Call me cringily woke, but it’s time to leave some culturally appropriated spiritual practices behind. Ever since uncomfortably discovering Jeff Brown’s phrase, ‘vertical spirituality’, I can’t UNSEE his point. Western spirituality continues to take from other cultures it has already taken so much from and is tone deaf to the suffering third world countries experience so we can have our New Age ascension fantasies.
Here’s my small list of culturally appropriate spiritual practices to leave behind in 2023. I’m open to more, if you have them in the comments.
Chocolate plus nutrition? Who doesn’t love that? Combined with a lovely moment of stillness in the day, it’s hard to say no, but unless we have traditional roots in Mayan culture, the cocoa ceremony was never ours to practice. Let’s create meaningful rituals honouring our own roots, instead. Then add chocolate.
Sweat lodges are a sacred practice not invented by Anglos. Scandinavians nailed the sauna and Onsen culture in Japan is legendary.
Four people died when self appointed spiritual leader James Arthur Ray
ran a sweat lodge despite explicit requests not to from Indigenous American elders. Have a good sweat by all means, but call it something else.
Speaking of First Nation people:
Even the word does not belong to us Anglos. In Australia, we have smoking ceremonies performed by our First Nation people. Instead, why not invite someone belonging to the practice to conduct one, or create one honouring local herbs local and meaningful to us?
White sage and palo santo are sacred herbs to the people of the original land. Earn extra Karma points and leave them alone too. Hang on, is Karma also spiritually appropriated?
Indigenous Americans were forbidden to practice their culture at one time. They lost their homeland, children, songs and ceremonies. Then colonizers took their culture and made Halloween costumes of their sacred dress.
A spirit naming is a sacred event, conducted by respected elders of a lineage who demonstrate their connection to spirit. Spiritualists also have naming ceremonies, done by respected elders of their tradition.
It’s one thing to self-adopt a spirit name and another to be invited to receive one.
Developing sensitivity to sacred practices is part of growing as a person. It shows wisdom to examine the backstory of much of what’s been adopted as spiritual.
What is represented as the chakra system is a hugely watered-down version taken from an intricate Sanskrit teaching. Chakras were taken and diluted by the Theosophical Society, who were only in India because the British colonized it.
I’ve written how the chakra system was stolen at length in other rants of my blog. It’s good to research the history behind what’s currently accepted spiritual culture- some of it has a surprising and dark past.
The Crystal Castle, set in the lushest Byron Bay hinterland is a draw card for thousands of spiritual seekers. It was there, sitting with Sannyasins, amongst huge pink quartz, I had my first spiritual breakthrough/breakdown.
Locals later shared the origins of the Crystal Castle, and how the land and development was funded by drug manufacturing. Byron Bay may have been a spiritual mecca in the 90’s, but it was also home of the finest ecstasy and MDMA ever produced.
Then there’s the question of blood crystals, and child labour in gemstone mining. The Taliban even have crystal mines. Crystals are pretty. They are even prettier when sourced consciously.
Though crystals aren’t exactly a culturally appropriated spiritual practice, the ethics of how they get to sit in New Age shops needs a little airing.
So far, I’ve mentioned cacao ceremony, smudging, sweat lodges, spirit names and chakras, and our beloved crystals as appropriated practices to leave behind in 2024. Am I being too woke? Are you offended? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.