Spiritual: because sensitive, self-absorbed, pious & overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful. ~ Jade Doherty

Via Recovering Yogi
on Aug 3, 2011
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As co-founder of Recovering Yogi, an irreverent forum for the “spiritually disenfranchised,” I’m excited to present to you a piece by Jade Doherty, our August contributor of the month.

I laughed out loud several times while reading her earnest look into the abounding superficiality in the so-called spiritual community. (Favorite line: “But thanks for going to the trouble of choosing a space free from landmines and Nazis.”) I hope you enjoy it too.

— Recovering Yogi co-founder Vanessa Fiola


(Originally published on Recovering Yogi on July 18, 2011)

As someone who loves a good satsang, goes to a homeopath before a doctor, and sees enlightenment as somewhere I’d like to end up (although, of course, there is no “I” and nowhere to “end up”), I thought I’d like spiritual people. We seemed so similar: grappling with the human experience, trying to transcend and dismantle the ego, and seeking The Truth at every turn.

And yet, I was shocked to discover that I actually don’t like spiritual people. There, I said it. Self-professed spiritual people are some of the most annoying, selfish and judgmental people I have ever met. Give me a beer and a cigarette over a self-satisfied soya chai any day!

I can’t help but think that the ancient masters must be turning in their graves or laughing their arses off at our superficial, watered down understandings. I have to laugh when someone who is quite clearly really upset and angry says, through tears and gritted teeth, that “everything is perfect.” As if those three little words are fooling anyone! As if there’s something wrong with being angry. It’s just a feeling, no better and no worse than “good” feelings like happiness. In covering up and hiding from “negative” or “bad” feelings, we’re missing an opportunity to really get at the beliefs that limit us.

But that’s not spiritual.

Spiritual people don’t swear, or shout, or have negative vibes, so let’s sweep that one under the carpet and go back to being so very positive, happy and perfect.

Also, a lot of the teachings seem so obvious that I’m not sure why there’s a need to state them. “It is as it is”—yes, that’s true. You have, however, failed to tell me anything that I don’t already know. “This is a safe space”—I should f***ing hope so. Being safe is the minimum requirement that I have for a space. But thanks for going to the trouble of choosing a space free from landmines and Nazis. “Everything is perfect”—that’s good to know, but try telling that to someone starving to death or whose child just died. Seems a bit patronising and insensitive, to be honest.

“Spiritual” seems to be a PR blanket term for denial, self-indulgence and not being a very nice person. Having an issue is fair enough. We all have them. The same goes for feelings, emotions, beliefs and conditioning. But don’t wallow in them and think you’re doing a good thing. And please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me about it. I so have my own issues and feelings to amuse myself with, thank you very much. Feelings, like genitals, are incredibly interesting and important to those whom they belong to, but pretty irrelevant to (almost) everyone else, so maybe don’t shout them out all the time.

I can’t help but feel that we’ve missed the point.

Spirituality doesn’t seem to be about the spirit at all. It’s not about studying the Vedas, about ruthlessly letting go of that which isn’t true, or practicing seva or mindfulness. It’s about feeling good, being better and avoiding pain. It’s a form of self-help, but with a bit of Sanskrit thrown in for good measure.

I’m constantly amazed by what the spiritual community offers. It bears no resemblance to the often-quoted teaching of Buddha, Ramana or Jesus. It’s a quick fix that makes you feel good in that moment but doesn’t provide any lasting change or evolution. It’s spiritual porn. Divorced from the years of studying, understanding, devotion and experience that are necessary to truly embody these teachings, it seems to fall flat.

Anyone who’s Wikipedia-ed Buddhism can sound like they know what they’re talking about.



Watch: oooooooooom, there is no I, there is no other, the Universe is a reflection of your beliefs, you are love. Bang, done, that’ll be £50 please. Sounds good, and on one level I know it to be true. Doesn’t mean I live my life from that place of understanding, or that I can teach it. It’ll take more than doing a few yoga and Reiki courses, changing your name and signing emails with “Namaste” to have a look at my chakras!

In my experience, real Spirituality, should such a thing exist, is messy. It’s painful, it’s difficult, it brings stuff up, tears us apart and, most of all, is personal. There is no shortcut, no guru who can do it for us, no cure, no magic mantra and no piece of paper that can proclaim us “fixed.”

