I’ve been around spiritual and yoga circles, communities, and organizations for over half my life. Each circle, community, and organization has members from all across the gender, sex, political and socioeconomic spectrum. You have your newbies who heard about Reiki from Dr. Oz and just had to learn more. You have your sick, aging and dying (SAD) who have tried everything under, around, and over the sun just to feel a little better or live just a little longer. You have your Skeptics that arrive at spiritual centers in the hopes of debunking the practices by asking seemingly genuine questions and to invalidate that practice, inflate their ego, and walk away having gained nothing.
There are many more types but my personal favorite are the Posers.
Posers are the people who go to LuluLemon and spend $500 on new yoga pants, yoga shirt, yoga water bottle and yoga mat. They sign up for a 3-month membership to the most elite yoga studio within a 50 mile radius. After spending all this time and money to get setup they are now Official Yogis or Yoginis. You’ll read the Facebook Updates after her first week, “OMG, I love yoga so much!” or “I had such an amazing class with Shri Tee Pee. You have to come!” or “Yoga has completely changed my life! I’m taking teacher training in Cancun next Fall!” Ok. We get it…you are enjoying your practice.
New Flash to Readers: simply buying yoga apparel and performing yoga asanas (postures) does NOT make you a spiritual person. It makes you a person using your physical body to perform yoga asanas. ‘But the yoga asanas lead to enlightenment’, you say? I whole hardheartedly agree but there are many other factors to include.
Let me tell you my experience with a Poser a few years back.
My former girlfriend, two friends and I went to see Amma, the Hugging Saint. For those of you who don’t know who Amma is, she’s a highly awakened Soul that has tirelessly traveled the world for over two decades doing two things, 1. Hugging people by the millions. 2. Spreading the message of love, peace, and oneness. We had heard of Amma but never got the chance until she came to NYC.
The line to get into the church where Amma was hugging stretched several city blocks. Guess how long it took for the first one of us to get the Auspicious Hug from a Living Saint? “An hour?” “3 Hours?” Nope, keep guessing. “Umm, 7 hours!” Nice, but try again. “10 hours!!” Ha! I laugh at your 10 hours…no…it took over 15 hours to get a hug from Amma. Even though my first hug lasted less than 10 seconds (I was permitted a second hug for good measure) it was totally worth the wait. During the hug it felt as though the entire cosmos was embracing me. If the ‘Free Hugs’ people and Amma could team up somehow, the world would be a much better place.
So while we were waiting into the wee hours of the next morning for our divine hug, there was entertainment on stage to keep the audience awake and alive. The stage performer was none other than rapper, Doug E. Fresh. It was 2:00am and he came out with full guns, wicked loud, and totally present. It was a great performance. But not for everyone…
During the concert my friends and I were being loud (usually we’re the loudest) and it happened to be disturbing this one little fellow behind us. Who did not like us at all.
This little fellow began mocking us, telling us to shut up and that we were disturbing everyone’s peace and stillness. Keep in mind, a full blown concert with multiple 600 watt speakers at capacity, was happening at this very moment. “See? See! You are disturbing this poor, sweet Indian woman who is trying to sleep.” We looked over at this completely unconscious Indian woman strewn across two chairs and bundled up in several blankets and pillows. All I could think was, “Wow, she looks really comfortable.” As his barrage of insults escalated, I started to come unglued. My friend Daniel was behind both of us and finally asked, “Do you have a problem little man?” saying in the hopes that he did.
This little fellow made a final comment directly to my girlfriend, telling her to “Shut up and stop being so annoying.” First of all, she’s about the most harmless person on the planet and second of all, only I can call her annoying. I reached my fill, came face to face and said, “I can see we’re bothering you. Where’s the closest exit door, so I can kick your fucking ass?” His response, “I have never been so poorly treated.” He huffed away spewing the words, “Om Nama Shivaya.”
He thought by saying that sacred mantra with venomous emotions behind it, would prove his spiritual self worth. I bet he meditates daily with his mandala beads, chants mantras of loving kindness, eats a strict vegetarian diet while still kicking his dog in the face, sending out anonymous hate email to his boss, and attending ‘Dog on Girl Action’ at his nearest underground sex dungeon.
Just because you do yoga three times a week, eat a vegetarian diet, chant mantras of peace, and drive a Prius, does not make you evolved. A spiritual practice is a way of Being. Yes, the practices are important and do serve a purpose. My spiritual teacher, Grandmaster Choa Kok Sui, once said, “What comes out of the mouth is more important than what goes into the mouth. Dirty food dirties the body. But cruel words dirties the Soul.” Fine, you don’t eat meat but you think, feel, and eventually say your boss is an asshole. The outer life practices mean nothing if your inner life is filled with anger, hatred, judgment, jealousy, self doubt, or poverty consciousness.
Lets practice inner AND outer purification through right viewpoint, right thoughts, right emotions, right actions, and right livelihood.
I have compassion for the little fellow at church during Amma’s visit to NYC. He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect and my friends aren’t perfect. Look, we were on the verge of kicking the shit out of a frail, western Yogi in between listening to rapper Doug E Fresh and receiving a hug from Amma! Oh the irony.
To truly live a spiritual life requires far more than buying a 3-month yoga membership, chanting mantras, and becoming a vegetarian. Its a lifetime path of purification, reflection, refinement, good will and the WILL to do good. The benefits you reap of that life are directly correlated to the responsibilities you take on.
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