You’re so vain, I bet you think spirituality’s about you

Published on August 14, 2012 by      Print
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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.

About Jade Doherty

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).

 

 



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32 Comments !

  1. erica says:


    THIS IS FANTASTIC!!!!! Hits the nail right on the head–I practice and teach with a desire to wake up–there is so much about the yoga word today focused on rainbows and unicorns and as you said looking for the drug induced high. It is self inquiry –relentless unforgiving self inquiry at all times that keeps my ass on track and drishti on Awakening
    thank you thank you thank you

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Thanks Erica!

      Glad you like it! I couldn’t agree more. As much as I love rainbows and unicorns, at some point we have to go deeper and start questioning, and really looking at our shit, rather than covering it in glitter and doing bliss shots (and then having the inevitable anti-bliss hangover).

      Thanks again!

      Jade xxx

    • Cat W. says:


      “It is self inquiry –relentless unforgiving self inquiry at all times that keeps my ass on track and drishti on Awakening” – Yes, you nailed it for me that this is what it turned out to be about for me as well – really facing myself so I can have a real awakening and can get out of myself and be of real service – and more effective at that.

  2. Barb says:


    Excellent article!
    “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” ~Dalai Lama
    Wouldn’t it be amazing if all those yoga masters/gurus started instructing their followers in the ‘enlightening’ benefits of giving back and helping others less fortunate. Best way to ‘work on yourself’ ever invented.

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Thanks Barb!

      Sometimes there’s nothing better than doing something for someone else, and taking your focus off your lil’ ol’ life for a moment.

      Jade xx

  3. Jill says:


    Amen! (pun intended). It’s not just the yoga-spirituality types that are like this. Formal religions can be just as annoying. I come from a family of Catholics who intertwine thier faith with their politics. So not only do I encounter the “my god is better than your god” mindset, but the “my god is how I vote so my President/Congressman/Senator is also better than yours, too”.

    This post is so right on – wheter you’re following a mainstream religion or you’re still a seeker. You really need to think about what “faith” is all about. And it ain’t about Me.

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Wow,

      Catholic-political-my-leader-is better-than-yours-people? Unlucky!

      And your comment is so right on! It’s funny how caught up in ME we are that we lose sight of what all the religious greats were saying and interpret their words of wisdom to suit our own twisted word views!

      Jade xx

  4. Q1gone says:


    I tell my students it’s good to be a seeker but sooner or later you have to be a finder. Then what? If it feels good all the time you are fooling yourself.. If there is no work involved no self examination that makes you look like as ass.. I bet you missed the point.

  5. swami nobodhi says:


    My Zen master told me to do the opposite of what he told me. So I didn,t.

  6. Warriorsaint says:


    Spot on.

  7. Avanti says:


    Brilliant article. Great points, well made. My ‘I’ bloody loves it!

  8. carrie says:


    Why are you so hostile and angry at others for not being at a place you are?

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Angry and hostile? I prefer compassionate and harsh.

      I say compassionate as I’m trying to point out a trap people can fall into which doesn’t serve them, and harsh because I don’t have a polite, sensitive way of saying it; I prefer to go straight for the jugular.

      I’m surprised that you’d read it as being angry and hostile as I really didn’t feel angry or hostile writing it.

      Jade x

  9. Lucy says:


    Jade: thank you. A truly refreshing article.

  10. Cat W. says:


    I love this! I am finding this to be so true. Sometimes I think I am just being a negative cynic ( or appearing to be,) but something in me knows better than to buy into all this blissed out 2012 awakening stuff. People have been trying to expand consciousness for along time. This is nothing new in the last 10-20 years even. I almost went there as well (into that inflated bliss state) and then felt that much of it was false and leading in the wrong direction for me. So I did check myself and got back down to earth with my own path and at least feel more real for it. It is not that I am always happy – as I never was ecstatic about life in the first place, but it feels less of a problem now and more real – and some genuine joy and more connection to others than I already felt, came through. I didn’t need to catch some awakening 2012 meme or trend to feel connection or love towards a stranger. I always felt it. Why does it seem everyone else suddenly did and didn’t before? Because it is fashionable now, is the answer I feel intuitively for many. But as they say, “fake it until you make it” and if it does truly wake folks up, then I’m not so opposed. What I am seeing though, is a lot of ego-centric “hollier than thou” types sending out beacons of “love and light” for attention via various colorful and quotable shares on facebook. I figured out that if you want people to like you on Facebook, only post positives and nothing negative or in the slightest cynical (puke.) But when you really look at their lives, not a lot of separation of self and other is really going on there at all or any real down to earth way of dealing with the real world. They are still broke and living off the graces of others most of the time.

    So it can be a double-edged sword and what I have learned by now is to be very suspicious of those with an overtly enlightened and blissed out persona. They are not always nice people who really remember someone else when it matters, is what I am finding out. There may be one or two genuine types in every 20 that I encounter who make a big deal about their spiritual state or yogic consciousness. And as I see by one of the comments to you, if you say anything that is not totally positive and bathed in love and light, you get called angry and hostile. I don’t see this at all. I see it as a clarion call to really wake up here and not get lulled into the inflated super ego of new found spirituality that honestly seems to spring up out of some sort of mass hysteria factor (and peer pressure on social media networks.)

