The problem with cultural appropriation in today's spiritual practices

There’s an ever-growing need for spirituality in this day and age, Gurus pop up everywhere telling us they have the key to enlightment in 3 simple steps, or promise how to teach you to be a billionaire with a one-hour workshop, or the blatant lie of being god-like or, truly, a goddess, exchanging your authenticity to fill their pockets and give them instagram followers. None of this will bring true spiritual fulfillment and will end up being an experience in how to better compete with others for attention, or worse, how to step on everyone’s toes because you were promised a million dollars by the end of the week by a Facebook post.

The insanity that has permeated what some call Spirituality has infected the real Spiritual Practices with lies and delusions about the rising of a self that is no other than an inflated ego. I too, was a proponent of this in the past and in fact the only thing that it awoke me to was to the reality that we have to deal with our own mess if we want to stay sane in this society.

Cultural appropriation is concept in sociology that explains how something of a culture is appropriated by another culture and used as an exotic toy or branding without respect for the meaning behind it. A blatant example of cultural appropriation was the Nazi use of the Swastica symbol, for example. Or, more recently, the fashion of naming one self as a Goddess in order to gain status as a woman, which in my view only makes one lose authenticity and in the eyes of those who study the Great Mother, and feel like their contribution to the world only allowed the creation of unhealthy egos, constantly trying to dim their own lights in order to fit in the shadow of something they do not, or will ever, understand. Another blatant example of cultural appropriation is the “Mickey Mouse Rastafari Hat” — which we can and are allowed to chuckle about.

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What does this even mean this day and age? It means that we are allowing for the misinterpretation of reality and falling through the lens of a caleidoscope of delusion about what is, in fact, spiritual. This delusion is a veil of mistrust about our inner ability to be true to ourselves and still be good people, instead of taking on masks that we do not understand, to fit a societal role that does not really exist.

A lot of good effort from a lot of people in the field of Spirituality is enhancing the lives of people who find comfort in their beliefs, shared happiness and compassion. The parting of Thich Nhat Hanh will be a sad loss to the world, lets just hope his work will carry on through his teachings. Others like Tara Brach, and her husband Jonhatan Foust, who spread a word of understanding, mental health through compassion and radical self-acceptance — flaws and all, wow! — will carry on the legacy of the ancients.

The rise of modern Yoga came to bury in the sand millenia old teachings of spiritual advancement, through the fallacy of the “hot-bod” and “yoga butt”. Meditation worlwide has turned into a “manifesting your dreams” instead of “understanding yourself”. So, Spirituality has gained a neo-liberal capitalist take that deeply bothers those who are actively seeking for a break from all that. Those who meditate to receive money probably don’t understand neither money or meditation, and those who capitalise from those fallacies do. That’s the problem with cultural appropriation, it’s sand thrown in your eyes.

True spirituality is heartbreaking. It’s a revelation of the most intrinsic and horrible parts of nature, the cruelty as well as the beautiful. A lion does not stop to work on their dreadlocks with beeswax on the way of dilacerating a prey, and a giraffe does not wait for the bird to sing to destroy it’s nest. In fact, in a regenerative and holistic lifestyle, both the giraffe and the bird may learn to live in peace, and the lion and the prey may not ever find each other, but it’s possible for an integration of common values as it is seen all across nature. (Lagadema video), through common shared love and appreciation for life. This is the basis of a naturalistic approach and a an inclusive unconditional compassion — not to be mistaken with what Pema Chodron called “Idiot Compassion” — and live in harmony within an ecosystem.

Wildlife sanctuaries are proof of this ability to live in harmony for the greater good, there isn’t a need to step on anyone or be anyone’s superior - as long as we understand everyone’s roles and places within the ecosystem, and share respect for that hierarchy. A tiger may very well chose not to eat you, and there is nothing more spiritual than that.