Recently, I decided to drop the mask called, “I’m Spiritual.”
For years, I found inspiration in my clients’ life-changing success, delight in my readers’ feedback, and purpose in waking up every morning feeling like I was contributing something positive to the world, all with a splash of meditation, crystals, and Alan Watts thrown in.
Slowly, the mask of “I’m Spiritual” began infiltrating my private life.
My 300-plus novels were gone, replaced by books from Osho to Eckhart Tolle.
My huge movie collection got kicked under the bed and collected more dust than an abandoned amusement park.
I was fixated on keeping my vibration high, which meant whenever I felt a hint of anger or frustration, I’d engage in my self-care rituals, like taking a bath with essential oils and sage, or coaching myself back to “seeing the bigger picture and energizing the higher truth.”
Soon, I noticed that even friends and loved ones no longer saw me as a “normal” human.
They’d still reach out to me, except it was almost always coupled with some kind of request for advice or recommendations. For a while, I obliged and went out of my way to support whoever asked. I answered every text, violated my own boundaries even when I wanted to be left alone, and worked through exhaustion to offer them the intuitive readings, the empathic listening, and the quick resolutions—whatever they wanted.
One day, it hit me that everyone wanted something without giving two cents about what I wanted, and I grew really tired of that sh*t.
I suppressed the urge to tell everyone to f*ck off by turning off my phone for a whole day—something that never happens—and dug deep into the thought: “What about me?”
Then I realized that while I was busy playing the role of the loving spiritual teacher to the world, my humanness had been suffocating under that golden mask of wisdom I wore day and night. Had it been kicking and screaming during those moments when all I wanted was to binge watch “Saturday Night Live” in my sweatpants but instead opted for another webinar, or when I was dying to nap but forced myself to stay up to send out another newsletter, or when I really meant to say no to someone’s relentless requests but squeezed a shaky yes out of myself because I didn’t want to be seen as selfish and unspiritual?
Selfish and unspiritual. Ouch! How many of us are hiding behind masks like the selfless healer or compassionate yoga teacher because we are running away from the fear of being labeled selfish and unspiritual?
People have all sorts of notions of what being spiritual should look like. More often than not, it includes this unearthly guru who lives on sunlight and farts rainbows while stretched into the most perfect asana on the mountain somewhere surrounded by singing birds, bamboo forests, and running streams. Based on this peachy view, those spiritual beings never lower themselves to be consumed by human emotions or material desires, always have an enlightened answer for everything, and offer their guidance freely, tirelessly, and selflessly to anyone who asks.
If spirituality only includes the glamorous and ethereal, and excludes the ugly and physical, then we are all doomed!
We are consciousness having a human experience. We are the dual expressions of energy and matter, just like everything else in this universe, and the human experience can get messy. Incredibly messy!
>> We are the relationship therapists who experience breakups and heartaches.
>> We are the models who have belly rolls sticking out of our tops when we are not busy sucking in our stomachs while posing for Instagram.
>> We are the spiritual coaches who charge money for our services, even while we take on that second job to pay bills and debts.
>> We are the friends and loved ones who care about you but must put our own needs first sometimes.
>> We are the motivational speakers who deal with our failures and insecurities behind the stage.
>> We are the in-between-jobs professionals who feel guilty about spending money but buy that massage anyway to feel good.
>> We are the nutritionists who dig into the three-day-old takeout from the fridge because we are too tired to cook.
>> We are the exhausted moms and dads who sit on the toilet for half an hour reading that magazine on Sunday so we won’t be disturbed.
We are ordinary people living extraordinary moments as both human and divine.
All in all, we are the eternal, universal, and ever-evolving energy that signed up for these sometimes fun, often messy, and always unique human experiences.
It’s obvious now. For so long, I was obsessed with being more “spiritual” while burying my humanness, and those around me did what they do best—mirror back how I treated myself.
I made the decision to drop the mask, and just be myself. I began establishing healthier boundaries, creating a schedule that allows me to separate my personal life from my professional, and kicking the idea of being “the perfect spiritual being” to the curb.
Being spiritual isn’t about running away from being human. It is about embracing the ups and downs, the beautiful and the hectic, and the transcendent and the mundane. Most importantly, it is about celebrating every moment of our lives from our unique perspectives, unapologetically radiating our authenticity, and balancing the cosmic and physical expressions of the universe at the same time.
Being spiritual is all inclusive; it encompasses everything from when you are struggling to meet your income goal, relationship goal, or weight goal, to the ecstatic days after the ayahuasca ceremony when you are swimming in the heart-opening oneness and divine love, and every exquisite moment in between. You are not being any less spiritual for skipping a week of meditation, doubting your intuition, or silently telling everyone else to screw off in your mind while you enjoy some peace and quiet. You are just letting yourself be you.
In this place, there are no masks, no need to sacrifice any aspect of yourself, no hiding behind the idea of spiritual perfection. Now that feels like enlightenment.
Introduction to Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (Crazy Wisdom Buddhist guru; founder of Naropa, Shambhala, Vajradhatu)
Author: Juliet Tang
Image: Author’s own; IMDB
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman