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April 6, 2007 11:11 PM   Subscribe

The Hostile New Age Takeover of Yoga [print version]. Standard "omg commoditization" rant, but has a delectable anecdote wherein someone mistakes clingy navel-gazing for reflection. ("What part of no don't you understand?" his note said. "I never want to hear from you again.")
posted by Firas (103 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hesitate to say this online, because I'm sure it's a very marginal opinion, but—I've always been puzzledly amused by the notion of Westerners suddenly deciding to get into chanting Om and suchlike. Like, it's as much as religious tradition as anything else, and one wonders why you'd go out of your way to pick up random religious practice. I do understand in an abstract intellectual sense that, say, a white suburbanite going off to live in a Shinto shrine can be every bit the Shinto that a Japanese person is, but it's still superficially pretty strange (and a hell of a way for 'gurus' to milk people of money.)
posted by Firas at 11:24 PM on April 6, 2007


A lot of it is about creating a unique identity for one's self. It's a form of branding, much like Gap clothes or a Lexus.
posted by bhouston at 11:27 PM on April 6, 2007


Actually the term "Navel Gazing" comes from a meditation technique.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 PM on April 6, 2007


I was going to gripe about the post, but the explanation reassures me somewhat. It's also an obvious point some folks have been making for, oh, about 132 years, off the top of my head.

And bhouston pointed out, "A lot of it is about creating a unique identity for one's self." Yup, with all the other Crystal Clones.
posted by davy at 11:31 PM on April 6, 2007


What's the deal with the batshineinsane?
posted by LogicalDash at 11:32 PM on April 6, 2007


I am a tree!
posted by homunculus at 11:32 PM on April 6, 2007


this is a (comment-)double from that post about the cute yoga video from a couple of weeks back. plus, it's a terrible article. it doesn't explore the issues at all. it's just a broadside, and, somewhat ironically, a symptomatic expression of just what makes a fad a fad - that is, a superficial encounter with the novel.
posted by facetious at 11:36 PM on April 6, 2007


LogicalDash, fixed. And davy, yeah, I realize my FPPs don't tend to be stereotypically meaty, but I just use a metric I saw on metatalk awhile ago (as advice to MiHail, I think), which was that if a link gives you a "my god, I have to show this to you" sense for days on end then you should go ahead and post it. For penance I have a kick-ass future one on economics, when I get around to it.
posted by Firas at 11:46 PM on April 6, 2007


I also love how the same people who seek enlightenment and wisdom from other cultures often make it first priority to establish means of "learning" it outside of that culture.

Sort of the mystical version of that scene from Office Space where dude blasts the gangsta rap EXCEPT around black folks...
posted by yeloson at 11:52 PM on April 6, 2007



I agree that the article is little more than a careless broadside. What's with the lecturing about going out to a soup kitchen at the end there? And it's not like commodifying yoga is some horrific event: commerce tends to colonize and dumb down anything and everything that has more than the slimmest margin of appeal. If real yoga is truly such an inspiring and worthwhile experience, and I have no doubt that it is, maybe she should just enjoy it for herself, on her own terms. Maybe she should just get over it and leave these poor women alone.
posted by bukharin at 11:53 PM on April 6, 2007


Can someone explain to me, again, why it's so hip to hate on New-Agers? Out of all the people in the world who are half-assing religion to further their own agendas, aren't these guys the most harmless?

Most of the New Age types I meet are very positive, charming, encouraging and (yes!) skeptical people. You rarely see a devotee of The Secret trying to bomb a nightclub, or legislate away someone else's civil rights. Nobody who reads Deepak Chopra has ever told me I'm going to hell because I don't regularly read Deepak Chopra. I've never heard a quartz-crystal enthusiast refer to Palestinians as "fucking animals." If they want to be faddish about their religion, let them.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:53 PM on April 6, 2007 [6 favorites]


from that post about the cute yoga video from a couple of weeks back.

