April 19, 2016

How Deep is Your Spirituality?

Spiritual Charlatans

Let’s face it, spirituality has become trendy.

Everywhere we look, we see how it has incorporated into the mainstream. It’s become many people’s identity, with catwalk shows boasting zodiac, crystal or Eastern trends for the new seasons worn by fragile and tired looking women who have lost connection to their real value.

Girls and guys alike at festivals are bedecked in flower crowns, displaying ancient power symbols, many of them have only the faintest idea of what they really mean and the rich stories and history behind them. Thanks to social media, quotes by Buddha, Jesus or any other enlightened guru are used and applied freely without further enquiry into who or what these beings stood for.

However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Many people who may have never drawn spiritual comfort from anything before now have easy and quick access to words of wisdom, practices like yoga, and communities they can be a part of—which in some cases may lead to an uprising of consciousness on a global scale.

Mankind has a deep need of this comfort, a way of sustaining ourselves in this increasingly lonely, individual driven society. Hindus believe we are in the Kali Yuga Age, the Age of Iron, and many Christians also believe that these are the end days. Collectively, we can see how we are wrecking the planet to shreds, dismissing our natural and spiritual heritage, in favour of a materially driven, instant gratification lifestyle.

Sadly, our spirituality has too become a byproduct of the times, with many of us gulping down small chunks of spiritual education, going to workshops that are four days long, walking away on Cloud Nine, and then a few days later feeling the crushing disappointment and comedown experience of having to deal with the “real” world.

Whilst many workshop facilitators and lightworkers are the real deal, many are very new to the game and not ready to lead others. Many yoga teachers, although with their hearts in the right place and the great potential to lead one day, rush into teaching without cultivating a deeper knowledge of what yoga really is. They aren’t bad people—we aren’t bad people for wanting to lead and help—but we need to apply discretion: first, before we lead a vulnerable soul into a place they aren’t yet ready for, and that we are not equipped for leading them. We need to be real leaders, and we need to cultivate an authentic spiritual practice before we can step up to a place of authority.

We need to examine ourselves and ask: Are we drawing from a real need to connect with the Divine and help, or are we driven by a need to belong to a certain group, to feel part of something, or satisfy an ego identification? Are we talking the talk and walking the walk? Are we giving lip service, wearing the right clothes, going to the right places, listening to the right music, so we can be accepted in our spiritual crowd? It’s all too easy to fall into that trap, and for that we are not to condemn ourselves, rather to shine the light of consciousness into that dark place, and see what we are lacking, where we need extra love, why we are reluctant to go deeper, and why we need to belong so much.

We need to ask ourselves some hard questions about whether or not we really believe in a divine energy, whether we believe in a God or Goddess, and whether we are willing to put our money where our mouth is and truly live from a place of compassion, humanity, and humility.

I myself fall into the ego trap time and time again. Having begun yoga at a trendy studio doing hot yoga, and looking at myself in a mirror, I fell in love with the concept of a new me, of a me that was strong, beautiful, and flexible. I eagerly adopted my new identity and happily floated along the surface of my new community. I felt accepted, loved, and part of something. I was connecting to myself on a deeper level, and that’s why we cannot fully condemn those who try. However, we can look at ourselves truthfully and see what our driving force is. A few years later, I damaged a knee and spent a good deal of time in mourning for not being able to get into the poses I used to. It forced me to realise why I had kept going and what had become important to me—and at the heart of it all was ego.

A few years later, I went to a 10 day Buddhist Vipassana retreat, and had one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

I found I had no “real” spirituality to draw upon, no “real” belief to comfort me—simply me, and my ego.

In that space, I met my true self, my divine self, the self that had unending compassion for my ego, locked in an endless battle with itself, feeding and feeding on my pain. Later, I travelled, and found that I was still in this battle, still drawn only to “easy” spiritual options, “pretty” things, and expensive looking ashrams. My ego self loomed large and I was afraid to do the work necessary and put myself through the discomfort of a real discipline. In a non-committal society, it really is all too easy to skim the surface and flit only to the sweetest and prettiest flower.

And so, how deep is our spirituality? Are we willing to suffer for it, wait for it, and work patiently at it? Are we aware of when we are being duped or fooled? And most importantly, how much do we love ourselves? That is the first step to truly being awakened to our own true nature, who we really are—a spark of the divine.

As tough as it may be, it’s important to make sure our spirituality can stay with us no matter where we are and what we are doing—from a lonely and cold jail cell, to a jasmine strewn, incense fragranced temple with wooden carvings of Shiva smiling benignly on us, we need to have that unshakeable knowledge inside us, which can then enable us to help and lead effectively.

Many may feel offended by these words, however, the task is not to offend but to request that we be conscious and aware of what is maya—illusion—and what is real. We need to become true leaders for a world in need.


Author: Margarita Stoffberg

Editor: Travis May

Photo:  Pixabay, Roberto Rizzato/Flickr

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