Spiritual: because sensitive, self absorbed, pious and overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful.

Published on July 18, 2011 by      Print
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By Jade Doherty

As someone who loves a good satsang, goes to a homeopath before a doctor, and sees enlightenment as somewhere I’d like to end up (although, of course, there is no “I” and nowhere to “end up”), I thought I’d like spiritual people. We seemed so similar: grappling with the human experience, trying to transcend and dismantle the ego, and seeking The Truth at every turn.

And yet, I was shocked to discover that I actually don’t like spiritual people. There, I said it. Self-professed spiritual people are some of the most annoying, selfish and judgemental people I have ever met. Give me a beer and a cigarette over a self-satisfied soya chai any day!

I can’t help but think that the ancient masters must be turning in their graves or laughing their arses off at our superficial, watered down understandings. I have to laugh when someone who is quite clearly really upset and angry says, through tears and gritted teeth, that “everything is perfect.” As if those three little words are fooling anyone! As if there’s something wrong with being angry. It’s just a feeling, no better and no worse than “good” feelings like happiness. In covering up and hiding from “negative” or “bad” feelings we’re missing an opportunity to really get at the beliefs that limit us.

But that’s not spiritual.

Spiritual people don’t swear, or shout, or have negative vibes, so let’s sweep that one under the carpet and go back to being so very positive, happy and perfect.

Also, a lot of the teachings seem so obvious that I’m not sure why there’s a need to state them. “It is as it is” — yes, that’s true. You, have, however failed to tell me anything that I don’t already know. “This is a safe space” — I should fucking hope so. Being safe is the minimum requirement that I have for a space. But thanks for going to the trouble of choosing a space free from landmines and Nazis. “Everything is perfect” — that’s good to know, but try telling that to someone starving to death or whose child just died. Seems a bit patronising and insensitive, to be honest.

“Spiritual” seems to be a PR blanket term for denial, self-indulgence and not being a very nice person. Having an issue is fair enough. We all have them. The same goes for feelings, emotions, beliefs and conditioning. But don’t wallow in them and think you’re doing a good thing. And please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me about it. I so have my own issues and feelings to amuse myself with, thank you very much.  Feelings like genitals are incredibly interesting and important to those whom they belong to, but pretty irrelevant to (almost) everyone else, so maybe don’t shout them out all the time.

I can’t help but feel that we’ve missed the point.

Spirituality doesn’t seem to be about the spirit at all. It’s not about studying the Vedas, about ruthlessly letting go of that which isn’t true, or practicing seva or mindfulness. It’s about feeling good, being better, and avoiding pain. It’s a form of self-help, but with a bit of Sanskrit thrown in for good measure.

I’m constantly amazed by what the spiritual community offers. It bears no resemblance to the often-quoted teaching of Buddha, Ramana or Jesus. It’s a quick fix that makes you feel good in that moment but doesn’t provide any lasting change or evolution. It’s spiritual porn. Divorced from the years of studying, understanding, devotion and experience that are necessary to truly embody these teachings, it seems to fall flat.

Anyone who’s Wikipedia-ed Buddhism can sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Watch: oooooooooom, there is no I, there is no other, the Universe is a reflection of your beliefs, you are love. Bang, done, that’ll be £50 please. Sounds good, and on one level I know it to be true. Doesn’t mean I live my life from that place of understanding, or that I can teach it. It’ll take more than doing a few yoga and Reiki courses, changing your name, and signing emails with “Namaste” to have a look at my chakras!

In my experience, real Spirituality, should such a thing exist, is messy. It’s painful, it’s difficult, it brings stuff up, tears us apart and, most of all, is personal. There is no shortcut, no guru who can do it for us, no cure, no magic mantra and no piece of paper that can proclaim us “fixed.”

So I for one would officially like to opt out of the Spiritual movement. I don’t know what it means and it’ll take more than well-timed quote to shift this girl’s separation consciousness.

About Jade Doherty

Jade is pretty clueless about life, but seems to have gotten away with it so far. She’s worked as a football coach and an English Teacher, but feels that her calling lies in drinking tea and laughing at herself. Having dipped her toe in the world of new age philosophy and yoga, she got scared and scurried back to her cave/bedroom. She can be found on a Facebook, and has aTwitter account but mainly uses it to pretend that celebrities are her friends.

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34 Comments !

  1. Jessica says:


    Ooohhh I love this! I *just* went on a little rant about this exact topic a few days ago. It’s like a drug– “hit me with some of that enlightenment stuff– aawwww yeahhhh” Pretty ironic, right? Whenever someone self-describes as spiritual, they get an eyeroll out of me. I don’t even hide it anymore.

