When I tell people I’m a yoga teacher, 80% of the time I get met with the response
“so are you like, spiritual?”
For some reason this aggravates me… What does it mean to be ‘spiritual’..? How do you define a ‘spiritual’ person..?
If you type in “spiritual definition” to google, this is what you get:
- relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
- relating to religion or religious belief.
I find it interesting that religious examples are given in the definition, as many people who identify with spirituality do not identify with religious practices. However, there are some obvious similarities. For example, belief in – and in most cases, devotion to – a higher power.. i.e god(s), universal flow, the higher self, satan, the force – whatever floats your boat. Also, many ‘characteristics’ of a ‘spiritual person’ (we will get to this later), have been appropriated from traditional religious practices… i.e chakras, Himalayan salt lamps, the flower of life, much of the philosophy behind the practice of yoga.. the list goes on.
‘spirituality’, in all its elusiveness, is completely relative to the individual
Obviously, there are many differences too, one of the main ones being that a ‘spiritual person’ seeks complete union with the divine, believing that divinity is innate within them. Whereas a religious person, although they make seek unity, the divine and the human being are always seen as separate. Also religion exists as a set of rules to follow in order to gain unity, whereas spirituality doesn’t. Religion gives you the answers, spirituality is the process of questioning. Anyway my point is that ‘spirituality’, in all its elusiveness, is completely relative to the individual. One can be on a spiritual path both within religion and without, as long as one possesses a belief in a higher power, be it within themselves or external from them.
This being said, it is not spirituality itself I have a problem with, its more the spirituality trend that has made its way into mass consciousness. It seems as though things like ‘the law of attraction’ and ‘your thoughts create your reality’ are all over mainstream media. Buddhists and other deep philosophical thinkers will brand this as “new age”. These kind of concepts take years of conscious questioning, discipline and hard work to understand. Although it can be seen as a good thing that this kind of thinking is making its way into the public eye, the powers-that-be have a habit of taking revolutionary concepts, branding them and selling them. Thank you, MTV.
since when did yoga/crystals/green juice make you a more spiritual person?…
‘Spiritual branding’ has seen a million yogis, praying to their crystals and drinking green juices on various platforms of social media, which makes me wonder.. since when did yoga/crystals/green juice make you a more spiritual person? and more importantly.. when did ‘spirituality’ become a competition? a facade of “my juice is more greener than yours therefore I look after my body better than you and therefore I am more connected than you – namaste bitches”. Spirituality has developed ‘characteristics’, contrasting the initial definition, which says spirituality is not concerned with “material or physical things“…
It seems to me that if you’re sippin’ on
gin and juice green juice with your legs behind your head and your mind body and soul isn’t fully committed to the presence of something greater, then you can’t claim to be a ‘spiritual’ person. Unless every action you take is in recognition of or in service to [your perception of the divine], can you call yourself ‘spiritual’? and in that case.. does it matter if said action is paying £3000 to become Reiki Master 2000 or simply washing the dishes (extreme examples but you get my point. And just to clarify I really like reiki but I think it should be accessible to everyone).
It doesn’t matter where you have been, the fact is, if all the travelling/yoga-ing/green juice drinking, isn’t making humanity kinder to each other day by day.. then maybe its not working…
This ‘spiritual branding’ that has been sweeping through our culture has also seen an influx of people seeking to further their spirituality. The travel and tourist industry is currently booming. Now people are posing in front of giant Buddha statues, telling their Instagram followers just how “zen” they are, all competing for the most amount of likes and follows. People are going to places set up by tourists, for tourists. They are polluting the oceans and the land with their sun-creamed skin and claiming to be more aware and ‘spiritual’ because they have taken some photos of a temple or a waterfall.
Just like yoga, meditation and clean eating, travelling has been branded and sold to the highest bidder. In a ideal world these things wouldn’t cost money and would be accessible to all. Maybe you can’t afford to travel and ‘find yourself’, but the truth is you don’t need to. It doesn’t matter where you have been, the fact is, if all the travelling/yoga-ing/green juice drinking, isn’t making humanity kinder to each other day by day.. then maybe its not working…
As long as the intention is there, raking some leaves and taking a shower will bring you as close to ‘God’ as if you lit some incense and held a crystal
Spirituality see’s all people as equal – NOT the same, there are differences between us all and that is what makes us beautiful. But just because someone is a yogi/reiki master/mega healer who has been to Bali/Thailand/India/Peru does NOT make them better than any other human being. It does not make them more connected or more spiritual than any other human being. As long as the intention is there, raking some leaves and taking a shower will bring you as close to ‘God’ as if you lit some incense and held a crystal. All you really need to be connected is your breath, your body and your mind.
I do not believe individuals should have to pay for knowledge or spiritual advancement
So I suppose to summarise, being a yoga teacher does not make me a spiritual person.. and it is wrong for people to assume that it does. My beliefs have almost nothing to do with the modern physical practice of yoga. The philosophy behind the physical, which holds its roots in Ayurvedic religious practices, most reflects and helped to nurture my path.
I believe in energy, I believe in healing, I believe in the power of love and I believe that we are all powerful beyond what we have been told. I have bad moods, I sometimes fall over in yoga class and yesterday I ate 5 dark chocolate digestives (but I had a green juice last week so its fine), but these things do not further or hinder my spiritual path. My experience of spirituality comes from spending time with nature, seeing our human form reflected in all that is natural and all that is provided by Mother Earth. I do not believe individuals should have to pay for knowledge or spiritual advancement, nor do I buy into the spirituality trend. I believe that a healers purpose is not to take part in ruthless self promotion, but to use love and embrace their shadows to order to help and heal the world by waking people up to their full potential.