Updated: Aug 24, 2019
I am witness to process. I choose my words carefully here—every ‘thing’ is a process, and the field is home. These words have multivalent potentiality, so let me set this up: I am about to talk about the ‘field’ of modern postural yoga and the ’process’ of what everyone wants to call 'healing' In other words, I’m gonna get specific.
Everyone—EVERYONE—with their feet on the ground in 2018 seems to be looking for 'healing.' To be fair, the very act of living in contemporary western culture is pretty traumatic.
But because culture is so ingrained, its structures are most often invisible. It takes a forcible shove from some external influence to shift perspective enough to see it. That veiling is the hallmark of consumerist patriarchy. It appropriates everything in order to perpetuate itself as the living system it is. And there is no escaping it, unless we go completely off the grid which is an extremely complex and demanding (though not impossible) project. If we consume in the market setting and trade dollars for goods, we collude and participate.
In their book selling spirituality, Jeremy Carette and Richard King discuss at length the impact of consumerist culture on spirituality, and how the historical religious progression of this mechanistic and patriarchal culture has led from worship of a monolithic transcendent god to worship of science to worship of money. It’s now officially all about the dollar, and what that dollar represents used to be called God-with-a-capital-G.
Throughout recorded history the members of patriarchal societies have played a desperate spiritual shell game, trying to get connected within a context designed to separate, dominate and control. We ‘want’ material comfort because we cannot feel our own souls. Just like the baby rhesus monkeys who, when cruelly separated from their mothers for purposes of psychological experimentation, cling desperately to wire-and-cloth dummies, so do we cling desperately to what resonates as any ‘reasonable facsimile thereof.’ This is why I get angry. Hulk smash big ugly monster system.
Enter new-age remedies and all the legions of 'healers' peddling their quick-fix, crystal-laden, astrology-riddled wares, mispronouncing Sanskrit and wearing t-shirts that proclaim, “namaste in bed.” Don’t get me wrong—no one loves some good word play more than me. But when I see people clinging desperately to false or misleading spirituality and other people taking full advantage of that need—I get mad. And my anger is directed at the system. Hulk smash.
Everyone these days is an 'expert,' and everyone seems to claim that they own the information. Can we take a moment to acknowledge that no one invented this stuff? I know things because I’ve experienced them. It's all story, everything is story. My experience tells me that once my eyes were opened to my held traumas I wanted immediate relief from the fear that I was suddenly aware of. Never mind that it wasn’t really new, it was something that I had been allowing to move me for nearly this entire go-around. Fear is a powerful mover, and many of us are driven by it to escape the void of meaning.
As Margaret Wheatley says, ‘Humans cannot live without meaning. The greater the uncertainty, the more desperate a grasp for a handhold, some shred of meaning.’ Whoever steps up with a promise of relief becomes a leader. Wheatley makes the point that these promises don’t have to be grounded in any shared sense of reality, or even make sense. They just have to offer a viscerally feasible possibility of relief from the fear. This is how cults of personality are made real. This is what we see in the 'traditions' of modern postural yoga, and in so many New-Age 'healers.'
And then the popularity contest of social media. The field of modern postural yoga has become the field of social media. So often I hear: ‘How are you a yoga teacher with no facebook page?’ And, ‘You have to have facebook and instagram. It’s a necessary evil.’ WTF. This is the consensus regarding a spiritual practice that cannot be bought or sold; and how absurd to suggest that a format as pathologically dissociative as social media could be compatible with a practice intended to integrate and establish wholeness!
At the end of the day, though, all phenomena are interconnected, even the facebook hounds and instagram gurus. Interdependence is real. The art of self-study brings awareness and acceptance, which is the medicine if such a thing even exists. It is precisely this that is not included in most modern postural yoga settings. The words might get used but really they're a veil. No, a trojan horse loaded with the motive to commodify spirit.
Ah, compassion! I am a phenomenon and so are you. Our hearts beat, we breathe, and those are phenomena too. The dollar has nothing to do with it. When we come together, really and truly, outside of the cultural trappings and external expectations and pressures, we are in a divine space. It only takes the act of being rather than doing to actualize it.
I am aware of the irony of this post. The point really is not to foster greater dependency on anything other than our authentic, highest self. And it's always interesting to see how resistant many are to this concept. We are so comfortable in our dependencies that we are mostly just interested in trading one for another and calling it liberation, or the sanskrit equivalent.
YET. I stay committed to the idea that we can affect change from within, individually and especially in community. What we cannot do alone we can do together. We can form connections even within the belly of the consumerist beast; alternatives are complicated and difficult. It is the interpersonal connections we make that will enable us to re-member who and what we are. It is the notion of interdependency that holds the key.
There are no quick fixes here, and no easy answers. A starting point is consistent and disciplined self-study, and a willingness to get uncomfortable in order to effect change. Shifting patterns hardly ever feels good in the moment. I leave you with one more Meg Wheatley quote:
'When there is no shared reality and people are flailing for ground, whoever declares a reality that promises to reduce fear becomes the leader. It is always this way, and this is where we are now. This is the reality that summons us to be warriors for the human spirit.’
Please be responsible with whatever power you possess, and if you call yourself a healer remember to check your impact against whatever you believe your intentions to be.