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February 14, 2014

The Wrong Way to be Spiritual. ~ Dawn Gluskin

Black Sheep Flickr CC

Did you know there is a wrong way to be spiritual?

The spiritual police are out in full force and will let us know when we’re not going deep enough.

Pardon my speck of sarcasm, but one of the things I love most about being part of the spiritual community is how warm and welcoming, non-judgmental, and supportive most members are. Whether it’s hanging out with fellow yogis or soul-sisters in real life or making new spirit friends online, the high-vibe pleasantries typically exchanged are a refreshing change of pace from what we might experience in the rest of this often crazy world. It can be a jungle out there.

That being said, spiritual folks are still human.

We have opinions, feelings, dreams, insecurities, pain, love and ego—sometimes these emotions can manifest themselves in ways that are, well, let’s just say not so supportive, welcoming, or accepting.

Especially in the digital world, I’ve noticed from time to time what I call the “I’m more spiritual than you” syndrome. This is what happens when people who have been walking down their spiritual path for quite some time get on a bit of high horse and look down on those perceived to be less-spiritual. The latter are defined as going about it the wrong way—in a way that is different than how they did it or would have us do it.

When I see these posts or dialogue it rubs me the wrong way. This is a queue to do some serious introspection to shine the light on what it is, exactly, that is being rubbed. In this case, I realize it is because I was the beginner once. Taking those first steps that helped me start to develop my own spiritual practice has been life changing.

And I think of what a shame it would be if somebody else was brave and open-hearted enough to start taking those same first steps on their own journey—only to be shunned and made to feel bad about themselves by the very spiritual community they sought to feel good in the first place.

I’ve seen fun poked at all different scenarios. And even though I’m all for a good laugh, when is the line crossed from chuckles to mean-spirited judgments?

Sure, we’ve all seen the Instagram yogis who seemingly started a practice just to see how many likes they can get. Certainly those who have a much deeper yoga practice which honors the philosophical and meditative elements as well as the physical side—and whom practice for the expansion of self while leaving ego out of it—may easily make a case that the Instagram yogis are in it for all the wrong reasons.

But who gets to decide what the right reasons are, anyway?

They are getting into a practice, period. Chances are they are going to develop some mind-body connection and mindfulness muscles in the process. Maybe they feel a little more confident in their own skin and learn to love themselves a little more.

Is there anything wrong with that?

Eventually they will probably feel a pull to go a little deeper. In the meantime, there are worse things one could be doing with their time and no one is getting hurt in the process.

I’ve seen some stabs taken at the phenomenon of posting Rumi quotes all over social media. I think to myself, “Oh no, they didn’t just bring Rumi into this!” I just so happen to adore Rumi—he is one of America’s favorite poets for a reason. The beauty in his words and how he brings the colors of the soul alive in his poetry makes my heart swoon. I never get tired of seeing him quoted.

But it seems the argument here is that those who are just taking in little sound bites in their social media feeds are getting a quickie, shallow version of what is very deep and thought-provoking material.

Okay, so what? If that little nugget of juicy Rumi goodness was felt in the heart, then who is anybody else to take away from that? We don’t necessarily need to know an author’s entire life story or the deeper meaning of all their work to be able to take some inspiration from the bits and pieces.

Rumi had such a beautiful way of exploring consciousness with his words that I like to think that a little seed is planted each time somebody consumes one of his sound bites. We never know what hunger for more truth those tiny seeds will induce.

We all know there are far worse things that can be floating around a news feed. I will take Rumi quotes over depressing news or celebrity scandals.

Am I going to show up to yoga class in a $200 Lululemon outfit? No, probably not. But that’s because I’m way too frugal! However, if somebody else chooses to spend their money in that way then you go girl (or boy)! It’s their money—let them spend it how they want.  It’s their body—let them dress it how they want. If we aren’t comfortable spending that kind of coin on some cotton pants—don’t.

I’ll join in saving money to spend on something else. (Nice vacation, anyone?)  But, that doesn’t make any one of us any more or less spiritual.

I’ve also seen stabs taken at being overly positive or using daily affirmations to get us by. Sometimes it is deemed “faking it” or “putting a bow on a problem.” I get it. It’s true that we can’t false sunshine our way out of serious pain. Telling ourselves in the mirror every morning that, “I am so happy—I love my life” when our heart is breaking on the inside is only going to get us so far. But if somebody is truly hurting and they can find some sort of coping mechanism to help them get out of bed, then freaking hell yeah for them!

Is this a long-term solution?

No, most likely not, but it’s a whole lot healthier than binge drinking, abusing drugs, seeking validation through relationships, or overeating as a means to cope. It’s a start. If we can fool our brain in a healthy way into being happy until we are strong enough to face our pain and truly heal it, then where is the harm in this?

Everybody walks their spiritual path on their own time and at their own pace.

It doesn’t take much to look around and see that there is a whole lot of pain and suffering in the world.  Turn on the news for a few minutes—people are hurting. They are acting out of fear. Bad things are happening all over the world. So if somebody is making an effort to reach toward the light, who are we to judge intentions or the way of going about it?

Those of us who have been on a spiritual path for some time may have opinions about what it means to truly go deep and expand consciousness. But instead of mocking, poking fun, or condemning others who are making their own way—the best way they know how—why not offer support and encouragement instead of judgment?

There is no right or wrong way to be spiritual.

For some it might entail heavy readings on philosophy and world religion and meditation for hours on end. For others it could be as simple as a walk on the beach, tuning into the ocean, and committing to being good to people. What makes each of us feel alive, happy, and free is what matters most. Let’s honor and respect the divinity in others and not be so quick to judge how they choose to honor themselves.

Namaste.

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Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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Dawn Gluskin