Namaste, bitch!
posted by homunculus at 11:54 PM on April 6, 2007


In all fairness, what DOES this stalker's ego trip, which is what the article linked to is about, have to do with Yoga? I'm coming to agree with the Salon article. Gracias, Firas.
posted by davy at 11:54 PM on April 6, 2007


The article really doesn't address the points it's title implies, it's really just an anecdotal gripe against mainstream yoga magazines marketed in america, like using YM to attack all teenage culture. It's only the winknudge lol stupid hippies attitude that makes it seem universal or plausible. If it's the admittedly obscene westernization which is objected to, as the article purports, shouldn't the outrage lie with America's marketing and interpretation rather than the yogic tradition? Firas, I really don't think yours is a minority opinion, but I for one don't understand it. I mean, the difference for me between yoga and other world religions, and the reason I think it sees a lot of seekers in the west, is that it's a tradition founded on providing concrete individual tools for spiritual progression, or however it's phrased. I'm not defending the self-centered and often delusional misinterpretations this or any other imported religion might be subjected to in our culture, but I don't agree with laying the fault, as it seems this article does, with the original religious tradition being co-opted.
posted by kaspen at 11:58 PM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's kinda odd as the whole point of the Bhagavad Gita is to convey that there is no such thing as self identity, that it is an illusion. Yoga in its original form is a practice to prepare oneself for transcending that illusion through detachment....

...well, we're talking about this western version of Yoga, which is in many facets, a method that is secularized and theraputic.

This kind of secularization isn't limited to eastern religions, we tend to do the same with Judeo-Christianity as well, where the donative nature of practice is instead turned into a self serving enterprise. (eg. vegas churches, televangelists, anything considered new age really). It mainly comes down to religion vs. magic, where religion is participating and donating oneself to something greater than oneself, and magic is participating solely to get something in return.

It's saddening to see this shift in this direction, I wouldn't say that that Yoga or any religious practice is doomed however, as I'm sure they exist and are followed with the right frame of mind all over this country. Just a shame a lot of the meaning is lost when religious practice is turned into self therapy.
posted by samsara at 12:10 AM on April 7, 2007


I also love how the same people who seek enlightenment and wisdom from other cultures often make it first priority to establish means of "learning" it outside of that culture.

Many Western yoga students go to India as often as they can, but spending a few months or years abroad studying yoga and meditation is a difficult commitment. It's only natural that they would practice at home too.
posted by homunculus at 12:16 AM on April 7, 2007


samsara, not that I'm into the POWER YOGA but is there anything especially wrong with a "secularized and theraputic" yoga? Yoga before the West was already splintered into many lineages, I see nothing wrong with it continuing to adapt and differentiate. Considering it's proficiency in remedying physical ailment and misalignment, it only makes sense it should be targeted to those who could benefit from it the most. The more philosophic and meditative yoga will still be there, waiting. Vive la difference!
posted by kaspen at 12:22 AM on April 7, 2007


Well, it really depends on your perspective kaspen. It is our post-modern nature to secularize practices that were once more philosophical and/or theological. I agree that there's nothing inherently wrong with secularization at all from that point of view as it is theraputic and helpful for us humans. These are good things!

However the original point of the practice is lost if that's as far as you go. The splintered versions, to my knowlege, before they arrived here in the US still adhered to detachment rather than getting trying to get something in return (eg. removal of expectations rather than expecting results).

It's all about the mindset of the practice in its original form really. But I'd rather not drive that point too hard here as there is always a dual perspective of self help magic over donative religion that many people feel more comfortable grappling with. When approached in a self-help way, your far less likely to become overwhelmed by the experience.
posted by samsara at 12:44 AM on April 7, 2007


I agree that a secular practice of Yoga isn't particularly problematic. (My first comment isn't what the article is about, which is a woman indulging her vague pang for closure using the conceit that her escalation of the matter is spiritually sound before being shot in the face by real life.)

I'm actually thinking more about the 70s-style journey-to-India and wear-saffron-robes types when I mention being amused/puzzled. Like, what are you doing here?! It's probably a very personal mental hiccup though, brought upon by my feeling that going from one religion to another is a bit like going from the frying pan into the fire, and probably not reflective of how other Indians think. My understanding is that many Western practitioners of Hinduism and martial arts and so on are regarded highly enough by the existing spiritual communities be given titles of authority in the discipline (terminology is vague here across the traditions but I'm basically talking about the parallel of being ordained etc.) So clearly there's a positive history of intermingling of the serious Western student and the established Eastern traditions.
posted by Firas at 12:49 AM on April 7, 2007


What's really funny about this article if you know people who are caught up in the current yoga culture thing (which in Vancouver at least is almost cult-like, with the yoga-in-hot-rooms franchise) is that dissing its commercialization & over-schlockitude while being part of it is de rigeur.
posted by lastobelus at 1:11 AM on April 7, 2007


This is a pretty interesting article about a desperately deluded person and a sensationalist publication that didn't exercise proper duty of care towards her, as they ought to have done, by declining to print it.