So I, for one, would officially like to opt out of the Spiritual movement. I don’t know what it means and it’ll take more than well-timed quotes to shift this girl’s separation consciousness.


About Jade Doherty

Jade is pretty clueless about life, but seems to have gotten away with it so far. She’s worked as a football coach and an English Teacher, but feels that her calling lies in drinking tea and laughing at herself. Having dipped her toe in the world of new age philosophy and yoga, she got scared and scurried back to her cave/bedroom. She can be found on Facebook, and has a Twitter accountbut mainly uses it to pretend that celebrities are her friends.


About Recovering Yogi

Far from the land of meaningless manifestation, vacuous positivity, and boring yoga speak lives Recovering Yogi, the voice of the pop spirituality counterculture and an irreverent forum where yogis, ex-yogis, never-yogis, writers, and readers converge to burst the bubble of sanctimonious rhetoric. We are critical thinkers and people who just love to laugh. Visit us on our web site for some straight talk, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or buy a t-shirt and support our mission.


68 Responses to “Spiritual: because sensitive, self-absorbed, pious & overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful. ~ Jade Doherty”

  1. fivefootwo says:

    Thank you for sharing your feelings about this. It was interesting to read and sort of important to know about, not terribly relevant to my present situation but I heard you Loud & clear 😀

  2. Karen Eliot says:

    Enjoyed this, thank you! Life is yin and yang, why on earth are some of us so determined to cut off the hand sinister? It too bears gifts that help us understand who and what we are.

  3. Jolene says:

    Thank you, Jade! I love this, I love this, I love this. It's what just a handful of us have been saying since the beginning of the "new age."

  4. yogiclarebear says:

    Jade, this is funny. As I read your piece, I came to feel (feel?) like the phrase "spiritual community" is almost like an oxymoron for you. And I totally get it. Spirituality can get so messy and muddled when it "communes." I think that is true for anything. Too many cooks in the kitchen make for a convoluted casserole. Connection is powerful, but there is a lot of sifting through the "spiritual shallowness."

  5. jotartare says:

    Brilliant and hilarious.

  6. Fantastic article Vanessa, really enjoyed it, very witty 🙂

    • vanessafiola says:

      Awesome, Noreen! Jade did a great job, didn't she?!

      • Yogini5 says:

        Jade did not ghostwrite a word, she just provided her editing expertise …

        • Kate says:

          Wait I'm confused… who's a ghostwriter?

          • Yogini5 says:

            I'm more confused than you are. Seems that Jade Doherty wrote the article. Word for word, it's the same as on the Recovering Yogi site …

          • Jade Doherty says:

            Ha, just to clear it up, I wrote it. But because it went up on recoveringyogi and because Vanessa (very kindly) posted it here, she's the tagged author, so to speak. Hope that makes sense! x

          • vanessafiola says:

            I posted (as Joslyn and Leslie have done for our two prior Contributors of the Month) because that's our current approach to republishing RY stories. We're introducing a new approach going forward. Hopefully our new approach will allow people to focus on the article rather than the distribution method.

  7. First of all, this is hilarious and so well-written-love it! I agree with you when you say that "real Spirituality…is messy. It’s painful, it’s difficult, it brings stuff up, tears us apart and, most of all, is personal." Yes. Absolutely. It's too bad that the idea of being "spiritual" has given birth to the rule-ridden, oblivious, boundary-less qualities that often seem so prevalent these days. We are embodied beings & the more deeply we experience the world – all of the mess as well as the beauty – the more in tune we are with it. That's real spirituality.
    And I'm a yoga teacher who just came back from pilgrimage in South India. Oh, and I eat meat & drink wine. Oh, and I also pray. 🙂 http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/07/meditating
    Thanks for the post!

