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 account—but mainly uses it to pretend that celebrities are her friends.