This is bad. I don't really think it has very much to do with 'yoga culture', though. People in search of rationalizations for their behavior will always be able to find them somewhere.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:15 AM on April 7, 2007


Not quite the same West goes East, but I'll 'fess up to being a white Buddhist. I'm grateful to have heard the dharma. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu puts it well in Heart-wood from the Bo Tree, making what I think is the same point kaspen does above. The dharma offers a set of tools to address an issue, and none of the core ones need be taken on faith, and in fact shouldn't be.
Having lived in some nominally Buddhist cultures over the years, I'd add that there's a similar amount of lip-service, ritualism and whatnot prevailing amongst "Orientals," just like not every Catholic is Francis of Assissi.
posted by Abiezer at 1:16 AM on April 7, 2007


Always thought the "what are you doing here?!" reaction to westerners in saffron robes (or what have you) has more to do with our own wish to seek out "genuine" foreign experiences, the same way tourists will wait for other tourists to leave the frame before snapping a shot of that local market. I'm guilty of it too.

That and people still have a big hate on for earnestness in any form.
posted by dreamsign at 1:27 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yoga's also all the rage here in Beijing at the moment. If I was the investing type and I could cross-reference a historical timeline of Californian cultural mores to the progression of white-collar urban anomie in China, I'd be years ahead of every next big thing.
posted by Abiezer at 1:32 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


homunculus-

I'm thinking of the "yoga" students who go to special retreats in India where Indians are not allowed to participate and/or those who practice here and have aversions to brown folks.

See also: martial arts, feng shui, santeria/voodoo, white girls and gang signs, or my personal favorite- indigenous cultural symbols.
posted by yeloson at 2:45 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


That clip is a thing of beauty, yeloson.

And yes, so far as hating on New Agers goes, there's a lot of disapproval and resentment amongst Native peoples towards that subset of New Agers who focus on marketing distorted, bastardized versions of Indian symbols and ceremonies to an eager (and profitable) audience. The "twinkies" and "wanabi" who are buying all these faux-Indian books and merchandise and spiritual retreats are not well regarded, but the "plastic shamans" who are making a profit peddling these falsified versions of Native spirituality are utterly despised.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 4:21 AM on April 7, 2007


Can someone explain to me, again, why it's so hip to hate on New-Agers? Out of all the people in the world who are half-assing religion to further their own agendas, aren't these guys the most harmless?

Most of the New Age types I meet are very positive, charming, encouraging and (yes!) skeptical people. You rarely see a devotee of The Secret trying to bomb a nightclub, or legislate away someone else's civil rights. Nobody who reads Deepak Chopra has ever told me I'm going to hell because I don't regularly read Deepak Chopra. I've never heard a quartz-crystal enthusiast refer to Palestinians as "fucking animals." If they want to be faddish about their religion, let them.


I can't tell you why it's hip, but I can tell you why I have fantasies of pushing some smarmy new-ager down a fucking flight of stairs:

They're in a cult. Just like any other religious idiot, they want easy answers. But a New-Ager is so special and smart that the easy answers white people have been using for 1500 years aren't good enough.

With traditional religion, you can offer up some thin justifications for it like "I was raised with it". With New-Age stuff, you just up and decide in the healing/soul-cleansing power of inert consumer products one day. And that's pretty fucking crazy, but they think it makes them on a higher plane than you.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:41 AM on April 7, 2007


hifiparasol, I don't really have a good answer for you, besides that being relatively new, New Age suffers being an easy target of ribbing the same way any less-mainstream concept does.

I would submit that 'New Age' types are probably more spiritually devoted than the seekers of 'Zen Secrets to Instant Calm' typified in the article. (Although 'Hostile New Age Takeover' does make for a cracking title.)

I wonder at your characterisation of skepticism though; besides the conventional carte-blanche given by nominally skeptical people to personal religious beliefs about forces controlling the world, there's a high correlation between New-Agey-ness and 'alternative medicine', is there not? That's a particular segment of belief that'd make New-Age folk less generally skeptical than your average contemporary Christian.

It's a bit strange to be considering this, being Indian, because I'm simultaneously familiar with a culture where Hindu spirituality is quite culturally mainstream (obviously) and I know a lot of people for whom homeopathy is the conventional way of doing things (although I suspect the systemization of the discipline is fairly modern so it could be a false image) and allopathy is the suspect 'new age' approach (at least among the urban middle-class/lower-middle-class Muslim community; I'm not really sure about Hindus or villagers etc.)

