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The Toxicity of Sensational Spirituality and New Age Culture (Part III)

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All of the blog posts are written by Arien Smith with the intention to heal, inform, and expand every reader. Three posts a week: Monday Mindfulness, Wednesday Yoga, Saturday Reflections. 

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The Toxicity of Sensational Spirituality and New Age Culture (Part III)

Arien Smith

In the first Sensational Spirituality article, I introduced some problems of contemporary spirituality in very broad strokes. In the second, I listed common traits I have seen differentiating both situations. Now, to conclude this series on sensationalism and toxicity in New Age Culture and today’s spirituality, I feel it is important to clarify a few things. 

I first want to reiterate that the traits of a healthy spiritual practice and a sensational practice will and do vary from practitioner to practitioner. There are healthy ways to employ the sensational traits (most of which are mentioned, in contrast, in the list focused on healthy spirituality). The idea behind this series of articles is to inform you of potential and common pitfalls so you are made aware of these commonalties and are then able to bring informed reflection to your own path.

Of course, I am not a definitive authority on this subject, and only intend to share my observations and opinions, with no intent of imposing them onto anyone. I have witnessed individuals follow some or most of the sensational traits, and watched as these people’s mental illnesses worsened, life become more stressful, and they have even committed serious crimes as a result of their sensational spiritual path. Because of the increase in pain I have witnessed, this issue is a passionate concept for me. From this came my motivation for writing these articles. 

There are a few other clarifications and additions I wish to make: changing and adding to your current spiritual path is different than the inconsistency and “shopping” often seen in sensational spirituality. Not all of us are great at committing to mindfulness and this is completely alright. If you are aiming to heal, rather than to attain a quick fix, you’re on the right track. Healing takes dedication, and dedication can and often does include struggling to keep a constant practice or taking time to figure out which practices work best for you. 

When you try new modalities, perhaps pay attention to questions like “is this something I can see myself doing often and for a long time? Do I feel that persisting in this could help me grow and evolve? Does this path help me to experience the present moment and myself as a whole being?” These could help you evaluate if your path is intending to provide long term healing and not just a quick-fix. 

Beyond reflecting on your own path, keep an eye out for concepts of sensational spirituality in programs you want to try and purchases you plan to make. Purchasing a variety of things is not bad, but you will want to try to work with practitioners who you feel deeply invest themselves in their spiritual practice and don’t view it as the end-all-be-all cure to pain, but instead a powerfuland sustained modality for spiritual and emotional growth.

In somewhat more specificity regarding the previous parts of this series, I cannot say that concepts such as indigo children are not plausible, and I certainly do not wish to dismiss them at all! My stance here is purely one of caution and a desire to increase logical scrutiny in contemporary spirituality. Sometimes, New Age culture imposes concepts like indigo children on an individual suffering from a disorder on the autism spectrum rather than a spiritual phenomenon. Some individuals with the disorders have expressed this has affected the understanding of their disorder in a negative way. Taking mindful care to examine how your beliefs may represent or overlook other groups of individuals is important, whether in concepts like this or in previously discussed ideas like cultural appropriation.

I also want to address the concept of spiritual tools, in regards to things often labeled “sensational.” I plan to elaborate more in future articles, but will keep it concise here. Regarding tools like drugs and meditative practices that do cause sudden transcendent states, I want to clarify that they can be used for healthy spiritual growth and are not automatically sensational. It is ultimately up to the group, culture, or individual to determine how these tools play a role in their spiritual practice. If it is with the intention of a specific experience to aid in long-term growth (whatever that means to the individual and their own unique practice), then it is most likely a very healthy tool. Sometimes, with sensational work, a dependency on substances is formed, rather than a recognition of it as an applicable and beneficial tool that is not the sole path to transcendence.

To close this series, I want to provide some hope and further insight in the case that, upon reading this blog, you found that your spiritual practice shares many similarities with sensational spirituality. Firstly, there is nothing to be ashamed of! Maybe the Universe now is providing you with an opportunity to reflect on your own practice and change it at will as you see best fit for yourself.

Sensational spirituality is a danger many people beginning spiritual paths fall into. Unfortunately, in the world we inhabit, it is difficult to find a mentor while pursuing a spiritual path. With the tried and true systems of apprenticeship no longer in place to support us, deep reflection on our spiritual paths is necessary. With the presence of capitalistic modern spirituality, this is an easy and detrimental trap to tumble into if we aren’t careful which modalities we bring into our spiritual path.

Fortunately, if you found yourself recognizing a cycle of sensational spirituality, all you need to do is start to focus on the core ideas of what genuine and healing spirituality are to you, perhaps referencing the list in part II, and begin to manifest those in your practice. No one person can define a healthy spiritual routine for you, as we are all our own best healers, but these articles may aid and empower you to reexamine your intentions and actions along your spiritual path. Regardless of how this article has affected you, reviewing your spiritual path and what it means to you is something which can ultimately serve you. 

As always, comments are welcome! If you feel that I have overlooked an important piece of information, or have misspoken, please contact me so I can continue my own learning journey. If you find that you enjoyed this and would like to work with me to create a sustainable spiritual path, I have begun to offer personal consultations, so feel free to check those out if it interests you.