Grasping at Gurus and Other New Age Bullshit: How to Avoid Empty Spiritualism.
A few months before my Yiayia died, she was asked, before a risky surgery to save her life, if she was sorry for her sins.
She replied, “No, I don’t think so.” Completely oblivious and uncaring of the right answer, the answer that might make other people feel better, the answer that might make her seem normal, pious, good. One of the many reasons why I loved her, and love her still.
I charge you: do not say the right things. Do not do the right things. When everyone is wearing black, wear red. When everyone is frowning over some political catastrophe, walk outside and sit quietly in the rain.
How often do we search for the right things to say or do in order to create some terrific lie that we are good, blameless, pure?
How hard do we fight to adhere to some kind of cultural norm that is only maintaining a lie of sovereignty over others?
We use flowery language that we think sets us apart, but only puts us into some other cult. The cult of empty spiritualism: that velvet prison that looks so cool from the outside, one that we’re all begging to be let into. They wave at you from in there, looking so effortlessly untouched and peaceful, so ironically calm, totally unaffected and bored by even the biggest shitstorm.
But don’t be sucked in.
The Lies of Empty Spiritualism
1. You must act grateful for everything.
Really shitty things happen. People turn against you when you were so sure they were your people. This is made worse in times that you screw up, but deep down are not ready to admit it, so naturally you hate on them even more.
You create a hate parade, marching until the sun sets, and stay up in the middle of the night like Paul Revere warning the world about that son of a bitch, convincing them that the enemy is nigh so they best protect themselves against the impending doom.
You don’t have to pretend that you are proud of yourself in those moments. You don’t have to act unaffected and continue your tirade of being right. The sooner you knock it all off, the quicker you have your heart back. For no matter how right you are, your heart goes missing when you decide to hide behind those walls.
Fall to your knees, asking for forgiveness even if you don’t yet want it, because the way you finally see someone when you’re looking up at them, instead of down at them, reveals the absolute sparkle in the things they do, even the things you hate them for the most.
2. Having boundaries means cutting people out of your heart.
Open any spiritual magazine, and you can read about the importance of cutting people out who are unworthy of you, of having those boundaries which protect you against the terrible actions of others. Usually we cut out the ones whom we love the most, and those who have been there for us in our darkest hour, because that’s how it works.
We can only deeply despise those whom we love, otherwise we wouldn’t really give two fucks about what they say or do.
We fight hard to not admit this, that suddenly these people are not our people and we must be stupid or less spiritually awake to think otherwise.
But there’s nothing soulful about the sharp or slow cutting out of our lives the people who we once turned to for every asinine and serious thing, especially without giving them a chance to know what’s up.
We use the excuse of having boundaries when it really means that we have a Get Out of Jail Free card and can say, do, be whatever we want, having no courtesy over how our actions might land for others, because of that thing that person said and that time that person didn’t give us what we wanted.
Educated therapists will even coach you to find the abusers in your life, and completely cut them out because you owe none of those bastards an explanation.
This accomplishes two things: 1.) Keeps us inept at true communication where we can disagree lovingly with others without having to cut their leg off and beat them with it. 2.) Keeps us from ever having a relationship with a person who can truly help us grow, because we instead seek those who kiss our ass which ultimately is the death of our heart’s growth.
Before you decide to text someone I’m not talking to you, think twice. Consider what could open up if you decided it was more important to love than to be right.
3. You’ve gotta say and do some things, or you’re out of the club.
The Christians have their lingo. The witches have their lingo. The Yoga folk have their lingo. The Buddhists have their lingo. The atheists pretend they have no lingo, but that’s their lingo. The mystics just spin a lot in the field. You don’t have to buy into any special way of living your life, or do those things because the people you hang around with abide by them.
If you’re confused by the moon cycles, screw it. If you think horoscopes are bogus, forget ’em. If you’re tired of saying God is doing this for a reason through your gritted teeth, quit it. If you think poetry, lighting incense, and praying to the gods of whatever is totally weird, smash it.
Sometimes we get so caught up in all that seemingly badass or moralistic stuff, and forget that the tattoo on our arm does not set us apart, nor does it define us. It doesn’t make us more or less cool or spiritual.