Then again, a lot of these people have relatives who're DOA when rushed to a clinic after drawn out illnesses and the word-of-mouth communicated causes of death have all the precision of circa 1850 European records. I mean, we're talking about a country where ~5% of the population die of freakin' diarrhea. So much for alternative medicine.

Well, when Raphael blows the judgement horn, the last thing they can accuse our species of is having lacked variety…
posted by Firas at 5:32 AM on April 7, 2007


To clarify, I'm not saying that the majority of the Indian urban middle-class Muslim community defaults to alternative medicine, just that there are many who do. Almost all of them do put their faith in an MD when something's not a low-intensity or chronic issue, so it's a mix.
posted by Firas at 5:38 AM on April 7, 2007


I just checked out The Secret, it doesn't look all that messed up, isn't it just 'positive thinking'?
posted by Firas at 5:43 AM on April 7, 2007


Can someone explain to me, again, why it's so hip to hate on New-Agers? Out of all the people in the world who are half-assing religion to further their own agendas, aren't these guys the most harmless?

Sure, they're not out there blowing up airliners. I prefer people who don't do that to those who do. Yay for people who don't blow up airliners.

What gets me in the kazoo about bliss bunnies and their festering rainbow-coloured piles of gelatinous woo is their appropriation and misrepresentation of ideas, which they glob together into a support structure like a swallow building a nest out of twigs and spittle. Only they then claim it's the Taj Mahal and get very sniffy if you say it's really a ball of birdsnot.

You mentioned Deepak Chopra, a particularly annoying example of the species. He mixes up shiny bits of science and babyfood-pureed mysticism, and in so doing messes up both of them. All that lovely science? Four hundred years of hard mental work by people engaged on one of the most sustained, productive and important philosophical exercises mankind has ever undertaken. And the mysticism? A fascinating, intriguing and subtle aspect of the human experience with a great deal to tell us about the nature of thought and being.

These are not simple things, and many great thinkers have spent their lives teasing out the intricate details and putting them in the larger context. If you want to appreciate either or both, better bring your A game. But you don't get that from Chopra, you get feel-good pabulum that entirely misses the point &mdash and actively diverts people from realising things that are true.

New age is a self-delusional land where charlatans roam and tell the feeble-minded that they are privy to insights that us materialistic unenlightened ones are unable to grasp. Ignorant arrogance - what's not to hate?

And the music's dreadful.
posted by Devonian at 5:52 AM on April 7, 2007 [7 favorites]


Is it just me, or does the stalking behavior in the article sound like any number of AskMe questions? Enjoyed the article, though.
posted by TedW at 5:56 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


...but they think it makes them on a higher plane than you.

Ah, I see. So it's not really about them, it's about your fear that someone out there thinks they've figured out more than you have. Are you sure the problem is with their ego?
posted by hermitosis at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


If you're really into the practice of Yoga, none of this bullshit should make any difference to you. It doesn't matter.
posted by psmealey at 6:40 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The advertising business, the persuasion industry, does this to everything worthwhile, in order to make it meaningless, palatable to the uneducated and uninterested, meaningless and sells clothes, lipstick, cars or whatever. Ugly and worthwhile to see the manipulation and exploitation.

Good article, enjoyed the analysis and the anger it expressed about something worthwhile being emptied of authentic meaning and filled with no-meaning meaning.
posted by nickyskye at 7:07 AM on April 7, 2007


A personal narrative if you will-The overarching theme shall be drawn from the kung-foo Hustle, in which the main character begins his journey to mastering the Buddha Palm technique from a 50 cent book he buys from a bum.

Being stuck in a rather difficult life situation, I happen upon Baron Baptiste's Journey into Power (a book outlining the basic approach to Power Yoga, including the postures, proper diet etc.). I am desperate and the book is a dollar, so I say what the hell let's give it a whirl. I began practicing awareness of what I ate, noticing how it made me feel at the same time I became a vegitarian. I did a fruit fast. I started practicing the yoga 'flow' everyday in my home. It took an 1 1/2.

I can honestly say that after about three and half months of this I was a radically changed man. I felt great. I didn't drink too much. My relationship with the world improved. One of the most radical effects that I experienced came when I was standing on the back of the ferry crossing San Francisco Bay. The spume and spray of the boat caught the sun just so, and I found myself actually crying because I was so happy.

