I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but I have got to say something about this.
Here’s the scenario in the world of marketing: you’ve got a problem and I have got a solution, for only $99 a month you can be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
It is the same deal in organized religion and yes (will lord shiva strike me down if I say this out loud?) the yoga industry. The example needs to be fleshed out because it is subtle (and vicious).
Basically, here’s the message:
Joe-shmo, you are not enlightened. You are fat, and you were born with original sin (or karma, choose your poison). This problem that you were born into the world with means that you are unworthy of good things in life unless you do XYZ everyday, cleanse your body, repent, have enough positive thoughts, attend a bunch of self-help workshops, join a spiritual movement, crusade for the conscious-love seekers and do your self-less service or karma yoga. Then you just might be worthy enough to be let in on the secret to fulfillment, enlightenment, transcendence, and love. Oh, and by the way membership is $99 a month.
When I spell it out like that, doesn’t this seem utterly ridiculous?
It really is the opposite of a thriving practice community because it is centered on the idea of a hierarchy and the participants being sheeple (herd mentality) and unworthy.
That people can be convinced that they are not good enough unless they can nail a handstand, give one’s life to a spiritual guru, do the splits, and meditate without having a thought is totally made up. It is the same hamster wheel that perpetuates consumer culture and is founded on elitism.
In this case the have’s and the have not’s are people who are or are not “enlightened.”
(By the way there is a pretty big shadow that grows when a person thinks that they are more conscious than other people and no magazine gloss is ever going to make it pretty)
For the most part, modern day gurus, spiritual teachers, and self-help personalities depend on people thinking that they are a mess and that they need to be fixed or taught to be better and more conscious. That is how a billion dollar industry was created and it doesn’t seem to be leading anyone to greater happiness.
Actually, I see a lot of really good looking yoga bodies who are miserable on the inside.
Instead of giving our power away to personalities, and spiritual movements, how about we look at it in terms of us all being deserving of happiness, love, and abundance by the very nature of who we are?
When a person already feels their innate value they are going to see things and the machine of the wellness market place very differently. No one who really has people’s backs is going to say all you need to do is XYZ. The sincere guides out there are going to remind you that it starts in this moment and with little habits and changes throughout your day (which becomes week, month, and year).
There is no “get enlightened” or “get healthy quick” fast-track. A good life comes from cultivating the person that we already are and knowing that we are not bad, wrong, or stupid.
Some (realistic) suggestions:
Know that you are your own best teacher.
You have been with yourself longer than most people. You know what it feels like when you are cranky, happy, sad, lonely, joyful, and thriving. No one else can ever know what those states feel like for you.
They can witness you in them, they can be empathetic, they can give you tools, and they can love you through them but no one else really knows what kind of impact various things have on your life, what makes your heart race, and where you hide your deepest fears in your body. And most importantly no one knows what is best for you.
Be open, but discerning, listen to your gut and your head.
As much as closure gets a bad rap in the spiritual and yoga community, critical thinking skills also seem to go out the window once you introduce enlightenment into the picture.
Sure, if you really want to try sun-gazing as a way to re-evaluate what you need to be healthy and happy, by all means follow your heart but don’t do it because some yogi thousands of years ago allegedly did it and now you are on this path and should too.
(I don’t recommend sun-gazing. The sun is powerful. Don’t mess with that sh*t.)
Sometimes there is a subtle manipulation in spiritual or yogic teachings that are designed to make you think that you are weak (without the yoga system, meditation practice, or guru). You are not weak. We all already have #1 spiritual super power at our disposal 24/7 and it is called kindness.
We can start with being kind to our self and then move our kindness toward others.
Don’t ever believe that someone has all of the answers.
Just because a person talks with authority, has letters after their name, has written books and many hours clocked on the yoga mat or meditation cushion does not make a person qualified to guide another person’s spiritual journey.
Maybe they have suggestions but take them with a grain of salt and know that you are more qualified than anyone to make your life the way you want it to be. You are also the only person who really has the power to make it happen. All a teacher can do is be a source of inspiration and a place to rest your ego so that you don’t think it is all about you. Don’t make the mistake and think it is all about them. There are plenty of people who brand themselves as saviors. Save your own life.
We are not broken. We all have something of value to offer others.
There are so many traps on the spiritual journey. A lot of thoughts to be aware of but the most important thought to cultivate is the one that reminds us that we are worthy, and valuable. Here are some good quotes from Krishnamurti on that pernicious beast called authority:
“All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary.” ~ J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
“To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigor and passion. It is only in that state that one learns and observes. And for this a great deal of awareness is required, actual awareness of what is going on inside yourself, without correcting it or telling it what it should or should not be, because the moment you correct it you have established another authority, a censor.” ~ J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
“If you are very clear, if you are inwardly a light unto yourself, you will never follow anyone. But because you are not, you follow, you follow out of your confusion; and what you follow must also be confused. Your elders, as well as yourself, are confused, politically and religiously. Therefore, first clear up your own confusion, become a light unto yourself, and then the problem will cease. The division between the master and the pupil is unspiritual.”~ J. Krishnamurti
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Siddhant Gawande at Pixoto