    As a side note, I’ve noticed these types aren’t good tippers (I’m sensing a future recovering yogi post topic….) Every time a PVC mat carrying, mala-bead wearing blonde chick with great legs and a sanskrit tattoo orders a soy vanilla cappuccino from me and leaves a crappy tip I want to ask her about kensho just to see what she says.

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Hey Jessica,
      I had no idea of the tipping politics! That’s pretty funny. Repeat after me: Aum I-must-learn-to-tip Namah. I know what you mean about the enlightenment drug, feels good…but it passes! Boo!

      Thanks!
      Jade

  2. Don says:


    What a great post! I couldn’t agree more. Thanks!

  3. linda says:


    can’t say “right-on” enough about this post!

  4. Avanti says:


    Brilliant….the title just says it all

  5. Joslyn Hamilton says:


    Oh how I wish I could anonymously send this to a certain swath of people I know here in Marin! Well said.

  6. matthew says:


    Gosh, if only the people this is really about knew how to laugh at themselves, at yoga when it’s funny. What do we call that spiritual stick-up-the-butt?

  7. Jade Doherty says:


    Thanks for the feedback guys! Glad I’m not the only person who’s getting tired of ego-spirituality. And I’d like to say thanks to recoveringyogi for giving a forum to voice these opinions and put it out there!

    Was a bit scary writing it but I’m really glad I did, so thanks a lot. x

  8. Tomasz Goetel says:


    hello, i find your own definition of spirituality adolescent, and you seem to be building from there. perhaps you are confusing the ‘new-age’ movement with spirituality?
    your article to me appears to be a very negative, judgmental rant that does not offer any reconciliation / solution at the end… spirituality to me personally is an inner path of personal growth that is quite difficult to openly discuss with others, perhaps only with the people closest to me. to make blog writing more interesting, and to create a greater contribution it may be more useful to turn the lens of your camera around, zoom in on your spiritual reality and share your findings with the readers. the other people are doing the best they can, all the time. they’d benefit much more profoundly from your smile and support, than cruel criticism, surely? And at the end of the day, as G. Gurdjieff put it, we are all “asleep, thinking we are awake”. :)

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Hi Tomasz,
      I think we could be talking about the same thing but perhaps from a different angle. I completely agree with you, and did say, that spirituality is personal, that it can be difficult to share with people that aren’t very close to you, and for me it can feel so sacred and subtle that I don’t even have the words, or the desire, to express it.

      What I was referring to is perhaps a new-age movement, which, does include a lot of people who seem to say the right things but are not really following the inner path that you refer to, it’s very much an outer path, that whilst it may have the noblest intentions can only go so far so long as it misses what is at the core of advaita/spiritual/non-dual teachings. .

      I don’t feel I have a definition of ‘spirituality’, let alone an adolescent definition. Could I ask what the ‘grown up’ definition is? The article started by wondering what it means to be ‘spiritual’, and then became a commentary on the people I’ve met who call themselves spiritual, and yet are anything but.

      I have to say that my intention wasn’t to make a great contribution to the spiritual world, there are plenty of far more enlightened, awake and aware people than me doing that already, it was to use humour to poke fun at how spirituality has been commercialised and become a social group, rather than personal self inquiry.

      So perhaps we’re talking about the same thing and are just using different words, or it’s quite possible that we totally disagree!

      Thanks for your feedback,
      Jade

      • Chrissy says:


        Where is the like button when I need it? I too, thought that we all held our own “definition” (whatever the heck that means) of spirituality anyway. Pasting a supportive smile on ones face and being fully accepting does not make one spiritual, it makes them limited, clueless and afraid to kick it real.

    • Sara says:


      100% agree with Tomasz! You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. You can open people’s hearts and minds if you open up your heart with love, not with judgement, frustration, anger or annoyance. As Tomasz said, we are all “trying out best”, whether we identify as spiritual or not.

  9. Svasti says:


    I do believe what you’re writing about is psuedo-spiritualism. These people are also the ones that are likely to tell other people that certain actions or activities “aren’t very spiritual”. It’s just Christianity with a pagan overlay, is what it is!

    Like you, I find the spiritual path towards inner knowledge and wisdom to be littered with one stuff-up after another (lots to learn from there!), and plenty of bloody messes, melt-downs and other like-wise icky experiences.

    That said, many years ago I did have a much more god-realm concept of what “being spiritual” was, and so I liked to wander around with a semi-bemused smile on my face and trying to feel content and blissful all the time. Of course, that didn’t work out too well!

