When it comes to the spiritual and wellness world and my place within it, I have been going through a dark night of the soul for many, many nights. Months of nights now.
I have been exposed to, and have been a part of, the “woo sphere” for years and years. I’ve been reading spiritual books, practicing yoga, pulling oracle cards and going to homeopaths, energy healers and kinesiologists since I was a kid. After a mis-diagnosis in hospital as a nine-year-old that almost resulted in a burst appendix (the doctor had told my parents that I must have been getting my first period and was therefore just experiencing menstrual cramps); as well as a lack of support from medical professionals and insurance companies during my pregnancy, it’s safe to say that I have been primed to mistrust medicine and doctors. I have also been vaccine-hesitant in the past and even chose to delay some of Imogen’s vaccinations.
For a while, I lived happily in this space of believing that my whole food, plant-based diet, daily run, supplements and meditation practises were all it took to keep me strong and healthy. To be fair, I have been blessed with a fairly robust body – no matter my lifestyle choices. And then, last year, a pandemic-causing virus erupted onto the scene. Something scientists and academics have been predicting for years, and to be honest, an event I had been expecting. It was something I read about as being inevitable as far back as 2014. It is in my nature (hello investigator line) to immediately begin reading and researching as much as I can about things that affect my immediate reality. I dove in head first.
And so, this past year, through my research, through my work and through my clients, I have come across some amazing people in the western medical industry: doctors who admit the shortcomings of the medical institutions they work within, doctors who are open to dialogue, and who invest much of their time and energy into making science and research easier to understand for the rest of us.
I have also, for the last few years, been actively attempting to unpack and address my inherent racism and bias towards marginalised people and the systems of oppression that I’ve inflicted upon them as a privileged, white cis gender woman. In 2020, this work led to me deeply questioning the many pillars of wellness and spirituality which I have leaned so heavily on in the past.
Pillars like “manifest your dream life”, “energy flows where attention goes”, “freedom of choice” and “body autonomy” are so dismissive in their spiritual bypassing of the real position of many previously disadvantaged and marginalised people in the world, that they now make me shudder when I hear them uttered by spiritual teachers – and, of course, when they pop out of my own mouth in client calls.
Let’s be honest: it takes a certain amount of privilege to be able to “manifest your reality”; or to believe that we somehow all have access to “bodily autonomy” or “freedom of choice”. For people who have never had total control of their body – whose bodies are used daily to clean the homes, clothes, cars, shops and restaurants of the privileged – these concepts must surely sound, quite frankly, ridiculous at worst, and grandiose at best.
It’s taken this pandemic for me to really start understanding spiritual bypassing as it presents in my own life – mostly through my daily bouts of “what the fuckism?!” as I read and watch the posts and videos of wellness and spiritual peers, influencers, teachers and coaches. Witnessing my human design teacher share about how she was manifesting fuller lips whilst encouraging her location-specific diet of organic raw vegetables and sliced fruit, was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. As family members and loved ones battled with Covid all around me, this teacher’s spewing of anti-vaccine rhetoric from her villa in Southern Europe fell very, very flat.
A vegan life coach telling his audience that they don’t need vaccines to prevent Covid – just fresh air, sunshine and a healthy lifestyle – also left me sick to the stomach at its tone-deafness. It seems that everyone in the spiritual and wellness world who believes that Covid is a hoax, or that the vaccine is going to harm us, or that we will all be okay if we just follow an impossibly pure lifestyle, also believes that we somehow all have access to the unlimited funds that they seem to have, as they jet around the world eating organic foods and filming their yoga practice on their iPhones, all whilst charging their followers and devotees ridiculous amounts of money to subscribe to their “enlightening” content.
So, as I watched the wellness and spiritual gurus around me turn yellow whilst stewing in their hypocritical bile, doctors, scientists and health care workers were becoming far more palatable as they fought tirelessly to save the lives of so many affected by this virus. They became relatable, believable, and trustworthy, as they shared their pain, their grief, their frustration and their exhaustion, all whilst healing real people, from all sorts of backgrounds – not just those who can afford to “invest in themselves” with a $10 000 self-awareness course. I no longer saw these doctors as pawns for the evil big Pharma corporates, which, as we all know, the spiritual world loves to paint them as.
I love what I do. I love reading human design charts and working with my clients to embrace who they are. It truly brings me so much joy. But at the same time, I’m unsure about wanting to be associated with what seems to be an increasingly disillusioned and out-of-touch spiritual world. I’m sure I will find the balance eventually. I know there is space for both western medicine and spiritual practise in my life, and in the lives of others. I know there must be a way to exist in the spiritual world, whilst also owning my bias and keeping any bypassing in check.
But “love and light” is not working for me right now. “Live and let live” hasn’t worked for me for a while. I’m not sure it ever has, actually. I cannot always “just be kind” to bigots, homophobes, racists, SWERFs, TERFS, Covid denialists and spreaders of misinformation. The problem with the spiritual and wellness world is that it refuses to take responsibility for its harmful practises, actions and more importantly, its harmful inactions. It hides behind the aforementioned concepts in its attempt to shift the blame to the individual who is questioning the status quo. And lest we forget, the spiritual and wellness world is itself a multi-billion dollar industry – just like Big Pharma – and never has this been more obvious than in the time of the Covid19 Pandemic. The longer the capitalist machine of the western spiritual world can keep shifting the blame to the individual, the thirstier we get for its approval, and the more we invest in its courses, books and potions – forever trying to quell the rising unease within.
If we question things, we are only questioning ourselves, the gurus love to tell us. And it really is hard to look in the mirror. Common bypassing phrases such as “We are one”, “Don’t let this cause division amongst us”, and “Let’s keep a united front” are also used against the questioner to make them feel as if they have betrayed, or fallen off, the spiritual path they have worked so tirelessly to build and journey upon.
And of course, another common tactic in these circles, is the message that fear is controlling the “unawakened” masses. For those of us who cannot deny the seriousness of Covid, who have lost friends and family members to this pandemic, and who are chomping at the bit to get the vaccine, we are the ones supposedly giving into the “fear”. But as I see more and more of my spiritual peers desperately sharing nuggets of misinformation in between their sunrise yoga poses and green smoothies, insisting that there are darker forces at hand, and that we are being controlled by “the corporates”, aliens, lizards or paedo politicians, I have to wonder: who is really being controlled by fear here?
I know there are many others like me who operate within the wellness and spiritual world and who are feeling the way that I am feeling. I’m not sure how much longer this dark night of the soul is going to last, or if it will ever end. But right now, this is where I sit. Uneasy with the spiritual and wellness world. Angry with it. In disbelief of it. In judgement of it. And in desperate need of change.
Post Note: if you, like me, are feeling a little shell shocked with the spiritual and wellness world after the past year and are in need of change within the way you operate as a spiritual leader, teacher, coach or influencer, rest assured that there are many others like us operating in this intersection between spirituality and social justice. Please check out the podcasts and accounts below to help you if you’re feeling lost, confused, unheard or abandoned in this space and in need of guidance on how to address your privilege, bias and bypassing.
Feel free to add your recommendations, if you have any, in the comments below.