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. Shikki says:

    THIS! Spot on!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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! 🙂

  6. 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."

  7. 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)?

  8. Shivinity says:

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

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. amy says:

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. Robin says:

    Here is what my spirituality looks like: I am in service. It is as simple as if you quiz me of my five love languages "acts of service" is number one by a long shot. I show my family and friends I love them through acts of service. My work is in public service. My spiritual calling is in service. And when I do work on myself, it is guaged on a cost-benefit analysis of whether it makes me better at service, sharpens and maintains the my tools of service.

    When I see people on self obsessed spiritual journeys who never ever help anyone other than themselves, I am not particularly impressed, but I don't give them the time of judging them…I look for other people who are in service, all along the spectrum, who may have only the tiniest tools of service right now, because giving feels good, and encourages us to build bigger tools so we can give and serve more.

    Building an army of people of people who are willing to give and serve to the best of their ability and pay it forward is really where its at…we really know thats the answer to the moral despair we are living in right now. The narssicistic spiritual journey only leads to one existentialist crisis after another.

  17. HeatherM says:

    Well written! I love it! It is true…the more you talk, the less you know. It is simple.

  18. thesoulfirewoman says:

    I bloody LOVE this. It made me smile wryly all the way through. The 'happy, clappy, crappy' brigade are so often passive-aggressive and oh, so sanctimonious (if well meaning…ish). Give me a really meaty conversation with someone who is battling their own stuff and is happy to get passionate about their shit any time!