    For me, it’s all about getting real with myself. Being cool with making an idiot out of myself, losing the plot, having an insight here and there and then losing the plot again. If that makes me “not very spiritual”, I’ll take it. :)

  10. Jenifer says:


    Essentially, this is when my ego runs up against the pre-trans fallacy. And it’s worse when that person is in charge — like my boss. So Annoying.

    But, the whole thing, really, can be joyous if I let it go. This is newbie mind, seriously.

    And here, I’ll give an example from today.

    My son is 3. He’s quite curious about skeletons. We’ve spent some time talking about them because he found a bone in the ground (no clue of what. probably an old dog’s bone), and he has a dino book with some skeleton drawings in it. So, he’s curious. And he’s seen our roasted chickens and subsequent bone broth. (Yeah, I know, “unyogic.” I got de-frended on FB about it today, so it smarts).

    So anyway, the kid says to me “mommy, I don’t have a skeleton.” And I said “You don’t?” and he says “no, I’m too soft and squishy to have one, see?” And he hugs me. Very cute. And I say “If you don’t have a skeleton, what are these?” and I poke his ribs. And he goes “that’s not a skeleton! That’s my tickle spot!”

    Right, ok, so he’s magically thinking, childishly thinking that he doesn’t have a skeleton. In a few days or minutes or years he’ll figure out that he does, in fact have a skeleton.

    But on thinking about it, there’s actually *some* wisdom in his statement.

    I was contemplating my bones earlier today (yoga teachers do ridiculous things, dontchaknow), and i realized that Bones are pretty much like Glass. See, they are a living tissue. And while we relate to them and think of them as hard, they are really just very slow moving liquids, just like the rest of us.

    It’s fair to say, for example, that to a rock, we are much more squishy. Even our bones are kinda squishy. Too squishy to even notice the difference between the squishiest bits (blood?) and the least squishy bits (bone).

    Now, you might think I’m nuts — and I’m ok with that — but in a certain way, my son lead me to the wisdom of his statement. He doesn’t know that wisdom, he’s just three. And my rational mind had to puzzle it out a whole bit. But in the end, I realized that we’re all just rather squishy.

    it’s just that our squshies move at different speeds. Blood moves fast like water. And fat is kunda going to move like jelly. And, well, muscle moves like the blob. and bones, they move like glass — which is a very slow moving liquid. seriously. glass-is-a-liquis is, like, totally science.

    So, in a few minutes, my son will realize that he has a skeleton. And maybe, several minutes later, he’ll realize that his skeleton is a part of him, and overall he is entirely squishy, with some bits being squishier than others, as it relates through science, and then into the wisdom part of the total unity of being in bodied — entirely squishy.

    My point being — if I have one — is that I can kinda enjoy a person’s unconscious and rather child-like discovery of something. Just as I can laugh that my son thinks he doesn’t have a skeleton, that he’s just too squishy. And then realize that, at the core, he’s actually right. The issue is, he has to first move away from squishy to skeletonness, and then back into understand it as squishy. Then he’s moved from prerational, to rational, to transrational (wisdom).

    If that makes any sense at all. That Ken Wilber guy is kinda smart.

    • Thursdayyoga.com says:


      Thanks Jenifer,
      I love the imagery of bones moving at the speed of glass. I’ll have to check out that “Ken Wilber guy.” I also love the images of your 3 year old; and all his wisdom that seems often lost on me and other adults.

      I think part of the problem lies in the fact that we seem to be encouraged to exaggerate everything we know in all aspects of life in order to get work, or even to participate in some yogic or Buddhist American sub-culture.

      I wish we could say, “Here is how much I don’t know.” And still be viewed professionally.

      Regardless, at least there are some blogs where we can talk it out. Thanks Jenifer, and
      thanks Jade for writing this.

    • Annie says:


      I think the problem here is a linguistic one. “Spiritual” is a description of a person who lives from spiritual perspective. This question of bones vs liquid and of perfection vs current experience is a philosophical one. There is nothing wrong with philosophy by the way. It’s just that it isn’t spirituality. That’s where the blogger is getting tripped up with these people. She hears “I’m a spiritual person” from someone who then goes on to blather endlessly about Philosophy 101 topics as if they were ever so deep and meaningful. I love this story about this boy and his bones. I love that mama didn’t argue with him, but let him alone to make his discoveries on his own. That’s a great parenting philosophy. What a wonderful experience your son will have in discovering who he is in the world with a mother like you. Meanwhile, whether bones are liquid = squishy or hard is not a spiritual question.
      I know a few people who live from their spirits every day, just a few, not many, and those not 100%, though I do know one or two who likely hit 99%, but they would never call themselves “spiritual”.

      philosophical |ˌfiləˈsäfikəl|
      adjective
      1 of or relating to the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence : philosophical discussions about free will.
      • devoted to the study of such issues : the American Philosophical Society.
      2 having or showing a calm attitude toward disappointments or difficulties : he was philosophical about losing the contract.

      spiritual |ˈspiri ch oōəl|
      adjective
      1 of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things : I’m responsible for his spiritual welfare | the spiritual values of life.
      • (of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits.
      2 of or relating to religion or religious belief : Iran’s spiritual leader.

