Why I abandoned my frantic pursuit of spiritual enlightenment

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At one point I was juggling my meditation teacher, kinesiologist, hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and chiropractor (who also practises NLP). I had a clairvoyant’s number in my phone and took a friend’s recommendation on a “spiritual healer”. I meditated twice a day, did a course on A Course in Miracles and occasionally made it to yoga.

My tower of self-help books teetered precariously close to my pile of crystals atop my Angel Cards in a room that had been “cleansed” by burning sage. My so-called spiritual life was at risk of becoming my whole life, yet I was no closer to enlightenment.

It was a scatter-gun approach, hoping that one thing might pay off and deliver me eternal happiness. 

Not that I would admit to any of that. That was a time when personal growth was seen as self-indulgent and flaky, putting your faith (and cash) in rogue charlatans, while you were taken for a blatant ride. Worse, it was an overt admission of vulnerability and fallibility that was no one’s business but your own. 

Oh, how we’ve evolved. It’s chic to be conscious. Mindfulness and meditation are as much a part of many people’s days as an acai chia berry smoothie after pre-dawn bikram.

Being “spiritual” is all the rage, which can only be for the greater good – but not when our quest for wholeness is driven by a far more shallow desire to be in the cool gang. 

In our mad rush down the path to enlightenment – as we strive to fit in positive affirmations and mantras, while spreading the love and paying it forward – we can lose sight of the end goal. The ashtanga and juice detoxes become more obligation than organic, and still we’re not feeling the love. 

And that’s because we’re looking in the wrong place. 

“I have meditated, I have prayed, I have found Jesus, I have found him again,” said author Danielle LaPorte on her recent packed-out Australian tour. “I have juiced, I have consciously uncoupled, I have sat at the feet of a Buddhist monk called Mark, and I have hashtagged it all.”

LaPorte says we’ve become “hoarders of spiritual accoutrements”, which she realised was getting her nowhere. She stopped meditating (“It was stressing me out”) and yoga. She even ditched her $100,000 crystal collection and “took a permanent break from the esoteric”, only to return with a fresh outlook. “I came back on my own terms, when it was no longer a chore.”

LaPorte adds, “We buy into the lie of inadequacy, that someone outside of ourselves knows what’s best for us.” 

Someone like Liz Gilbert. After sharing her story of personal transformation in Eat Pray Love, she had to issue a warning to readers not to try to replicate her experiences, as hordes of women were treating her memoir like a guidebook to happy endings. 

“I’ve been reminding people that they don’t need to get divorced and move to India, just because I did,” she posted on Facebook. “For a journey of self-discovery to work, your path must be your own. Don’t do what I did. Ask what I asked.”

I admit, sheepishly, that I once sought out Gilbert’s healer in Ubud, but bailed when I saw the queue of desperate seekers in the dusty heat, waiting not so patiently for their names to be called.

Vedic Meditation teacher Jo Amor says that we must carve our own path to inner peace and not rely on searching outside ourselves. “We believe if we can just acquire more stuff there will be this moment when we have everything we need and we’ll be fulfilled. But this moment is never going to come.

“If we put the demand on the outside world for our happiness and spiritual fulfilment, then ultimately we will find we still have to come back to ourselves for that – and all the while it was there.”

I, too, have pared back on the frantic search for meaning. I still meditate and get to yoga if time permits, and I do love my kinesiologist. But not as if my life depends on it. 

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