So live it all the way you want it. Go for a walk alone sans your phone. Braid your grandmother’s hair, or what’s left of it. It will look more like cornrows, and at least you both will have a good laugh.
Go to dance class on Sunday, instead of Yoga or church. Go to the grocery store and dance in the aisle when a saucy song comes on.
It doesn’t have to be what you think it should be. Actually, it never quite is. The sooner we say Fuck it to it all, and decide to just enjoy every single moment like it’s our last, the whole world wants to make love to our every move. Life can only fall in love with us when we decide to fall for it first, without all those rules defining us.
4. Loving each other means one big circle jerk. No disagreements, fights, or hurt feelings ever.
Spend enough time with someone and they will royally piss you off. All the pleasantries and calm comments exchanged at church or Yoga class do not even scratch the surface of what true relationship needs to thrive.
The rules of not asking the hard questions, of not mentioning what’s really going on, are only suffocating out signs of life.
If being honest when someone asks you How are you is too taboo, let’s stop asking the question altogether. We all feel that pressure to be light, glazed over, and happy like a Barbie doll on downers, when we are all dying and waking up in equal measure.
Give more energy and time to reality and less to people-pleasing, to save yourself and your relationships from the death that politeness brings.
You don’t have to pour your soul out to everyone you meet, but you get to be quiet, to speak, to be authentically you no matter what social niceties request. You get to be a holy mess.
5. You need to hire a mentor, therapist, guru, acupuncturist, animal clairvoyant, and you must work on fixing yourself most days of the week.
There is nothing broken. In fact, anyone who tells you otherwise, is not a healer, but is thriving off any perceived weakness, over telling you what to do and when. Make your own decisions about your life, whom to love, whom to hold, whom to gently let go of.
No one has the right to speak into your life, or give you permission to be who you are.
The wealthier we get, the more often we think we need to hire someone to tell us what we already know. To somehow fix that nagging feeling inside that no matter how much work we do, we will always, inevitably, fuck it up. It’s just a matter of time until we are all on our knees again, desperately feeling around for the heartbeat of the earth.
Swear off all self-help, personal development workshops, even seeing a therapist, and decide to make real friends instead, go on real adventures beyond Downward dog to traveling to a place in the world you always end up pining over at the bar.
Do this to get know who you are beyond your symptoms. For we can get addicted to the symptoms of pain just so we get attention or an excuse to stay unhappy, disgusted with our bodies, with some reason always for why people need to be gentle and watch themselves around us because our lives have been so so hard.
Be with people who can talk to you about their dreams and future, and not just ones you can bond with over wounds. It’s easy to pine and whine, it’s harder to dwell on all the beauty you’re creating.
You don’t have to choose between self-help and living, but decide to not hide in Yoga studios away from the realities of life. Face them head-on and by all means, never, ever, elevate another’s opinion about you or your life over your own. The gems in your head are too precious for you to let them go unused.
The most important thing is don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to anyone tell you how to serve your heart, how to love life, how to find God. Just sleep in your underwear and wake up and drink right from the carton and decide from that moment forward you will always, always, be so taken by all the things you decide to do that nothing can ever rob you of this deliciousness of being, ever again.
Here’s to the joy you get when you sink right into your life, and when you let it sink right back.
Maria Palumbo’s ‘soul mission’ is to awaken women to their innate power. Beginning in community mental health, Maria served as a psychotherapist with a specialty in healing the wounds of trauma. Maria integrated holistic therapies of Yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and dance therapy with the discipline of psychotherapy. She created a model for group therapy which is still being implemented by others today. She expanded on her education and experience in psychotherapy by becoming certified in Yoga and Reiki II. Recently she burst through the box of psychotherapy to create her own model of self-discovery which stokes the holy fire in every woman she meets. Acutely aware of the innate genius in all, Maria works with women to help them remember who they are. She watches and swoons as incredible magic happens in her soul-coaching sessions. She is the creator and dream-maker of BodyLove Goddess photo shoot, an event that is the impetus for a body-love revolution. She is currently hosting goddess circles and workshops in West Chester, PA. To contact her, message her through Facebook or email.