      • Jade Doherty says:


        Annie, it’s like you knew I studied Philosophy. Funny you should mention Philosophy, I’ve just been thinking about how both Philosophy and spiritual teachings are looking for Truth (the big truth, with a capital T!).

        Philosophy has good things to say but is all in the mind.

        I’m not sure that I get confused between Philosophy and Spirituality, the post was more a commentary on how people act under the guise of spirituality and how we can use it to hide from our stuff.

        Thanks for your comment,
        Jade

  11. lara says:


    Jade – thank you so much for such a fantastic article. There are too many parts that made me smile so I will just applaud the entire piece. And you bio – it’s a tough call between that and the piece itself for which made me laugh out loud and think, “now THIS is a woman I would like to share a cup of tea with!” many many thanks.

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Hey Lara,

      Thank you! Happy to have made you LOL! Being a good woman to have a cup of tea with is all I could ask for!

  12. JLS says:


    Hi Jade….such a funny commentary; I loved it and laughed and agree!

    I did read the other fun and more serious responses….I heard a line earlier this week in a sermon …where it said “we are spiritual beings having a physical experience” This concept somehow resonated for me….just thought I’d put it out there in case it means something to others :)

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Hi JLS,
      Thanks for your comments.

      Love the idea of being spiritual beings having a physical experience, whatever that may look like. I heard something that resonated for me in a similar way; we don’t have a soul, we ARE a soul.

  13. Sarah Martens says:


    thanks, I needed that shake up in my perspective! Namaste : )

  14. Kitty says:


    May I recommend the book “The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi”? I think it will give you a chuckle.

  15. Lisa says:


    May I second the “Right On” and add “Sista”. The Yoga world is full of “Spiritual Posers” looking for “Bhakti Entertainment”. Talk the talk but walk the walk-hmmm? I don’t think many really understand what Karma Yoga is. And if they did they would tell you they are far too busy. Question it and be deemed negative-so much for sangha. I guess it is part of my growth to not let it bother me!

  16. Laura says:


    Jade – I fucking loved this article – and I am messy. I like to play with frogs and pick up geckos, and play ring-around-the-rosies with my 2-year-old neighbor. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Spirituality is just another form of addiction that most of us hide behind so that we don’t have to look at all of the gross parts about ourselves that are perceived imperfect. Thanks for exposing your humanity!

  17. talli says:


    i love you jade xxx

  18. Mat says:


    Have you read UG Krishnamurti? He would love this (not to be confused with his JJ who was his nemesis) “The search ends with the realization that there is no such thing as enlightenment. By searching, you want to be free from the self, but whatever you are doing to free yourself from the self is the self. How can I make you understand this simple thing? There is no ‘how’. If I tell you that, it will only add more momentum to that…. –U.G.”

  19. livinginyogadise says:


    I love you writing! thank you

  20. vreni says:


    Very lucid and clear, the sentiments are all oh so true. Well done, and I look forward to your next piece of writing.

  21. Spiritual: because sensitive, self absorbed, pious and overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful. | elephant journal says:


    [...] published on Recovering Yogi on July 18, [...]

  22. Not to sound like a b*tch, but your yoga class was totally lame. | elephant journal says:


    [...] published on Recovering Yogi on April 20, [...]

  23. Alex Mercedes says:


    A lot depends on how you define “spiritual”…..

  24. Stop living like a yogi and just start living | elephant journal says:


    [...] cute and/or funny). This month, we chose Jade Doherty. You can read her other submission, “Spiritual: because sensitive, self absorbed, pious and overly emotional is a bit of a mouthful” on Recovering [...]

  25. Amber says:


    I love this! You wrote exactly what I feel. Some of the most cruel people I’ve ever met were so called ‘spiritual’ people. They can never take responsibility either, and would rather scapegoat someone else as a ‘sociopath’, a ‘psi-vamp’, and other mean labels. I’d much rather be around down to earth people than self-professed, holier-than-thou ‘spiritualists.’ thanks for writing this.


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