    • Jade Doherty says:

      You eat meat and drink?! Bad, bad yogi! Thanks for your comments. I totally agree about embodiment and deeply experiencing the world. The more here we are the more intimately we can experience life. xx

  8. Jayshree says:

    I think. You have not found a right Guru to guide you. I am spiritual doing my practices everyday and changes in me are the side effects , it has experiencial changed me . It is possiable if a self centered person with so much ego , anger, judgemental can change and become a true person it can happen to anybody. The practices i do is isha yoga ,tje first course is inner engineering. Which is ancient yogic tecnic which takes 30 minutes and is very powerfull. You can go to the web site isha yoga foundtion.com

  9. Rhonda says:

    cheers!…love it! My son has congenital heart defects, & has had open heart surgery 5times. I feel exactly where your coming from!…. My daily practice saved my life and my sanity!… & it hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been real!…Namaste. 😀

  10. some mental motivation are just mis-used, find a right belief is very important

  11. David Martin says:

    I see "spiritual" as the parts of us which are not physical or mental . . . our story, our concepts, our sense of meaning, the parts of us which exist apart from our body even after we are gone, things like community and family, relationships, dreams, hopes, concepts . . .

  12. WTF??? says:

    Thank you for explaining to me. I try to see the best in people, but I'm always disappointed and never really understood why… Yes, we all have "issues"; it's disappointing how many use the spiritual facade to mask "not being a very nice person". It makes it very hard to find the truly goodhearted people.

  13. amy says:

    Thank )ou for this! I have been guilty of saying “its all perfect” when I have felt terrible and just had to feel terrible a bit…however this article is perfect! Thanks

  14. Kate says:

    Jade I think you should be a stand-up comedian, this article is hilarious!

  15. Jema says:

    Interesting, change a couple of "spiritual speak" phrases for "Christianese" and you can say the exact.same.things. about many Christians. Authenticity is key to finding the Spirit, however you go about!

  16. tanya lee markul says:

    Thank you Jade! This article makes me think of the quote, 'How do you know God if you don't know yourself?' I mean, we can all read Wikipedia and use it's jargon while on our soap boxes with friends, families and while looking into the mirror. We can all follow any spiritual decree, but if we don't know who we are, then what are we really doing anyway?!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  17. Thanks for this…it needs to be said & your take was hilarious. I have often used the "spiritual not religious" cop out because I felt like an inadequate poser calling myself a Buddhist. I am amazed at the number of people who cry "spiritual, spiritual" that are actually saying "denial, judgment and self-indulgence" with their actions. I'm sure it's been me at times too. Lately I try to avoid the labels and instead focus on being compassionate, being of benefit to others, and generally not being an a**hole.

  18. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  19. Jade Doherty says:

    Hi, thanks for all the comments and feedback. I've really enjoyed reading your comments and am happy to see that my lil' article has made you LOL and resonated for some of you. Thanks again! Jade xx

  20. michaela fairbairn says:

    thanks this really made me laugh! so much i related to living in Glastonbury! can you send me more like this please?

  21. YoginiBunny says:

    i enjoy this article more and more every time i read it. My favorite line "Feelings, like genitals, are incredibly interesting and important to those whom they belong to, but pretty irrelevant to (almost) everyone else…"

  22. "Spritual Porn"…Love it!!

  23. Jean LeBlanc says:

    I completely agree with you. From my observations, more than a few members of the spiritual but not religious community act as though they were religious but not spiritual…gives spirituality a bad name, not to mention a whole lot of innocent people headaches. Eh, but whatever. One of the beautiful things about spirituality is that it is an independent thing, so I don't have to concern myself with the not-so-nice people of the world.


  24. […] Spiritual: because sensitive, self absorbed, pious and overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful. | elephant journal Posted on August 5, 2011 by timelady Spiritual” seems to be a PR blanket term for denial, self-indulgence and not being a very nice person. Having an issue is fair enough. We all have them. The same goes for feelings, emotions, beliefs and conditioning. But don’t wallow in them and think you’re doing a good thing. And please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me about it. I so have my own issues and feelings to amuse myself with, thank you very much. Feelings, like genitals, are incredibly interesting and important to those whom they belong to, but pretty irrelevant to (almost) everyone else, so maybe don’t shout them out all the time. via elephantjournal.com […]

  25. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  26. Vero Barnes says:

    Loved it! Made me laugh so much! Thanks! V.
    <a href="http://www.happinessforall.wordpress.com” target=”_blank”>www.happinessforall.wordpress.com

  27. […] Spiritual: because sensitive, self-absorbed, pious & overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful. […]

  28. snowyogi says:

    hilarious and very well put. thank you!

  29. Natalie says:

    Sounds like someone needs to be reading Jed McKenna. He says all this stuff and more. Dude kinda sorta "burned my house down." I think it's a great thing to look at everything around you and say "Is this bullshit?" Even if it's just for good measure.

