July 17, 2017

Being an “Otherworldly Girl” is Bullsh*t.


You’re not an “otherworldly girl”, and, really, I don’t think you want to be.

For those who’ve been hovering around the spiritual community, with its vaguely existential chatter, you’ll probably have noticed blog articles, and podcast episodes, and strange “inspirational” messages posted against stock photo backgrounds of running streams and mountain peaks plastered all over your Instagram, that usually allude to what it’s like to be an “otherworldly” person.

You all know the kind of people I’m talking about.

The internet is almost saturated with conversations like these, about how to capture the “wild” and “fierce” and “tender” hearts of these “old souls” who supposedly wander our world—barefoot, of course, complete with tattoos from their “transcendent” retreat in Bali, and beetroot-tinted lip balm.

Bali is beautiful and I’m consistently amazed at the versatility of beetroot, so this isn’t really about that. What this is really about is the desire to be “otherworldy.”

Why, in a community supposedly dedicated to striving for something deeper and more profound, have we put such a high value on not really being here?

I recently had a conversation with a friend of a friend, with whom I was having brunch. A small group of us had gathered for a Saturday morning, on which the chill of impending winter was beginning to nip playfully at our sleeves. We visited a vegetarian cafe and delighted at the assortment of local handcrafts that stood for sale at the cashier counter. As is typical in my group of friends, the conversation quickly rolled around to spiritual beliefs.

Our guest for the morning—someone few of us knew very much beyond the occasional stories of crystal workshops and aromatherapy books—perked up quite suddenly at the mention of a spiritual conversation:

“Oh my god, people are so out of touch these days! I feel like no one really knows their own hearts, you know? We’re all so caught up in the physical world. There’s another world, beyond the veil, that most people don’t see anymore. I’m not one of those people, the astral feels like home to me.”

She was gushing, and I was trying super hard to hide the biggest eye-roll I’d made all week. I could see her eyes light up, feeling like she was finally free of all those normal people and she had stumbled upon a group of spiritually-minded kindred souls that would actually get her.

She was sorely disappointed.

This was, of course, not the first time my friends and I had heard this opinion or experienced this reaction to our topics of interest. However, the frequency with which this issue came up had done nothing to decrease my level of frustration. In fact, if anything, I was more insulted than ever.

“Otherworldy girls,” I implore you to consider your motivations, or at the very least your vernacular.

This world is in crisis. It always has been, and some may argue that it always will be, depending on where you look—but right now, it needs you. This world needs you to show up, to engage, and to open your pretty eyes. We all need a reality check, and the world has been trying to give us one for quite some time.

Your desire to be viewed as an ethereal mermaid spirit frolicking in the summer sun isn’t cute. It’s not useful, or attractive (in my eyes, anyway) to live on another plane while the one that birthed you and supported you and taught you withers and dies.

It’s not cool to be disengaged because to participate would be too difficult. And, most importantly, it’s not very spiritual either.

Spirituality isn’t about removing ourselves from the violent, joyous, challenging, terrifying, and unfathomably vast world that we exist in. Not everything is sprinkled with glittery stardust from the heavens above.

The vegan smoothie shop you go to every Tuesday after your bikram class probably sources its vegetables and fruits from monoculture crops fed with chemical-laced fertiliser. I’m sure your soul-changing retreat in Thailand was lovely, but your time and money could have been used to change lives somewhere else, helping to provide food and medical care and environmental management to places of our world that desperately need it.

And your heart-wrenching break up with your twin flame soulmate who turned out to be a narcissist simply looking to exploit your delicate empathic heart was hurtful and deserves a moment of healing and consideration…just not too many moments—moments that could otherwise be spent understanding and actively participating in healing your world.

Spirituality is material. If our spirituality isn’t rooted in our material sense of the physical world, then I question who or what it is truly serving. If our spirituality isn’t as utilitarian as it is philosophical, is it really helping anyone?

It is spiritual to engage in political discussion. These are the conversations and concepts that shape our existence and dictate our collective relationship to the planet and all that it contains. A spiritual person who turns away from the news with a disdainful stare and must retreat into their meditation room for the rest of the evening to heal their heart chakra is not a spiritual person who gives the respect and reverence that this world deserves. Not to mention being incredibly, almost sickeningly privileged.

It is spiritual to absorb scientific research, and to critically question the assumptions we have collectively made as a society. Just because your packet of kale chips says “organic” and “vegan” all over it, doesn’t also mean that it’s not environmentally devastating. It almost certainly is, and as spiritual people, it is our responsibility to strive to know these things, and take ownership of our role in the systems that are killing us and everything else.

It is spiritual to be less concerned with the aesthetic of your spirituality, and more concerned with the true soul of it. 

In part, this requires us to, ironically, do some introspective analysis. If our immediate thought when considering a walk in the woods is what kind of Instagram photo that would make, or how obvious it will be to everyone that we’re a wise old spirit that was obviously birthed from the mossy bark of an ancient willow tree when they smell that new sandalwood and rose incense we bought, then it might be time to check the roots of our beliefs.

It then requires that we actively seek out the uncomfortable, ugly truth. Don’t turn away from reports of the increasing hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico because it’s so upsetting. Don’t unfriend people who don’t perpetually agree with you. Don’t disengage with people who don’t understand you.

Run headlong into moments of discomfort, and learn from them. Give your spirituality some integrity. Your spirituality does not single-mindedly hunger to know whether the moon in Aquarius will deliver to you the modern Adonis you’ve been seeking—it deserves more credit than that.

And finally, it requires that we educate ourselves. Spirituality is an academic vocation, more than anything else, and it is never-ending. If you know how to make a smudge stick and when exactly to wear your tiger’s eye, but you’re still buying your groceries from chain stores (organic, vegan, cage-free or otherwise) because you haven’t figured out how to turn your lawn into a vegetable patch, how effective or deep-seated is your spirituality really?

The truly spiritual people that I’ve met have a breadth of intellectual knowledge that I have thus far not encountered elsewhere, and this informs their etheric understanding.

That’s why wisdom is different to knowledge.

“Otherworldly girls,” you’re totally right—there is another plane of existence (maybe even more than that). There is a world beneath a world that many people no longer visit. But let’s cut the bullsh*t: it’s not the one you’re thinking of.

It’s right here.


Author/Editor: Erin Lawson
Image: Unsplash/Averie Woodard
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton

Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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