    There is all this weird spiritual pressure to conform to always being positive, never delivering an insightful or potentially soul-saving commentary on the pitfalls of instant and trendy enlightenment movements that really turn the focus back more onto one’s self and what one is getting out life more than anything. Quotes by Einstein are going around like crazy that glorify the law of attraction and it turns out he never said any of it.

    I don’t see hardly anyone doing something humble to go help someone or lend a hand to some effort that doesn’t somehow glorify their ego in public. Anyway, I think a lot of this stuff will pull someone totally off their spiritual path – the co-modification of enlightenment and all the manufactured social bliss that goes with it. So many are marketing it now and it does nothing to address real life.

    • C init says:


      Thank you Jade for another great article. I’ve been stalking the comments because I mostly love what this community is saying.
      I have to thank Cat also. I remember reading that Einstein quote and being a little disillusioned. Really? He really believed that? But, not taking the time to suss it out, until this morning.
      I too am a cynic, and many people don’t like it. I’ve also found the super blissed can be super oblivious, and since I tend not to be, I’m the one observing the train wrecks, and not super thrilled.
      But back on point, I really appreciate this call to spirituality, and I agree with another commenter, it’s an across the religion board kind of thing. It’s not always bliss, but in the end it is real life.

      • Jade Doherty says:


        Thanks C!

        And I know, what a great comment from Cat!

        Real life is where it’s at. I don’t have anything against bliss per se, but ultimately it just becomes something else that we can get attached to and have to let go of.

        Jade xxx

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Wow Cat, thank you for such a thoughtful comment!

      Sounds like you were lucky to escape to joining the bliss brigade!

      Sometimes I do feel like this whole spiritual movement, or whatever we want to call it, is a bliss pissing contest. Seeing who’s the most blissed out, or can incorporate the most sanskrit words into a normal conversation.

      And what you said in the ‘double edged sword’ paragraph is bang on! Sometimes people talk about being all peace and love, and we’re all one, but aren’t actually very nice people but you can see they’re never gonna address it while they’re so busy trying to convince themselves and everyone else that they sweat rainbows.

      And what you say about people actually being more separated is totes true. I guess if you live in a super separated way you need to do more things to feel, and convince yourself, that you’re not so separated. Thing is, if it’s a state it’s gonna pass, far better to deal with the nitty gritty so not being separated becomes true rather than a state or something you hear about and try to copy the the way you think it looks.

      I think being called angry and hostile (and that’s nothing!) is really funny. One ‘cos it’s not true and two because two because I find it funny that saying anything a bit harsh or not full of sunshine is suddenly angry! What happened to tough love?!

      Thanks again for your comment. I really appreciate it and am hearted to know that there are some people who are interested in dealing with their lives as they are rather than chasing spiritual highs.

      Jade xx

  11. art says:


    advice from the clueless to the clueless. nice work ladies.

  12. Bayraba says:


    Bingo. Thank you.

  13. Sandra says:


    Shoowee!!!

    Have you ever attended a yoga retreat or training? Judging by the flab on your arm I don’t think so…
    Coming from a well educated teacher such as yourself your role as a teacher is exactly the same as a yoga teahers role. Perhaps you are missing some enlightment as a true yoga practice people don’t judge others or choice of living. On a larger scale enlightment is necessary. And as a teacher responsible for educating the youth, judging others is really not a strong lesson plan that shoud be incorporated in their education.

    P.S go do some exercise.
    Can I suggest that you read fourth dimension of thinking.

    • Jade Doherty says:


      Sandra, Sandra, Sandra,

      I don’t even know where to start!

      I’m very confused as to how to answer your comment as it’s a contradictory mix of telling me not to judge people and then calling me fat. I’m mostly replying because I liked your first comment so much that I’m intrigued as to what your retort would be.

      To answer your question, no I haven’t been on a yoga retreat or teacher training. As to ‘the flab on my arms’, you raise a valid, albeit irrelevant point. My arms do indeed have a bit of flab, but I’m not sure where you’re going with that. Apart from being rude, that is.

      My role as a teacher is indeed, in many ways, like that of a yoga teacher. But rest assured that I don’t use my role of teacher as an opportunity to judge my students. Rather than planning my lessons around judging them, I tend to focus more on things like grammar, useful vocabulary and helping them feel more confident speaking.

      I most certainly am ‘missing some enlightenment’, were I enlightened I would be charging for the pleasure of my company and writing. So do make the most of my harsh, unenlightened thoughts being free.

      Maybe I’m judgmental, but the point of this article was neither to judge nor to tell everyone that everything they do is perfect for fear of judging. It was to point out the fact that we get very into ourselves, our story and our issues, largely because we start the spiritual game because we have a lot of issues, and that this self-absorption stops us from spiritually progressing and waking up.

      Thank you for making me laugh and I look forward to hearing what other insightful, enlightening and yogic advice you have. Clearly you’re both the spiritual and weight loss guru who has been missing from my life.

  14. virgo-earth-dragon says:


    Lol definitely not the type of article you would expect for this type of topics, however glad you did =) as there are people out there that think they are the last Coca-cola in the desert (spiritually speaking) by practicing all this yoga industry fashion bs.


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