At this point I find myself exploring much more deeply the spiritual aspect of life

So even if yoga is becoming commodified, religious, or even cult-like, what the hell? It probably does more harm than good. And if not everyone gets to the point of losing the self, who cares? At least the system is here and can be helpful.

Oh wait. None of this bullshit makes any difference to me. It doesn't matter.

Now I am the Yoga King!
posted by BillJenkins at 7:09 AM on April 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


P.S. This seems like a good point to jump off and explore some ideas of culture. Is it static or evolving? Does a particualr group of people 'own it', or are the idea free to be sampled and remixed? I for one am excited to see what kind of baby will be born from all this inter-cultural fornication.
posted by BillJenkins at 7:11 AM on April 7, 2007


Oh wait. None of this bullshit makes any difference to me. It doesn't matter.

You missed my point. Yoga is about finding your own center, which you seem to have done. Whatever path to help you find what you have found (whether through tai chi, yoga, etc.) is a good one. The right teacher, the right class the right book, it's all good.

What pissed me off about this article is that the writer is a snide, judgmental asshole. There are always going to be dilettantes and a host of snakeoil salesmen to climb on the back of every health/fitness trend. But the point is that if you are so susceptible to mass marketing, competitiveness and the consumerist self-help biz, you're pretty much missing the point anyway, so complaining about it is just as productive as going along with it.
posted by psmealey at 7:24 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


psmealey-
I think you have an excellent point. My point was light hearted and humorous and perhaps lost in my inept ability to communicate. I think I was saying no need to complain as the author did. Even if you are missing the point because of all the inevitable trappings, self help etc, there is the strong possibility that it will still do some good...
posted by BillJenkins at 7:41 AM on April 7, 2007


I'm allergic to Yoga. I only buy the magazines for the pictures.
posted by Wonderwoman at 7:59 AM on April 7, 2007


They're in a cult. Just like any other religious idiot, they want easy answers. But a New-Ager is so special and smart that the easy answers white people have been using for 1500 years aren't good enough.

Well you're fun at parties, aren't ya? At least the tarot card dealers are good for a laugh.
posted by dreamsign at 8:06 AM on April 7, 2007


Does a particular group of people 'own it', or are the idea free to be sampled and remixed?

I think they're free to be sampled and remixed, but the result most of the time is things like A Fifth of Beethoven and new age systems that reference quantum mechanics in half-assed ways.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:08 AM on April 7, 2007


Just like any other religious idiot, they want easy answers.
I was drawn to the questions, something addressing what matters, the urgent challenge to easy cynicism or fatalism. That and the funny hats.
posted by Abiezer at 8:12 AM on April 7, 2007


Did somebody say cultural appropriation?
posted by gimonca at 8:21 AM on April 7, 2007


I think we tend to lump all New Agers together, perhaps because they collective seem to eschew any sort of rigorous criticism, and so when you pick up New Age magazines, articles about how fantastic yoga is for health are coupled with articles about how vaccinating your children causes autism, which are then paired with stories about how really really wishing for something and being really really positive about things will get you what you want; the article linked in the above story demonstrates this.

I guess it rankles me that the same people who are forwarding lies and bullshit are also absconding with an ancient Hindu practice because if you do it in a steambath it's supposed to do all sorts of magical good for you. I'm no expert on Yoga, but I studied kabbalah extensively as part of my degree program in Jewish Studies, and I can tell you this: It's so profoundly entwined in the specific experience of Medieval Jews that to remove it from that context renders it almost totally meaningless. And yet one of America's most famous practitioners of Yoga, Madonna, is also one of the country's most famous students of kabbalah, and behaves as though it's some sort of unviersal system of magic that requires no context at all to make sense.

I guess ultimately it just seems strange to me that people who are so nakedly, unthinkingly critical of western medicine, making all sorts of hostile, erroneous claims about the very thing that doubles people's average life spans, are also so uncritical about "exotic" cures, behaving as though they were a panacea for everything. I remember hearing a yoga instructor explaining the reemergence of her cancer as happening because she wasn't positive enough, and another (an ex-girlfriend) repeatedly telling people that if everyone studied Yoga, there would be no more war.

I just don't think I can balance out the health benefits of Yoga with the stress it would cause to my system to have to share a room with such idiocy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:42 AM on April 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Eastern religions are the future--they go hand in hand with environmental degradation and overcrowding and loss of privation and rights. Easter traditions have perfected the techniques and explanations for renouncing the world and shutting out all the horrors and cruelties that exist when the vast majority are rendered totally helpless by will or means, locked in hierarchies they cannot escape, even in their minds.
posted by Brian B. at 8:44 AM on April 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


rather...loss of rights and privation.
posted by Brian B. at 8:47 AM on April 7, 2007


I just don't think I can balance out the health benefits of Yoga with the stress it would cause to my system to have to share a room with such idiocy.

