Spirituality as a Crutch

It’s all good… we are all one… everything is as it should be….

My partner and I were invited for dinner by an old acquaintance of his. Upon arrival we found that there were six of us in all – one other couple besides ourselves, plus the hostess and her daughter. Now, usually a small dinner such as this works out much better than larger gatherings, where by default, the conversation tends to drop to the lowest common denominator. 

  As this particular dinner progressed, the guests shared a little about themselves – one half of the couple was a developer and both of them belonged to metaphysical groups (interesting combination). When they asked us about ourselves, the conversation turned to organic food and how we work to raise awareness of how our actions here in the first world affect those in developing countries. 

  The couple shared that in order to not worry about pesticides, we can simply bless our food before we eat it. I piped up that yes, while that may indeed make the food healthy for us, what about the people who grew it? They are poor, cannot even afford to buy the food they are growing as their job, applying pesticides without safety equipment, and as a result developing cancers and other diseases and their children are born with birth defects. 

  Rather than contemplating or exploring this fact, the gentleman responded with, “Have you ever thought that is simply their karma?”

  Karma? Well, how very, very convenient… for us. We, who live a very privileged life in comparison to the vast majority of the world’s population – have a warm roof over our heads, full bellies – who benefit at the expense of the disenfranchised and call it… “their karma”? 

  The New Age/metaphysical movement and the proliferation of spirituality throughout the west has filled a hole that was left after people turned away from organized religion; however, the disconnect that has arisen, whereby we absolve ourselves of responsibility for our actions, has been staggering.

  We have become increasingly “spiritual”, often failing to make the connection between our actions and how they affect other people; especially those on the other side of the world. This failure to understand that the “great deal” we received from Walmart or the new piece of clothing from The Gap is actually at the expense of a woman or child working very long hours, who are denied drinking water and bathroom breaks, refused permission to leave when sick… or worse. But hey, I work hard, I’m entitled to new clothes!

  This new spiritual type of thinking would have us set “good intentions”, “raise our vibration” and emit love and peace into the world. Which, in and of itself is good; however, doing so while drinking slave labour coffee, wearing slave labour clothing and eating slave labour food creates serious cognitive dissonance. It’s as though we have lost the ability to empathize… as long as we don’t personally know the women or children who are being abused to make my clothing or grow my food, then it’s considered perfectly okay to not question that system, and to even support it. 

  Where is the line? 

  I consider myself to be a very spiritual person, and my beliefs certainly include “manifesting”, so my beef isn’t with the spiritual movement, it is with the laziness that breeds lack of thought, lack of responsibility, lack of action and the attitude of “entitlement” – that we are entitled to have whatever we want, whenever we want, at the price we want (as so often taught in courses, books and movies like the “Secret”. Just use the law of attraction and you will manifest whatever you want). We live a life of such privilege here in the west, and I believe that we have a responsibility to open our eyes and take a critical look at how we live our lives and make changes accordingly. Taking action means taking responsibility, being honest and changing our habits and behaviours. Just eight years ago, I was drinking Starbucks coffee. When I found out what the company was about, I didn’t defend my right to drink it – I acknowledged my ignorance on the issue and simply stopped drinking it! 

  The place to begin is to be willing to have this kind of conversation. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are unwilling to wade into such waters. My partner calls this “willful ignorance”. They actually don’t want to know. Just let me keep the blinders on, I don’t want to change! 

  True spirituality, to me, means to be truly aware that I am connected to everything and everyone. In that sense, we are therefore all one. That means every action I take affects my brothers and sisters around the world. I employ this awareness, using it as a tool to modify my behaviour, making choices that are more harmonious and sustainable. This, to me, in essence, is the practical application of living a spiritual life.

Nicole publishes this magazine, is co-owner of Compassion Farm and a board member of the Bowen Road Farmers’ Market.