  30. Very humorous way to get some serious points across…

  31. […] Spiritual: because sensitive, self-absorbed, pious & overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful. […]

  32. I absolutely loved it 🙂 However, your line "But thanks for going to the trouble of choosing a space free from landmines and Nazis." Seriously? The "spiritual communities" I know make those two things look like tea and f&*^ing biscuits :))

    Loved it…write more :))

    btw, I don't remember if I mentioned it, but this was posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Braja Sorensen
    Lost & Found in India
    Editor, Elephant Spirituality
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

    • Jade Doherty says:

      Thanks Braja!

      I know, like what do you want? An award for choosing an area that won't explode?!

      Soon as I feel the burning desire to put fingers to keyboard and take the piss I will! 🙂

  33. Lauren says:

    I feel like there are different definitions for the word spiritual. Anything that labels people or a group of people is BS and you’re right on the money. I found an amazing group of authentic teachers at my yoga studio who highlight the imperfection. Really it’s all about being kind to each other. That’s when we feel good inside and one with everything and everyone. I think it’s that simple, and all of the ancient scriptures point that way. It’s the way we’ve made spirituality into a modern construct, a fad or trend, an excuse almost, that muddles the entire process. The real ‘spiritual’ people don’t wear it on their sleeve. They share their imperfect stories, embarrassments, failures, and they definitely laugh at themselves! Good article, you raised some great thought!!

  34. carola nada says:

    i am 77 young. never claimed to be anything or believe in anything its ok for me

  35. Shikki says:

    THIS! Spot on!

  36. jcmacbeth says:

    I consider myself spiritual, but I don't really spread it around. My wife and I meditate regularly, do yoga, and are Reiki Masters. That being said, when we go to spiritual retreats (say, a reiki workshop, or to go see Amma, etc) we end up surrounded by the people you describe. The questions they ask are self absorbed and usually stupid and have little to do with the matters at hand, so to speak. We have sat and had drinks with people who really needed to unload their pain on us, telling us horrifying things that we did not need to know, and that they did not to say, yet again, because they obviously need to share their pain over and over again. I feel bad for these people. There are SO many wounded humans on this planet, spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc., that it is very difficult not to run into them, especially when you engage in group spiritual activities. For the most part I have stopped. I continue my practice of trying to be in the moment and at one with the planet, but I don't talk about it. And, by the way, a chai latte with cognac is really yummy. Skip the soy, it's pretty much poison.

  37. Mark Jaeger says:

    Thank you for sharing. I dislike the idea of 'blissing out' as well. In fact it should be blissing IN and looking in. People get angry, sad, happy etc…the real spiritual challenge is to experience all of the emotions and external stimulus with complete awareness, clarity, and equanimity…although most teachers just sell the feel good crap.

  38. Argenta says:

    I love the article, but this: "… feels that her calling lies in drinking tea and laughing at herself. " was, OMG, somebody finally got the right wording!! Thank you for making my day 🙂

  39. Jo says:

    I love this article, it's gutsy, real and witty. I cannot tell you how much I needed to read this TODAY after 7 years tripping around India and Sri Lanka, now working for a Buddhist organisation, but a native, indigenous one… not like the previous places I worked full of converts. Converts seem to be on pretentious trips a lot of the time, and I can say I was there too for a while. I can also say this… I drink wine and beer because I enjoy it, it is good for my soul, even when it loosens the tongue. Being still and aware is only part of the spiritual picture. In full solidarity I declare myself a recovering yogini! 🙂

  40. Tara says:

    My favorite is when you post something on a "spiritual" or even religious message board, and then someone posts back with a snarky passive-aggressive comment, ending it all with a *cough* heartfelt "Namaste."

  41. Thais says:

    Thank you for your thoughts! While I know the kind of people you speak of and am basically against any self-professed anything, I think we need to be careful not to generalize. There is definitely way too much of a pseudo-spiritual fad out there, but I also believe that there is a genuine movement happening of people becoming more aware and more truly Spiritual.