Just as I'm sure they can do without your closed-mindedness, arrogance and cynicism.

It works both ways. Not everyone who practices yoga believes it to be the panacea you are falsely portraying it as. For everyone who is as narrowly hostile to it as you are, there are idiotic charlatans that espouse it as a cure-all for all types of cancers and the world's ills.

The truth is always somewhere in between.
posted by Flem Snopes at 9:04 AM on April 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain to me, again, why it's so hip to hate on New-Agers? Out of all the people in the world who are half-assing religion to further their own agendas, aren't these guys the most harmless?

It's pretty simple: rich white people who believe they are really really special.

It's sort of like being a furry but without the socially redeeming features.
posted by geos at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yoga is about finding your own center, which you seem to have done. Whatever path to help you find what you have found (whether through tai chi, yoga, etc.) is a good one. The right teacher, the right class the right book, it's all good.

This is good. What you've mentioned about finding one's own center is exactly the mainstream westerner interpretation of eastern philosophy. In the eastern practice, the purpose of yoga is to do exactly the opposite (lose sense of oneself, practice transcendance into the "the one" aka. Bhraman)

In other words, there is no "you" in the original forms of yoga.

Personally I'm not a practicing member of eastern religion, but coincedently I'm studying philosophy of religion which makes this thread a fascinating read. From what I've learned, there's a commonality in all religions that "possesiveness/control" is the wrong way to go, which is exactly the mindset involved with "seeking self fulfillment" instead of "participating, or giving oneself up to something greater than oneself." In the Bhagavad Gita it is taught that every "soul" is merely an emination (or reflection) of the one" and that our sense of reality is merely an illusion. Yoga is a practice of transcendance beyond that illusion...or in other words, a preparation of merging back into Bhraman.

It can be fairly complex stuff to grasp, I suppose the simplest explanation is that it's all in the approach or mindset. If you approach spirituality in any religion with the mindset of getting something out of it, then you're not being religious. It becomes a means to one's self interest at that point, like a candy machine..put in a quarter in etc. Or even a better example, think of love. Love and religion have the same attributes...if its donative you are in love, if it is self centered you are not.

This is the self serving essence of New Age entirely. Now I'm not saying that its wrong. Infact, this is exactly what being postmodern is all about. We are used to being able to write our own history at this point and have sense of control over our own futures. This is where this type of secularization begins. This is where the prevalent sense of "me" ultimately originates. Where us westerners go wrong is still insisting on calling it yoga....its yoga-lite...heck its not even that, rather its stretching with calming music and costs a fee to be a member. A lot of the main points of the practice are stripped so it can be more pallatable, and maybe even less disorienting to those with Judeo-Christian beliefs. It's trimmed down to where it helps with back problems, losing weight, or alliviating stress.

I hope that makes sense, I'm definitely not preaching right or wrong. I guess that it's somewhat similar to what the Romans did with Greek mythology (tho there I'm much less in-the know)
posted by samsara at 9:32 AM on April 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Just as I'm sure they can do without your closed-mindedness, arrogance and cynicism.

Interesting, though, that you refute none of my points. One man's hostility is another's healthy skepticism, and I come by my skepticism honestly, having practiced yoga for six years and edited a "New Age" column for four.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:56 AM on April 7, 2007


And, on a unrelated note, I hate the phrase "The truth is always somewhere in between," which is patently untrue.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:03 AM on April 7, 2007


that you refute none of my points.

Your point being what, exactly? That charlatans and peddlers of easy answers and cure-alls exist in new age practices and Eastern disciplines? That's not really a point, is it? It's as facile to say that such people are as commonly attached to Western philosophies and religions as Eastern. No one group has yet cornered the market on assholes.

