There are many reasons why someone might seek spirituality. More often than not, these involve a desire to let go off conformity, a life and identity that no longer serve the person, a deep need for change, authenticity, truth.
Whether we like it or not there is a market for everything and spirituality is not an exception and what happens almost always is that we tend to “over consume” it as novices in our spiritual journey. Practice yoga, meditate, read books, join a community, go vegan, seek “healing” in all its forms, what is known as “spiritual materialism” is a reality (and trap) quite hard to avoid at least at the beginning.
While there is nothing wrong with trying all these things and finding out what works for each individual, there is a byproduct to this eternal seeking; closing off. If we are not extremely aware and clear about our intentions in seeking spirituality we might end up acquiring new solid identities that divide us from the rest of society, and make of this division our new identity, thus perpetuating the isolation.
A sense of superiority, looking down on people who are not “awake” yet, living in a bubble of “like minded people” ignoring and even mocking whoever is not part of it, constantly preaching and trying to convince everyone of our newly discovered truth are just a few examples of what is known as “spiritual bypassing”. Ego can use even the most noble of practices such as yoga and meditation to serve its not so noble purposes.
I remember quitting my corporate job to free myself from the toxic environment only to realize a couple of years later that yoga communities can be equally toxic if people are part of them for the wrong reasons. Practicing asana or following a spiritual practice does not make one a good person necessarily. It is a great tool for enhanced awareness but only if used with caution and a pure intention. If it is used to divide, shut down, close off, guard, then all we do is exchange the prisons we wanted to escape from for the ones of our own making.
As far as yoga practice is concerned, yamas and niyamas, ethical principles and observances are extremely important and come even before asana in the eightfold path of Ashtanga yoga. And if the goal of yoga is union, seeing what unites us instead of dividing us, shedding our identities and all sort of “labels”, cultivating compassion and respect for others and their choices must be the first step to the journey towards inner freedom.
Post inspired by the book “Cutting through spiritual materialism” by Chögyam Trungpa that I recommend for everyone no matter where they are in their spiritual journey.