I'm sitting in my sister-in-law's house, in a suburb outside of Costa Rica's capital city of San Jose. It's about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, away from my isolated farm house 10,000 feet above sea level. I come down here 2-3 times a month to get away from the routine of life on a homestead and to have more than 3 minutes at a time to think actual adult thoughts (my kids are 4 and 2).
In going on a self-imposed work retreat nearly every week for the last two years, I've come to depend on the sanity that 24 hours gives me to be myself. To focus on my work here on this website. To chill. To take an uninterrupted 3-hour nap like I just did. To get back in touch with myself. To remember that I like myself.
I see so many people in the spiritual/New Age community who meditate and/or practice yoga on a daily basis and still do not have any idea who they are. You probably know people like this. Maybe you used to be one. These are the people who are pros at spiritual bypassing. The people who are off to the next festival before the last one has even finished. The people who insist on being vegan despite some serious health indicators that the diet isn't the best option for their bodies. The people who spread love and light around like it's a cure-all when really it's a socially acceptable form of handling adult issues with kid gloves. These professional meditators/yogis who got caught up in the glamor of showing off a daily practice and have never stopped to ask themselves if they are really getting anything out of their practice, including enjoyment. Too shell-shocked at the idea of actually being, well, in a shell (body), millennial New Agers distract themselves into an instant-gratification farce of spirituality where the focus is on outward perceptions, experiences and acceptance.
While I don't think that there is only one way or one path to a fulfilling spiritual life, I do think the New Age paradigm has it all wrong. It's too easy to distract yourself with retreats, workshops, festivals and daily practices that are designed to "empower" you and "bring out your best self" but never actually address who this best self is. We're too afraid to examine our wounds, our primal selves (hence the rampant vegans and vegetarians in spiritual communities), and our deepest, darkest, desires that we happily take on external identities to inform who we are.
Which, ironically, is the literal exact opposite of empowerment. Empowerment is a power that comes from within. No one can give it to you, and no one can give it away. And, in fact, in many New Age and spiritual communities, they seek to do just that: conform to our societal ideals and you will be a priestess of this temple I made up. Take on this certain external identity because it will help you transcend your human experience. The divine feminine is rising and we need all the vegan babes with trendy malas to join forces to chant under the moon in a language none of us actually speaks.
It's entertaining. It's fun. It's distracting. It's a great reminder that spiritual transformation can take place in community. But it's also more than a tad ridiculous or over dramatic. You don't NEED to take on any of those external identities. You don't NEED to wear white. Buy a $150 mala. Meditate. Be a yoga instructor. Be a yoga practitioner. You don't need to chant in some exotic foreign language or strip down in a whitewashed sweat lodge.
The most spiritual thing you can do, the best thing you can do for yourself, for Mother Earth and for human kind, is to sit with yourself. No distractions. No agenda. Nobody to impress. What if you didn't have to take on any external identities or activities? What if you really believed the idea that you were born as worthy? What if you believed that you didn't need to self-improve or self-help beyond whatever it took to honor one ancient mandate:
These words were written over the entrance to the most sacred of the ancient Greek oracles at the temple to Apollo in Delphi.
Over the last five years, between a combination of moving to a foreign country and living in relative physical and social isolation within that country and as a new mom, and with the habit of removing myself from my daily routines and surroundings, to be yet further alone, on a near weekly basis, I like to think I've come to know myself pretty well. Certainly better than I ever did in my teens and twenties. Hopefully not nearly as well as I will know myself in my forties and beyond.
I know I am a proud meat-eater. More than that, I think it's spiritual to eat (high quality, ethically sourced) meat. I hate yoga. I'm not particularly fond of meditating either. At least not in the traditional sense. I know that I have a sacred contract to use my intuition and spirituality as a center force of my life. I know that the human body is beautiful and shameless, but you won't catch me sexually-objectifying myself in the name of the goddess. My body is a temple. Social media is not. I know that if I don't speak the language you are asking me to pray in, if I don't understand the words, I am literally and spiritually just going through the motions and, to me and my gods? That's insulting. I'll pray in English or Spanish, thankyouverymuch. And hopefully, one day, I'll pray in Okanagan, the tongue of my grandmothers.
While it's not feasible for every spiritual seeker to live in isolation at the top of a cold mountain for five plus years (and make no mistake-- I am FAR from actualized or enlightened), it is possible to slow down, stop the spiritually ambitious play tactics and begin the process of looking within. And from the birth waters of Knowing Thyself, comes the unimaginable freedom of actually Being Thyself.
image 1: unknown
image 2: Breeze Photography