As samsara points out, it's about finding your center or losing your sense of self. In either case, it has nothing to do with what may be happening around you. If you find yourself not being able to suffer fools nearby to the point of anger and resentment, to the point of dismissing the whole practice as hype and hooety, it indicates you're moreover missing a point rather than expressing one.
posted by Flem Snopes at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2007


Could someone please explain to my what "finding your own center" means?
posted by davy at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2007


Did someone mention cultural appropriation?
posted by davy at 10:18 AM on April 7, 2007



It means sticking your head as far up your ass as it can go, davy.
posted by bukharin at 10:22 AM on April 7, 2007


My point was that within the New Age movement there tends to be an uncritical acceptance of nonsense. If this assessment doesn't apply to you, that's all well and good, but it's no more inflammatory statement than saying that within Christian Fundamentalism there tends to be a suspicion of science.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 AM on April 7, 2007


Why don't New agers just do Bhakti yoga, for example about Krishna? At least ISKON tries to get it right. Granted though I'm an outsider (and a sceptical atheist one at that), it seems like "the Hare Krishnas" have done more in 20 years to clean up its abuses than some "major world religions" have managed in 20 centuries, and the dancing is FUN and can be good exercise! (They've been presenting themselves recently as just another Hindu sect; is this now true?)

Of course they could always convert to Postmodern Judaism, or the New Age version.
posted by davy at 10:39 AM on April 7, 2007


Davy, finding one's "own center" is probably something misinterpreted by western culture from the original sanskrit. The bulk of the Gita describes finding "the center" which involves detatchment from a sense of self. I suppose it can be as overwhelming and revealing as trying to find the center of a mandelbrot fractal zoom, as the point of the practice is to get as close as you can to imagining the universe as being tied to a single point with no variation.

The philosophy behind it is complex, but the Bhagavad Gita stands out as one of the most complete explainations (highly recommended read, although there is a little lost in the translation from sanskrit since some words have more interchangable meanings there than in english).

As bukharin eloquently states, this type of mentality is incompatible with our post modern culture. It leads many people to living a dual lifestyle where they can sample the practice of Yoga then go to a starbucks for a tri-latte mocha. It's a lifestyle of protecting oneself from the metaphysical rather than giving up sense of control by diving into it headfirst. Think of the key differences between Ghandi and Madonna :)
posted by samsara at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2007


I went with a friend to one of these hot-room yoga classes in a studio off Madison Square Park. All of the students were aflutter because The Guru was going to teach the class, and this was a rare and special opportunity, as The Guru knew and could teach so much, was just unspeakably wonderful, and wasn't always in town; usually classes were taught by acolytes, who knew the motions but not the real mettle from which we could all forge powerful yogic identities. The Guru could and would show us how.

The Guru was late, and an acolyte started the class into a still meditation and a brief stretch before The Guru interrupted us, taking his place on a raised dais in the front of the class. A nubile helper, shining with a mixture of sweat and lovingkindness, turned on a boom-box and started the class chanting along to some of the silliest denatured music I've ever not listened to, for, not knowing the words and not caring to break my concentrated awareness with a furtive attempt to figure out an aimless tune, I sat and silently calmed my blood and toes and chose to sit quietly in a state of relaxed possession and expansion.

While the class chanted, The Guru chatted with an acolyte, occasionaly looking over the room and catching the eye of a beloved student. Once he caught sight of me, though, his expression changed. I could see him flare up, then draw into himself and begin to hide, tensing himself and peering at me suspiciously as if preparing for a fight. I continued my half-smiled breathing and rested deeper into my core, expanding to fill the hot air of the room with my awareness.

He cut the music off and began by apologizing for his lateness, then justifying it on the grounds that he was The Guru, and life is like that: sometimes what you think you need doesn't happen -- sometimes the Guru is late. Then he guided the class through a series of perfunctory stretches, casting darts from his eyes with every glance. I stretched silently with a smile, and felt my muscles ripple the air as I breathed in the entire room. The limber arms and legs of the entire class became my own, and I could feel them surge and ebb with my every breath, and I began to realize.

I realized what was happening: I had enveloped the class, taken everyone into me, like Siva with Parvati, and, like Siva, found a way into them. We were enveloped, and The Guru sat outside, watching, blending into the wall, hiding in the bushes, like Kama, desire, armed but impotent before the phallus of Siva.

The forms complete, we sat waiting as The Guru prepared himself to speak. He began by describing a bad day, pain, the train running late, the Twin Towers collapsing. I sat, still joined with the room, my linga still nestled in the folds of the class. He worked himself into a lather of spite, decrying the excesses of this and that and the powerlessness and fear of those who do not follow some truth. Then he drew his bow, raised his voice, and aimed his three-headed arrow at me: "You must follow The Guru. Even if The Guru tells you to do something you do not want, you must do it. The Guru is always right."