    I do absolutely agree with the part about it being hard, messy, and dredging stuff up. It is not and easy process and it is most definitely not about denial. I like the ideas of Thich Nhat Hahn (did I spell that right?) on anger and such feelings in which he talks about aknowledging those feelings and meeting them with other feelings you have within yourself such as mindfulness. The idea is to allow the feeling to be there and aknowledge it without allowing it to destroy you. It may sound like another pseudo-Spiritual clichè, but it a very profound notion if taken to heart. Yet it is all to easy to turn these notions into some kind of “spiritual” fast-food full of platitudes.

    I think it all goes back to the sincerity with which it is approached. We will all misunderstand concepts in the search for understanding, but are we in it for the true learning and growth of just for another “trip” (and I don’t mean that in a life voyage sorta way)?

  42. Shivinity says:

    Jade! Look up author Jed McKenna if you haven't already…you may (or may not!) thank me later!

  43. Amy says:

    Finally, an article to really love. I’m quite open-minded in most areas, including spirituality. It is unfortunate, as I try not to make gross generalizations, that my interaction with several so-called Buddhists, has been very revealing in a negative way. These individuals subscribe to “the Buddhist Philosophy” because it does not require one to possess a conscience. They are judgemental, self righteous, self serving, responsibility avoiding, dishonest people. Again, this is reflective of my experience. I know two individuals who do practice what they preach. They are genuinely spiritual. I respect their sincerity and it shows. Thank you so much for eloquently “calling out the posers”. They just get on my nerves!

  44. WVMama says:

    Love!!! Good chances are, if you think you're spiritual, you're not, but that's just my opinion. You may have a spiritual practice, you may be a seeker, but the minute i think I've got it, it's gone.

  45. Jean says:

    This is so very true ! I recently lost a very good friend to what she deemed her spiritual path. I saw a loving sweet person who was led by the allure of lightness. She not only left her husband her friends and me . She didn't even have the decency to say goodbye . She also
    Up and left two children whose life she had been a big part of without the guts or honesty to discuss why she was doing this . She has made all of her loved ones cut her off as she just couldn't decide what she wanted. So we all not only had to deal with the pain of the loss but we we were all made to make the decision to give up on the relationship as she wasn't even enlightened to do it herself.

    All o have heard is how she has so many demons to cut out. Many demons that seem to have just materialized as she pays loads of money to a person who is far from enlightened herself.

    I think being spiritual is something personal and you display by being a good person not by repeating spiritual quotes. Chanting away hours while avoiding the people in your real life or ending your letters in namaste.

  46. Melina P. says:

    This reminds me of a quote from a comedian whose name I cannot place right now. She said something like when you drive around wholefoods in boulder (sometimes this is a hot spot for some of these new age spiritual types-btw, I am not trying to dis wholefoods, even though I do prefer vitamin cottage) that you would think with the way people behave in the parking lot with bumper stickers that say "namaste" that the word must be sanskrit for "go fuck yourself." I thought that was hilarious and also enjoyed your article. Overly positive new age bs drives me nuts too. Some of the dominant thought waves in this arena make me want to say did you forget about empathy, embracing the full spectrum of emotions with acceptance, humility, kindness, responsiblity, learning to say sorry with sincerity when necessary, being authentic, etc. etc.

  47. amy says:

    Loved this. You wrote my feelings and experience exactly. Really good read thanks x

  48. Joyce says:

    My personal answer to this is to do my best to never put any sort of label on myself. I do consider myself spiritual but I don't fit into any category (i.e. yogi, Buddhist, etc. etc.). I just do my best to live as an authentic life as possible; turning inward for answers, guidance, clarity, understanding, etc. The minute we slap a label upon ourselves the potential 'danger' is that we feel we have to mold ourselves into something that we potentially are not. And this is where striving for authenticity and truth takes a turn off into the ditch and people become fake-ish in order to 'fit'.

    I have dabbled in many forms of spirituality and have only taken what I've needed, what has served my personal growth and development, and have left the rest behind. The result has been that I have found my own personal way to relate to problems, others, the world, etc.

    Anyway, I liked this article and I loved the part about not running from emotions. Tapping into our emotions is an excellent way of getting to know ourselves, our issues, and our needs. Running from them is nonsense to me. Thanks for the article.

  49. Deb M. says:

    I think some have missed the truth in the statement "everything is perfect". It does not mean the things are "good" or "pleasant" or that we shouldn't be feeling any of those unpleasant feelings such as anger or pain or grief…..it means that things are exactly as they are meant to be. Right there in that moment. It is for you to accept it, it is a gift.

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