At certain points in my life I have had singular moments of clarity. A truth suddenly comes in, hits you on the back of the head with the delicacy of a sledgehammer, and you are never the same. One of these moments came when I was at a workshop for a well-known organization in California. I was living in Chicago at the time and getting to the retreat location required both car and plane. I was admittedly excited beforehand, as I had read the books of the popular New age author who created the organization and thought them somewhat problematic but exciting enough to venture halfway across the country to study with his students. The retreat was in a beautiful location and the people whom I roomed with were friendly enough.
Flash forward to the actual workshop. I was sitting in the sacred space of the workshop, listening to the teacher, and had a sudden nagging thought. The first thought was “This was not worth it”. The money spent (which was considerable), the time, the fact I had decided on this workshop over several others that year. I ignored this thought, and considered that it was the first day of the course and I had already accumulated an extensive amount of experience of knowledge and experience in Shamanic Healing and Energy Medicine that most of my peers did not have. I could not expect the teachers to teach specifically towards me, I thought.
But then we went into ceremony. Fifty or so students went around to the teachers to receive initiations. At first I saw stars (always a good sign for me) and a feeling of expansiveness. But as I sat quietly in circle the thought came to me: “This is stupid”. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Because I looked around, and it was stupid. As the next day went on, I saw with crystal clarity how stupid and far removed from anything resembling real spirituality this experience was. It was a vacation, a feel-good experience. Students wandered around saying random words in languages they didn’t understand to one another, bought goods from the gift shop and overpriced vendors, and participated in experiences that were intended to be transcendental. We sang around campfires and pretended we were from another culture. It was a game, a rouse, a vacation from a white-washed existence of suburbia and middle to upper class existences. The next day I noticed the typical archetype of the person who came to these courses. Fifty year old white women held hands with one another and convinced each other how deep and meaningful the experience was. And maybe for them it was. I am not discounting that. Any step towards feeling better about the self, understanding the self is always wonderful. But what this workshop and the entire New Age movement is missing is any sort of real power.
Real power and truth is a tricky subject. Most Shamanic and New-age type courses are simply self-help courses. This is actually wonderful, because the vast majority of people feel like absolute crap about themselves. These courses are vacations for people to find themselves. They are actually typically quite lovely with decent food and reasonable accommodations. But if you find yourself mimicking other cultures without any cultural understandings (for example, most people in this course didn’t have a background enough to know that the Gods and history we were being taught about was actually completely inaccurate. I am not certain how you can study a cultures’ spirituality without knowing about their history or mythology. But I digress) you are simply mimicking their power, not developing your own.
It can feel good to get a vacation from your life. But, you see, you are simply participating in another illusion. I could go on a rant here about cultural appropriation, but I will not. The New Age movement is watered down spirituality and understandings within the vision of one individual who typically is nowhere near any sort of enlightenment or understanding and is entirely meant to keep you within the prison of yourself. Do you discover aspects of self, resolve traumas, feel better… maybe. But this is your own power. It is a lovely power. I am rambling here, but here is my point…
These courses have no power. You do not develop power outside of feeling better psychologically about yourself. Much of the “shaman” movement has been merged with pop psychology to be suitable for Western audiences. Audiences with disposable incomes. What happens if you discover that you can lock yourself in a room for that same weekend and meditate. For free. And gain more power than the workshop would give you. Well, you wouldn’t need their merchandise, to pay their tuition, to say “Aho”. You would not be participating in the vague assimilation of a made-up magical culture that doesn’t really exist the way you are taught they do. You would develop yourself, find your roots, find your individual path.
The truth is… the “truth” that these courses give you is still fake. There is still farther to go. New age spirituality is a cage. A cage that teaches you that you need more classes, that you need more books, that you need more. The hole is never filled. It is placated for a while. Most teachers and New age healers I have met who are “famous” are lovely individuals. Truly. But they took one or two steps down the proverbial rabbit hole and decided to found a school, become a teacher. They are not Gods, and are teaching you what they know usually somewhat earnestly. But when you accept their reality as yours, you are accepting their truth and distortions as yours. When you participate in these courses, you are still within the confines of what is culturally acceptable and the confines of collective reality. You are energetically linking to and through the teacher. True spirituality breaks free from that. You are not bound by rules, by a teacher who tells you what to think or say, you no longer need coursework, or classes, or books (you may still want them, but the pressing desire and need is gone for the external reality to create your reality for you is gone). Classes, books, and coursework become a catalyst instead of an appropriation of the reality of someone a few steps ahead of you.
In truth… spiritual work is inner work. It is painful, it is uncomfortable. It is not a vacation. It is not a commoditization of another culture. It is deeply understanding who you are. It is surrendering… to God… Goddess… Universe… surrendering again and again. It is becoming who you are. It is breaking free from cages that are set for you, watered down spirituality that has been served up to you so that you remain within the confines of collective reality. It is developing relationships with God, beings, and accepting power that is yours, and power that is not yours. This power is ridiculous and huge and will propel your life in a direction that is indescribable. When this happens, the understanding that most New age spirituality is like kindergarten will come through. You may not believe me. You may send me angry letters. But until you truly break free, you will not understand this. Once you do, you will kick yourself for being so stupid.
Wake up… break free from the confines of the New age spirituality you have been fed…find your truth…Surrender…become who you are…surrender again…and finally awaken to the realization that everything you need to do and be is within you. You simply need to break through all of your conditioning to find it. It is under layers and layers of sleep…It will be painful…you will question if it is worth it… you will die to this world and then finally awaken to the illusion…merge with a source much greater than yourself… become much greater than simply your self… and you will be free.