You’re so vain, I bet you think spirituality’s about you
By Jade Doherty
Not to be contentious or anything, but my god, spiritual people are a vain bunch. It’s all “me, me, me, me, me.” But with a spiritual twist. I’ll have my egotistical self-absorption, but with a shot of ancient quotes and a dash of Sanskrit, please.
It’s not really that surprising. Spiritual practices generally attract broken people (for lack of a better word) who have enough time to devote hours and hours of attention to themselves. Not to knock the broken. Everyone needs a reason to get into spirituality, and more often than not you have to be miserable, at your wit’s end, and unfulfilled by what you’re doing in order to even question your life and think about changing it. I know I didn’t start looking at my shit because I was having such a fabulous time; it was because I was so miserable that something had to change.
But at some point, we have to move past the “me” stage, or it stops being spirituality and just becomes another way to talk about yourself, disguised with snazzy new words to make you sound more self-knowledgeable.
Well, I would like to call bullshit. If you have enough time and money to go to India every year, do workshops all across the country, go to a million yoga classes a week, dress in a yoga fashionista uniform, spend a ridiculous amount of money on healthy food, and talk about yourself all day, I think it’s time to get your head out of your colonic-ised arse and do some charity work. Help a child learn to read. Take your elderly neighbour out shopping. Offer your skills to people who can’t afford them.
I would like to make myself crystal clear.
The purpose of spirituality, yoga, meditation et al. is not to provide you with a new forum and vocabulary with which to talk about yourself. It’s not to supply you with a blissed-out state that resembles a drug trip. It’s not to make you even more self-involved than you were to start with. It’s not even about you.
The core teachings of any good spiritual philosophy downplay the importance of the individual. It’s not about little old you and all your problems. It’s about seeing through the illusion of “you” and reailzing that it’s nothing more than an idea that’s been taken too far.
You are not your issues, or your beliefs, or your negative or positive self image. You are not your holier-than-thou vegan diet, or your eco yoga mat, or your superior practice. You are way more and way less than that.
Rather than cozying up to your issues and sitting in them like old bath water, why not let go of them? That’s the point, isn’t it? To remove the lenses of conditioning that we wear so that life can be experienced as it actually is, rather than how I see it through my perverted and inaccurate glasses? But a lot of people don’t seem all that interested in removing their false lenses. They either want to clean said lenses so that their false view of the world is a bit sharper, or they want to replace the lenses that they have with even nicer ones. Clean lenses or new lenses, you still ain’t seeing the world for what it is.
The intention of all spirituality is to wake up, right?
To let go of this idea of a limited, individual me, and instead just experience each moment as it is, without any ownership or attachment. Quite simply, for life to experience itself. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but can we at least start looking in that direction?
Can we at least start surrounding ourselves with people who can actually wake us up? Way too much focus is placed on yoga teachers and not nearly enough enlightened teachers. Your yoga teacher will not wake you up. Chances are, they’re just as fucked up as you are. Even the celebriyogies. They might be amazing yoga teachers, but unless they’re also letting go of conditioning and supplementing their yoga activities by attending satsang or the like, I’m really not interested. All this “so and so brings a playful attitude to their teachings, meditates for at least 10 minutes a day and recycles” is bollocks. Some of the drivel that the flexible and famous come out with astounds me. Surely, the whole Anusura scandal is enough to show us that we need to be very careful about to whom we entrust our spiritual development. That how someone presents themselves in public doesn’t always correlate to who they are in private, and that yoga and spirituality are becoming more and more about how to market yourself and less and less about actually working on your stuff.
Waking up could not be less about you if it tried.
It’s about the end of you. The end of suffering, yes, but also the end of your belief in yourself. It’s not about feeling good; it’s about being True. Waking up doesn’t care about your issues, your beliefs about yourself, or your shiny, new faux-lightened ego. Yet, spiritual egos seem to be monopolising spirituality. All this “I had an amazing experience” or “I am a powerful goddess” talk is just an entertaining illusion that makes us dream better, but does little to wake us up.
Rather than congratulating yourself for having an experience, ask yourself: Who had the experience? Do a bit of self-inquiry. Next time you can’t concentrate during a meditation, don’t judge yourself, just observe your thoughts. Next time an issue rears its ugly head, instead of wallowing in it or running from it, see if it’s true. It’s not. It’s as about as much you as the clothes you’re wearing. So take it off. Next time you notice yourself chasing the spiritual high, ask yourself what you’re avoiding and go and give some of your most shameful and hidden beliefs a good hard look.
Next time your practice becomes all blissing out and feeling good, check yourself. Or you might just wreck yourself.
Jade is pretty clueless about life, but seems to have gotten away with it so far. The Spanish Government have entrusted her with teaching English to their brightest minds in hot, sweaty, sultry Seville. When she’s not searching for the shade or sitting next to a fan, Jade likes tapas (the food, not the self punishment), chillin’ in cafes and making shop assistants play Articulate with her when she doesn’t know the name of what she wants. She stills like drinking tea and laughing at herself, but she now has to ration the tea. Having dipped her toe in the world of new age philosophy and yoga, she got scared and scurried back to her cave/bedroom. Her new website is boozalwoozal.wordpress.com, and she can be found on Facebook and Twitter (although she mainly uses it to pretend that celebrities are her friends).