Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been immersing myself in content (books/videos) from the New Age spirituality/self-help community. (Teal Swan and David R Hawkins are two spiritual gurus I resonate with in particular.)
A lot of it is whacked out, for sure. And with any ideology, if you take that ideology too far, you can get caught in a downward-spiral rabbit hole of nonsense. (Taken too far, for example, “the Law of Attraction” is just spiritually-justified victim-blaming and abuse.) At the same time, though, as with almost any sort of ideology, there is always some sort of truth. (There *is* truth to that the vibe and energy you put out into the universe generally reflects what you’re feeling internally, and there *is* a social-emotional aspect to the world where you’re going to tend to attract similar vibes and energies, and so being mindful of your vibe and energy is useful.) That’s almost always the rub, though, huh? “Some sort of” truth.
In other words, ideologies are usually at least sort of true. “Sort of.” That’s the problem.
Here are some insights from that community that I think are both at least somewhat unique to that community *and* extremely useful in a real-world practical way.
1. Human experience, human consciousness, and the human condition is pre-verbal, or “before words.” Thus, paying attention to your intuition is valuable, as words+logic can almost always only *somewhat* capture what’s happening in the social-emotional world. Personally, even more so than the emotions I experience when I engage with the social-emotional world, I have found it helpful to pay attention even to just the sensations happening in my body, and to sink into those sensations. Oftentimes body sensations occur even pre-emotion. This might be particularly useful for Leftists, as Leftists often come to the Left completely alienated, traumatized, and helplessly stuck in their heads. (Ever read long rambly Leftist ideological FB arguments that don’t really make any sense in the real world? I know I’m guilty. *winky face*) Logically healing from capitalist societal gas-lighting is important, and getting back in touch with one’s body from a emotional-sensational standpoint is another side of it too.
2. We are all connected. We are “one,” or as the spiritual community puts it we are all “source energy.” You could make an argument for the validity of “source energy” from a contemporary physics standpoint, but honestly I don’t really care about that validity. What Leftist/socialist/social justice content has taught me over the years, from a logical standpoint, is that we are all connected and that the liberation of one person’s oppression is inextricably intertwined with the liberation of another’s, of another’s community, and even of all oppressed people together (the working class, people of color, etc.). In practice, the affect of learning from New Age spiritualists and sometimes mentally employing the metaphor of “source energy” as one of my many tools for me is to provide a metaphor that connects with me in a deep social-emotional way as to see everyone as myself, in part, and equal, increasing my empathy, compassion, listening skills, charisma, and presence — even making me, as a side note, a more effective organizer. In other words, human experience, etc., is pre-verbal and pre-logical. Finding ways to learn the same stuff (“we are all one”) that connects with us beyond the verbal and logical realms is, sometimes, the life-and-death difference.
I should probably make it clear at this point that I haven’t “converted” into a new age spiritualist. Rather, that particularly because Leftists can use Leftist activism/organizing/ideology as a coping mechanism to run away from healing their traumas (I know I do), I think it’s important for Leftists (or at least it’s been helpful for me) to examine all the other paradigms and ways in which people have positively grown from trauma. The interesting thing about New Age spiritualists, whether they’re calling it social work, “shadow work,” or whatever it is — the New Age spiritualists as a community seem to have an intense acuity and focus on delving *into* trauma to heal, transform, and grow. More so than even the Left, the New Age spiritualists take trauma very seriously.
And the interesting thing too is that the more “healing from alienation/trauma” paradigms I examine *outside* of the Left, the more it actually reinforces that the Left is the most resonant and capital-t True. In other words, by opening up my options with more “healing from alienation/trauma” paradigms outside the Left, I become less co-dependent on the Left — the Left becomes something that I choose more than something I need, which in that agency there is a lot of power. And even more than agency, learning from other “healing from alienation/trauma” paradigms even helps me *understand* the Left more, even filling in some holes — in the same way that learning another language, like Spanish, can help you appreciate and understand English even more.
I encourage all Leftists — particularly because, let’s face it, Leftists can get unhealthily obsessive with the Left — to examine more of the “healing from alienation/trauma” paradigms out there, even and particularly the paradigms that you experience the most resistance to and to examine those paradigms fully. (As a side note, pushing your empathy and ability to truly absorb that which you resist, helps you grow both in your empathy and also as a human being.)
That hints at another thing I’ve learned from New Age spiritualists.
3. There is the outer experience and the inner experience. I’ve been known to grind and hustle, which is fine. I’ve run organizing campaigns with as little sleep as 4 hours a day for 30 days straight. But what is my inner experience to grind and hustle? Do I grind and hustle out of desperation because I hate myself? Or because I’m inspired to out of self-love? I can change my internal relationship with grind and hustle, which improves my organizing, and — check this out — improves even my experience of organizing. Do I want my organizing to be painful beyond what it needs to be? Or do I want my organizing to have a sense of effortlessness to it? … and sometimes, even, it’s OK just to chill the ef out. Life is so temporary.
Ohhh, probably the most resonant with me right now.
4. Life is so temporary. We can use our goals — whether in activism, organizing, career lives, romantic pursuits, etc. — as fantasies that act as, sort of, psychological soothing mechanisms. Very few people actually put in the massive amount of work and action to actualize the goals they purport to want to achieve in this life cycle.
“I want to organize millions of people to overthrow the government.”
“I want to build a non-profit that services the Asian immigrant community, thousands of clients a year.”
“I want to tour the world with my band.”
Am I using my goals as a psychological soothing mechanism? Or am I actually putting in the massive hustle, pain, and effort to actually actualize — “manifest” — them?
You got this life cycle. It’s up to you what you want to do with it. So sh*t or get off the pot, as they say. Do it, and that is OK. Or don’t, and also be OK with that.
Ultimately, you have the agency.
…uhhh, ramble, ramble. And so these have been some things that I’ve learned from New Age spiritualists that have helped me and might help you too lol.