Let’s face it:
Spirituality has become a bit of a trendy buzzword.
Is there anything to it, or is spirituality a waste of time?
Is spirituality a waste of time?
If you want to have a more meaningful life and help yourself and others, then spirituality can be enormously worthwhile to pursue.
However, spirituality is a broad term and it depends on what you mean by it.
That’s why I’ve broken this down into 9 points about what divides worthwhile spirituality from junk spirituality.
Spirituality that’s not worth it
1) Spirituality that promises perfection
I believe that all of us should be working to improve ourselves.
Because life is short and it’s worth it.
But any spiritual path or guru who promises you perfection is offering you poison fruit.
Treating your current self and situation as “bad” or incomplete creates a cycle of unworthiness and an endless search to “fix” yourself.
This makes you easy prey for manipulators and merciless inner criticism and guilt.
“These spiritual experiences have been a wonderful gift, but there is danger if I become obsessed with them like I have done in the past. It is a trap to believe that there is something out there that is better than what I have now – it leaves me feeling dissatisfied when there is absolutely no reason to feel this way.”
2) Expensive retreats and seminars
I’ve done some meditation retreats and spiritual seminars that were good.
But I’ve also been on some that were just a load of bullshit and way overpriced.
When you sign up for these kinds of things not only is it kind of privileged, it can also be way too much money and only offer short-term, feel-good stuff when you really want something deeper.
Reading Swami Varadan’s experience at a Vipassana meditation retreat is certainly…enlightening, so to speak.
As Varadan recounts:
“It was great for a week when I got back. But then I went back to my old ways of being scared, nervous and stressful. Success is not about running away from our problems, success is running towards our problems and dealing with it…. Meditation works best in everyday life where triggers are knocked down and love and empathy are increased.”
3) Spirituality that shits on your ego and desires
Obviously, our world can get a little too egotistical and full of itself.
And blindly following your desires is a recipe for disaster.
But at the same time, spirituality that shits all over your ego and tells you that you’re basically bad is garbage in my opinion.
It wants you to become some amorphous spirit with no desires or flaws? No fucking thanks.
“This attitude is toxic. It creates a sense of guilt and a feeling of being trapped in a hopeless predicament.
One imagines that somehow one needs to ‘ascend’ beyond one’s identity and self in order to become a genuinely ‘good’ or ‘enlightened’ person.”
4) Spirituality that claims all authority is oppressive
Listen, I get it and agree that using religion or spirituality to control and abuse people is insane and disturbing.
But when spirituality makes a blanket claim that even any concept of authority is wrong then it can ironically be a way for them to assert themselves as the ultimate authority.
Nature and everything in life have some form of hierarchy, as figures like Jordan B. Peterson point out, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – nor is it necessarily based on brute power or injustice.
Sometimes it’s based on competence and logic.
So be cautious of any spiritual path that tells you to throw off all authority.
5) Spirituality that focuses on drug trips
I believe that the use of ayahuasca and other substances can be valid ways for some individuals to go on powerful spiritual and cleansing journeys.
They can also be dangerous and unpredictable for others.
For that reason, I recommend being wary of any group or spirituality teaching that tells you to focus on using drugs or substances to achieve enlightenment.
They can call it medicine all they want.
As for me personally? I’d be cautious, because you need a good shaman and a lot of preparation to be ready for that kind of a trip, and taking it casually can lead you off the deep end.
Spirituality that’s worth it
1) Spirituality that relates to your real life
Spirituality doesn’t have to be abstract or woo woo.
I recommend spiritual teachings that relate to your real-life and tell you what to do in practical situations such as:
When you’re having love trouble;
When you’re freaked out about death…
And so on.
You don’t need grand teachings about your illusory ego construct or something: you need solutions to get through the day and find joy and meaning in life.
2) Spirituality that accepts the whole person
Pushing part of yourself down and rejecting the “bad” parts is a dark path to go down.
No matter how much you plaster on a smile you’re going to just end up even more broken inside until you accept the brokenness.
Aim for spirituality that openly faces the struggles we go through and acknowledges their value.
Find spirituality that treats the whole human experience as valid and meaningful, not just the happy, frilly parts.
Find spirituality that boosts you and cheers you on, instead of dragging you down and judging you with its ethereal standards.
“No matter your age, race, religion, income bracket, geographic location, sex or sexual orientation, you are enough, and if you allow yourself, without sabotaging yourself in negative ways, you will grow into your full, natural, authentic, real self.”
3) Spirituality that helps you find inner (and outer) love
Finding love and intimacy can sometimes seem like an impossible task.
Many times I’ve been at spiritual groups and meditation sessions and looked around to have an awful realization:
Most of these folks are just plain lonely and starved for love.
Some were grasping for it outside themselves while struggling to love themselves.
Others loved themselves too much and were driving people away because of their self-righteousness without even realizing it.
For that reason, I’ve gravitated toward spiritual paths that are honest about the importance of love and help you find true love.
If you’re going to be spiritual you might as well be basking in the shine of love while you’re at it, no?
4) Spirituality that isn’t overly relativist
I understand that every situation is different and right and wrong can seem a lot different depending on context.
But a spirituality that tells you “everything” is an illusion or that truth is just an egoic fever dream, or that right and wrong are purely constructs is, frankly, immature bullshit.
If nothing is true then why are we even having this conversation?
If nothing is ultimately right or wrong then why should I trust you not to get mad one time we’re hanging out and stab me to death?
No thanks, save that relativist shit for teenagers.
Spirituality can get a little high on itself and start talking nonsense.
Maybe the universe is a simulation, but spiritual paths and religions since the dawn of time have already been saying that in various forms back in the Vedas, so spiritual leaders shouldn’t act all high and mighty for coming up with it in 2021.
Give me the down-to-earth variety of spirituality that doesn’t try to get too fancy and starts with basics about what life means and gives you a process to find your truth with at least some guidance.
5) Spirituality that brings you together with people
Spirituality is at its best when it brings you together with other people.
It becomes more than just ideas and nice words when it bonds you with those around you in song, dance, discussion, and fraternity.
Modern life seems to be stranding more and more of us behind our computer console or glued to our smartphone screen…
And that’s unfortunate.
Because I’ve always been convinced that human beings have incredible potential when they get together and cooperate as a group.
And we have the power to do that!
It’s so great to meet others who share similar interests as you and are also asking big questions.
The pursuit of truth becomes that much more amazing when it’s part of a shared journey.
The bottom line
Let me put it this way: if spirituality was a waste of time I wouldn’t be writing this…
However, I’ve also seen the dark side of spirituality and the potential for it to become a way to “leave it to the universe” and become apathetic or for clever gurus to scam you out of money.
At the end of the day, you need to do your best to discern the valid and meaningful forms of spirituality from the empty feel-good spirituality.
You’ll feel it at your core and know in your heart about what distinguishes the two, and I hope the above list also helps you out.