I recently saw this skit by the hilarious comedy duo The Bondi Hipsters, with their acerbic take on spirituality and meditation (Warning, some of the language and content is NSFW). I was particularly moved by the last shot on so called “spiritual teachers”:
“They’re just a normal person who lived a normal life and a normal job, until they got depressed, quit, and decided to sit around all day stretching and telling other people how to live their lives.”
As I embark on my own teacher training journey I wonder how much of this line applies to me? It’s true, before I had struggles with my health, I was deeply depressed, and I feel that this definitely contributed to my illness. Am I just trying to escape a situation with my current job that makes me feel discomfort and anxiety? Surely a part of “spiritual growth” is learning to live in the world with all of its complexities and difficulties as part of meditation is learning to sit with your emotions and pain? Am I being lazy? Is this spiritual bypassing?
My limited understanding of Tantra (as in the kind practiced between the 8th and 12 centuries in the Kashmir region of India, not the neo-tantra sexual practice) is that it was performed by householders. Done by people who lived in the real world. Allegedly they would hold off on “enlightenment” until the kids had left the house.
I wonder if it is an accident of western privilege that the title of Yoga Teacher exists as a profession, and of course there are issues of cultural appropriation (but that’s for another discussion). Yoga Teaching these days seems to be as much about marketing and managing social media profiles as it is a “spiritual practice”. How well do these two worlds gel? One of the Buddha’s foremost lay disciples was a wealthy merchant, so I guess that commerce and spirituality have often gone hand in hand.
This piece by J Brown also touched me. Even though I love a strong practice, I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that there are aspects to it that are fundamentally wrong. The fact that we need to push ourselves to that edge, just to feel a connection with our bodies is probably doing us more damage in the long run. In reality we need to come back to our bodies - not pull them towards us. This is what I would like to have the opportunity to teach, but as J Brown writes, this is not necessarily the most marketable product.
My good friend Pauly recently pointed me to the book “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield. It has this gem of a quote: “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it”. Is this what I’m feeling now? I still have many fears. My shyness, my body shame, my relatively well paying job are all standing in the way. Only time will tell.