The growing concerns of spiritual escapism in the world of wellbeing
Spirituality has become increasingly important to people over the last few decades. The search for something bigger than ourselves has a multitude of aspects to it and different people approach spirituality differently. Some practice meditation and yoga, some seek spirituality through religion, some find it in community, and some even find it through positivity. Spirituality can help you find your purpose and feel a balance between your mental, physical and emotional states. It is thus that many people seek comfort in ashrams, spiritual leaders and mentors, and spiritual communities. Often, even when people don’t actively consider it, they subconsciously wonder if spiritual leaders are the solution – “Wouldn’t it be great if someone could help me find our purpose and solve my problems?”
In recent years, this search and longing for someone to step in and help us solve our problems by helping us attain self-actualization, has given rise to major concerns in the wellness world. The lines between spirituality and spiritual materialism often get blurred, leading to a barrage of problems in people’s lives at a later stage.
What is spiritual materialism?
First used by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, ‘spiritual materialism’ is used to describe the act of our ego subconsciously using spirituality to attain our own ends. The human civilization today is such that we are constantly conditioned into working towards individualism and materialistic achievements. It is a competition to get to the ‘top’ but this highest place of honor doesn’t even really exist! We take pride in somehow believing that we are better than other people and that makes us feel accomplished too. Today, many of us subconsciously or even consciously try to achieve this position in society by engaging in spiritual practices. While spirituality itself can help contribute to a peaceful, happy and productive mind, spiritual materialism is quite dangerous, as it leads to spiritual escapism.
So what exactly is spiritual escapism?
We often turn to spirituality hoping it will help us solve our problems, not just because we wish to be happy but because we want to chase into the attainment of our materialistic or individualistic goals. The end goal somehow ends up being somewhat of a throne, which we believe is the end of our struggles. Spiritual materialism can lead you to run away from your problems, in the hope that you will reach this throne somehow. The problem with this is that when you do reach that goal, you realize there is nothing else to look forward to, so you begin to feel empty and uneasy again.
Spiritual Escapism can break down your mental and physical health
Considering the reason you decided to turn to spirituality, you decide to visit a workshop by a renowned spiritual leader, at an ashram. These few days make you wonder not only what it would be like to be peaceful, but also how that could benefit you and help you earn the extra money you’ve been trying to earn for years! Materialism has so long been ingrained in us simply because that’s the way society runs, so when you visit a spiritual camp seeking a solution for your problems, you end up actually running away just for a little while – away from your problems, away from the though that you want more and more and more, away from the thought that you want more money – away from everything that seems to be bogging you down.
When you run away, you escape. Escaping is just a form of distraction from your problems, making sure that they will creep up again. We end up using spirituality more to attain our ends than to find the balance between our chakras. Attending a spiritual camp makes you feel like you are doing something with your life – like you are being productive. Since we grow up hearing and seeing that productivity is the only way we can ever get to that ‘throne’ we have been trying to get to, spiritual escapism makes you feel as though you’re helping yourself when you really aren’t!
Ashrams also make you feel like you belong somewhere, helping you get rid of the void of dysfunctional relationships that you have perhaps been exposed to while growing up or even in your adult years. We seek relationships for love, companionship, support, and care; and when we can’t find these in our family or friends, it leaves us with a void. The feeling that an ashram gives you, can make you feel like you belong to something bigger and are a part of a community where everyone supports everyone. However, today a lot of communities that claim to focus on spiritual involvement and fulfillment, misuse the purpose for their own gains. A famous adage states that power corrupts and in recent times a lot of spiritual leaders and yogis have been known to misuse their power towards achieving their own selfish wants. Instead of making you feel peaceful, their methods can cause you to experience deep and unexplainable discomfort.
This can make you feel empty, restless and cause you to wonder if there is really any point in carrying on this way. Instead of finding a solution and that serenity you were so craving, you only end up finding more pain because it feels like the peace that you did find was taken away from you.
Spiritual escapism is the avoidance of dealing with your problems because you fear what might happen. This can lead to a complete break down of your mental states, causing depression, fear, anxiety, and completely lowered self-esteem. Your mental health not being okay causes major disruptions in your sleep patterns, moods, emotional states, appetites and so on – also leading to the malfunctioning of physical processes in your body. This entire cycle takes place over and over again, causing great distress and sometimes a complete breakdown.
What is a recommended way to go about spirituality?
At Illuminations Well-Being Centre, we believe that spirituality is all about expanding your consciousness to include your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, perceptions and behaviours that shape your experience of life. We identify that all of these individual aspects are what influence every aspect of our lives – from health to family and relationships. Spirituality is important for you to find oneness with your mind, as you immerse yourself in practices that can make you feel at peace within yourself. Authentic spirituality makes you trust yourself to remain calm within chaos internally and externally. When balanced right, spirituality can help you feel peaceful and calm in the long-run.
Illuminations offer an integrated approach to well-being and happiness that looks into bringing about your well-being with the help of a holistic approach. This approach brings about an awareness of the four levels of our human existence: mental, emotional, energetic and physical. The Illuminations approach shows you how to optimize these levels, in order to have a fulfilling and deeply satisfying human experience. With our approach, you will find that you are able to:
Explore and discover your inner self and be the key to lasting happiness, peace and contentment
Reaching these goals makes you feel like you are automatically connected to your own higher purpose, helping you feel at one with the universe and making you attain the spiritual awareness you seek. The idea is that when we practice spirituality, it should help us fulfill our goals, like the ones listed above, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves. When this simple idea gets lost in translation, our attempts to attain spiritual nirvana become redundant.
Illuminations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi works with trained and experienced professionals that can help you follow a path of spirituality that is suited to you and your goals. To find out more about our spiritual healing, emotional cleansing and mindfulness programs, you can visit our website or consult with us here.