people that we want to be around.

Because we don't want to be lonely. There's often a fairly selfish motive about fixing other people. We're too scared, too stagnant, or whatever we are, to just go off and find other people that are more to our liking.

So we try to change the people we know into the people we want to be with. And that's a never-ending tussle. But if we're not doing that, of course, I wish I could just wave a wand and everyone would stop suffering, including myself. [laughter]

Of course, that's a wonderful motivation to want everyone to have the best possible experience. And discover their real nature and not be suffering and twisted up and all of this, of course.

But with that desire, there has to be a great deal of sensitivity because there's very little that's up to us. We can fix very, very little. In fact, we can't fix anything.

But sometimes we can be a small catalyst in somebody else's life for them to move to a different place. But ultimately, that's going to be their work to do, not ours. And we can just be kind of an ally.

And that takes a great deal of patience and humility. And just reconciling ourselves to how human life is. Human life is full of a lot of karma, and that's a bitter pill. That's really a bitter pill.

But this is what it is. And with the work that we do to unwind that karma, we can discover wisdom. And that's a great blessing. I hope that some of that is helpful.

I have a question about mantra. On your website, you talk about starting to feel in tune with the mantra. I was hoping you could talk a little bit more about what that feels like.

So especially someone who's just starting on mantra practice, really just choose one. And then do much, much more of that one. And if it relates to a deity, like if it's a Ganesha mantra or a Durga mantra, then you can learn more about Ganesha or about Durga.

And get a statue or picture to put on your alter or place where you're practicing. The thing about how something feels or knowing how something feels, it is really a trap to hear that description from someone else's experience.

Because then we think we know what we're heading for. And we really shouldn't be heading for anything. We should be receptive and following.

Should anything occur, should anything feel like it's shifting, or we should notice something about our practice, then then we just want to pay attention to that and have a sense of following that.

Because the mantras are aspects of the embodiment of the deities or the gurus or the qualities that the mantras are referring to. And so they are like little wisdom bombs.

And we should be following them. We shouldn't really be telling them what we want to experience. So I would say go into it with an open-ended attitude.

If you're feeling some things now that are at this early stage, that are pulling you inward, as you say, and then you don't want to—it feels too effortful to do the practice.

I would just say that this particular practice from Trika and Dzogchen, really isn't about inward or outward. It's about discovering living presence everywhere. And kind of erasing the difference between in and out.

So I would just keep doing the mantra out loud. And you can check back in with me at some other point, if you've chosen a mantra and have been doing it for a while. There's sort of a structure or a protocol for doing it out loud. And then eventually doing it silently.

But it's a long time before you should be doing it silently. The gross vibration of the mantra can be really, really helpful for people who are practitioners.

And then oftentimes when people fall silent when they're doing a mantra, it's because they've actually become distracted. So you may feel more relaxed, but it also might be an aspect of distraction.

So I would say at this stage, just put some effort in. And when you find yourself kind of drifting off, we don't want to be in a trance state. We always want to be feeling like a fresh kind of awareness.

And when we lose that, we want to gently bring ourselves back to that. There's a lot about mantra that you will need to learn to understand all these things more deeply.

But just remember that you're at the beginning, so do a beginning practice. And don't fall into a trance. That is not desirable.

The thing about expression, that the primary value is expression, it's not getting stuff done. Can that apply to awful adulting things like doing taxes and doing things that don't feel like they have time embedded in them?

Sure. Absolutely, because are you going to be able to express the things that you want to express if your wages are garnished? [laughter] I mean, we have to be thinking about things a little more, things we don't want to do, like our taxes. What is the consequence of not doing taxes is less freedom.

But it's connecting with the expression of finishing it and being able to get past it that gives me extra freedom, as opposed to....

Exactly, and less entanglement. Because if you don't do your taxes, you're entangled with the IRS. They're calling you, they're writing to you, you have to answer. Those are all times when you're not doing what it was that you want to express.

That's true.

So you're thinking of, how can I protect my ability to freely express myself? That's a great question. I don't want to do this, but am I protecting my ability to freely express myself by doing this thing I don't want to do?

Probably everything I don't want to do is standing in the way of something I do want to do.

Yeah, maybe. But sometimes things can be eliminated, too. I like to tell the story of when I moved for the first time to Portland in 2007. I had a moving van of some sort.

But I had a bag, like a paper bag of stuff that I thought was very important, like papers. Mail that had to be taken care of right away. So I had to keep that close to me.

When I got to my apartment, I put that bag in a closet thinking, okay, I'm going to get to that soon. I never got to it. Never. And nothing ever happened. Nothing.

Some of the things we think are important are not. [laughs] But some of the things that we have to do actually are protecting our self-expression.


Photo by Tom Barrett


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.