Club Med of Salvation
By Stefanie Renard
Come join Club Med for Salvation! If you need a psychic for your dog, you can find it here. If you want to be healed by someone playing a horn in your ear while you rest in savasana, we can accommodate you. If you want to practice “orgasmic meditation,” we have a studio for that.
The one thing I know after being around a few spiritual blocks is that my bullshit radar has gotten really fierce. It went off a few weeks ago at an event in Mill Valley, California. I had paid $20 to see a famous spiritual teacher who was in town. No one made me go to this event. I was taken with her teachings and was eager to learn more. I was sucked into the idea of her being an instant answer to my pain.
But I learned that there is a big difference between thinking that you are enlightened, selling that you are enlightened, and actually BEING enlightened. The whole event was orchestrated down to the color of her clothes and head scarf. It was like being on a reality show for people who would win a prize for seeming the most enlightened, by way of being able to earn the most money from their tricks and duping the most amount of people into a spiritual stupor. I realized that don’t want to be an extra on this particular TV show.
Here is an example of how the event went down:
A man is selected by this “guru” from the back of the packed room. She clearly already knows him. He sits up on the stage. They hold hands and look at each other meaningfully. Almost immediately, he starts to laugh in a hysterical, almost maniacal way. And they keep gazing at each other in that way — which implies deep and we are spiritual. And he never stops this laughter. She turns to us and says “This is it” and “He’s got it.” There are uncomfortable titters across the room. People feel like they are supposed to get what is going on here. But if this is it, then I don’t want it… or anything to do with it. Joy is awesome, but hysteria is another thing altogether.
Teachers come in all packages. My own yoga teacher, for instance, is nothing like the ones they showcase in Yoga Journal. He’s loud, hairy, demanding and honest. I could accept a message from this polished guru woman if it felt like it had authentic meat to it. However, the message she had for us that night was feather-light: Just stop right now in this moment! There is nothing to do! YES!
This is totally true, in an esoteric sense, but how many of us can really operate from this place? While Westerners are addicted to self-improvement plans, I don’t believe many of us can just do nothing, stop trying, and bammo! WAKE UP to our true natures. On the other hand, I see why this message would appeal to a lot of people. It is the same reason we seek pills for our obesity and believe that abundance will manifest itself in our lives if we only think about it hard enough. We are looking for quick answers.
I am sorry, but this shit is hard.
Let’s talk about the Buddha. He left his rich family and became a mendicant. He sought various teachers and achieved high levels of meditative consciousness. He tried to reach enlightenment by practicing severe austerity and self-mortification. And then he sat under the Bodhi Tree for 49 days until he fully woke up. He didn’t just read a book or pay $20 to see the latest guru speak. He applied real effort, dedication, work and an incredible ability to face himself. And that’s all he did, while he was doing it. He didn’t do it after work. He didn’t do it in a convenient yoga class once a week. No one gave him a pill, a mantra, an affirmation, an essential oil or a book. He didn’t bathe in orgasmic sounds or hula hoop with fire dancers. He simply dealt straight up with the hardest thing of all – himself. It was an act of will and what my teacher calls ‘”donkey work.”
At some point there might be an app for all of this. “Find inner peace with the swipe an optimized retina display.” Just like that, you will break into blissful hysterical laugher.
But for now, if waking up is so easy, then why are most people walking around numbed-out with their heads up their butts? If you are one of those lucky ones who experienced enlightenment on the spot, then I am truly happy for you. But these famous teachers need to be careful about the sugary messages they are sending to some broken souls looking for ways not to feel as much pain. And the broken souls need to practice discernment about where they spend their money, and realize that to get out of this mess they are going to have to do some real, hard work. No one ever got enlightened from a $20 drop-in.
About Stefanie Renard
Stefanie has practiced yoga for 10 years and is in the second year of a 500-hour Iyengar teacher training with Gloria Goldberg and Manouso Manos. Stefanie’s principal teacher is Manouso Manos and she also augments her studies with other senior Iyengar teachers such as Patricia Walden, Marla Apt, and Carolyn Belko whenever she can. Stefanie’s hope as a teacher is to awaken the body’s innate intelligence and enable her students to reach their fullest potential.