At one point I was juggling my meditation teacher, kinesiologist, hypnotherapist, psychotherapist, and chiropractor who also practiced NLP. I had a clairvoyant’s number in my phone and took a friend’s recommendation on a ‘spiritual healer’. I meditated twice a day, did a course on A Course in Miracles and occasionally made it to yoga. My tower of ‘self help’ books teetered precariously close to my pile of crystals atop my ‘Angel Cards’ in a room that had been ‘cleansed’ by burning sage. My so called ‘spiritual life’ was at risk of becoming my whole life, yet I was no closer to enlightenment.
It was a scatter gun approach, hoping that one thing might pay off and deliver me eternal happiness.
Not that I would admit to any of that. That was a time when personal growth was seen as self indulgent and flakey, putting your faith (and cash) in rogue charlatans, as you were taken for a blatant ride. Worse, it was an overt admission of vulnerability and fallibility which was no one’s business but your own.
Oh how we’ve evolved. Now we’re much more inclined to wear our hearts on our sleeves, to put our hands up for help, to work at becoming a better person. It’s cool to be conscious. Mindfulness and meditation are as much a part of many people’s days as an acai chia berry smoothie after predawn bikram. Being ‘spiritual’ is all the rage which can only be for the greater good. It’s a welcome shift in sensibilities. But not when our quest for wholeness is driven by our far more shallow desire to be in the cool gang.
In our mad rush down the well trodden path to enlightenment – as we strive to fit in positive affirmations and mantras while spreading the love and paying it forward – we can lose sight of the end goal. The ashtanga and juice detoxes become more obligation than organic, and still we’re not feeling the love.
Because we’re looking in the wrong place.
“I have meditated, I have prayed, I have found Jesus, I have found him again”, said speaker and author Danielle La Porte on her recent packed out Aussie ‘Truth Bombs’ tour. “I have juiced, I have consciously uncoupled, I have sat at the feet of a Buddhist monk called Mark, and I have hashtagged it all”.
With her five meditation apps and “100,000 mantras”, La Porte says we’ve become “hoarders of spiritual accoutrements”, which she realised was getting her nowhere. She stopped meditating (“it was stressing me out”) and yoga. She even ditched her $100,000 crystal collection and “took a permanent break from the esoteric”, only to return with a fresh slate. “I came back to them on my own terms, when it was no longer a chore”.
“We buy into the lie of inadequacy, that someone outside of ourselves knows what’s best for us”, says LaPorte. “We need to wrest our power back.”
Someone like Liz Gilbert.
Since she shared her story of personal transformation in Eat Pray Love, she was driven to issue a call out to readers not to try to replicate it, as hoards of women (mainly) were treating her memoir like a guide book to happy endings.
“I’ve been reminding people that they don’t need to get divorced and move to India, just because I did”, she wrote in a Facebook post. “For a journey of self-discovery to work, your path must be your own. Don’t do what I did. Ask what I asked.”
I admit, sheepishly, I once sought out Gilbert’s healer in Ubud but bailed when I saw the queue of desperate seekers in the dusty heat, waiting not so patiently for their name to be called.
Vedic Meditation teacher, Jo Amor, agrees that we must carve our own path to inner peace and not rely on what she calls the ‘relative acquisition model’ of searching outside of ourselves. “We believe if we can just acquire more stuff there will be this moment when we have everything we need and we’ll be fulfilled. But this moment is never going to come”, she says. “If we put the demand on the outside world for our happiness and our spiritual fulfilment then ultimately we will find we still have to come back to ourselves for that and all the while it was there.”
I too have pared back on the frantic search for meaning. I still meditate and get to yoga if time permits, and I do love my kinesiologist. But not like my life depends on it.
This article was first published in Sunday Life Magazine and DailyLife.com.au on 15th June 2017