Open letter from a reader
By Neville Harson
I just read the article about the “Cult of Positivity” on your website. I can’t tell you how happy –and relieved—I am to come across a site like this. Kudos to you for being the Wikileaks of the yoga community, as unpopular as that may be in that community. Bravo to you for taking a stand! And II think that what you are writing about on this site is much bigger than just the yoga community.
I lived in the Bay Area in the nineties and was on the fringes of various spiritual communities and the rave scene.
I moved to the Boston area from 1999-2001 and was involved with the contact improv/polyamory community. Then I came to Boulder and went to Naropa for three years (and one Psychology degree). I’m not claiming to be a representative voice for any of these communities, but in each place, I witnessed and heard about many occurrences that were—and I’ll put this diplomatically—less than enlightened behavior. In the last twenty years I’ve gone from being a spiritual seeker to calling myself “post-spiritual”; and in my more cyncial moments have grumbled that “Spiritual Community is neither.”
I have been wounded, and have seen friends be wounded and abused in similar ways, by people and communities calling themselves “spiritual.”
I’m not talking about bizarre cult brainwashing scenarios, but more subtle, almost invisible kinds of abuses, a number of which are mentioned in the articles on your website. Some of it is laughable (I especially liked the page about “words we loathe and abhor”), but some of it is definitely more serious. And, as you point out, to speak up often means you are cast out of the community (or worse—people pretend they still accept you when they really don’t). And so many people live in fear of speaking out.
The worlds I have moved in have been seemingly riddled with charlatans that mean well–spiritual writers who stalk women; meditation instructors who aren’t what they seem on the surface, especially when stressed; bliss ninnies who can’t deal with an expression of sadness or anger because “it brings their vibrational level down”; men who have pressured women into threesomes by telling them they were “spiritually uptight”; people trying to console friends with hurtful new-agisms like, “this must be your path” or “you attracted this to yourself”; liberals who identify so closely with their beliefs that they become rigid and unable to hold a dialogue with someone who holds a different opinion; and there are many others.
Sometimes I think this has all come about because we’re trying to filter eastern philosophies through a Judeo-Christian core, which includes a lot of guilt/shame and in-group vs. outsiders mentality. Then we combine that with the particularly American kind of semi-delusional optimism/narcissism, add a dash of western materialism and presto! You’ve got yourself a really sick system that looks, on the surface, to be incredibly healthy and even desireable!
Anyway, I could write much more about all this—I have thought about it a lot over the past few years, how it ties in with Jung’s concept of the Shadow, or Ken Wilber’s “spiritual bypassing” (I call it “Yoga Rage”), but for now I just wanted to say hello and thank you for creating this website.
I will refrain from saying Namaste,
About Neville Harson
Neville Harson is a Boulder-area therapist and advisor who works with creative people as well as the spiritually disenfranchised. Like Carl Jung, he believes that balance is a better goal than perfection. He is also a musician who believes in the power of the power chord and the value of silence. His theme song is The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.”