Like Siva, I had anticipated this salvo, and I broke the arrow in flight with a blaze that immolated The Guru in a flurry of ash, and reposed in my self-awareness. He disappeared from the dais, leaving the class shaken and confused. The ashes of desire settled over them, and we all rose and left the hot room.

I think this Kama had fancied himself a Siva, knew the trappings but not the essence of knowing, and pretended his growth was enough that he needed to grow no more to aid the gods. But when he found himself in a room with one who had the waters of Ganga bound up in his hair, he skulked and watched and strung his bow of jealousy, thinking he could penetrate one who has folded all around him, believing he could catch unawares the heart of awareness.

I chatted with the friend who had brought me to the studio, who was discomfited by The Guru's talk and agitated by his missile, and I recognized the ash of desire she had breathed and her need for this Kama to live. I allowed that he might live invisible to her, his need separate from his being, that she might continue to learn and find herself once again enveloped and warm, desire a voice in her head and not an interrupting arrow aimed at her practice.

We took the train downtown, where lotus, moon, Kama's bow, water drop, cuckoo, flax, corolla: all was within her. Upon her hips was laid the scrificial offering.
posted by breezeway at 10:57 AM on April 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


Seriously, samsara's point is a good one, that "there's a commonality in all religions that "possesiveness/control" is the wrong way to go," that it's all about "giving oneself up to something greater than oneself." It's intellectual suicidalism, striving to nullify yourself as an individual person. So of course self-destruction is incompatible with self-fulfillment, unless you really hate yourself.

(On preview, is breezeway a tkchrist sockpuppet?)
posted by davy at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2007


No, tkchrist would have spelled "sacrificial" correctly. I'm just a manifestation of the godhead you know and love.
posted by breezeway at 11:04 AM on April 7, 2007


That is, samsara, I think we're looking at the same thing in pretty much the same way, but we're having different reactions to it.
posted by davy at 11:06 AM on April 7, 2007


Just two quick remarks, since others are clearly far more knowledgable and eloquent on this stuff than I am:

(a) You guys hit the nail on the head re: new age criticism, I wasn't even thinking about it—that it's a chimeral tradition, that just mixes all sorts of things together, and gets especially noxious when you get into appropriating hard science (eg. talking about quantum theory's relation to happiness.) It may be a passable folk culture but it'll never be a style in its own right.

(b) I've never really studied comparative religion but think some of you are going too far with this selfless detachment stuff. The logical extreme of that would be to go hurt yourself to do others service and disintegrate. No, I think my homeboy Gautama was just as concerned with how an individual comes to peace with themself as much as how he fits into the grander scheme of things (that is to say, the whole detachment from 'want' is mainly in service of the cessation of the pangs/suffering of internal 'want', right?)

Also, although I'm a big fan of cultural mixing, I think a touch of judgementalism may not be completely out of order. Confucious say, "Zen Secrets to Instant Calm" make Buddha spin like a chakra!

I mean, come on, man. The more I think about it the more this line just captures the absurdity of it all. "Zen Secrets to Instant Calm." Sheesh.
posted by Firas at 11:26 AM on April 7, 2007


Zen secret to instant calm: Kill without hesitation.
posted by breezeway at 11:56 AM on April 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Devonian said:

New age is a self-delusional land where charlatans roam and tell the feeble-minded that they are privy to insights that us materialistic unenlightened ones are unable to grasp. Ignorant arrogance - what's not to hate?

And this is different from other religions, how? Sorry -- I've seen too many small Christian churches that were little more than cults of personality around a their pastor to believe that charlatans are specific to New Age thinking. My point still stands.

Firas said:

it's a chimeral tradition, that just mixes all sorts of things together, and gets especially noxious when you get into appropriating hard science (eg. talking about quantum theory's relation to happiness.)

Again, at least as far as Christianity goes, this is nothing new. Christianity has a central figure that pretty much has to be present in all of its permutations, but beyond that, people tend to bring whatever they want to the table. Christmas? Easter? Weren't there a lot of random pagan symbols thrown in there to make things more palatable?

Look, I'm not defending "New Age" people (honestly, I'm not even sure what that label means), I'm just saying that very few of them seem to be much different structurally from the other major religions. And, as I said, they don't seem to have a particularly strong "God Hates Fags" faction, or anything like that.

And to decry them because they pick and choose from a seemingly arbitrary smorgasbord of Easter influences is an argument that defeats itself. You're effectively categorizing them into a group that should be reviled because it can't be easily categorized. People do what makes them feel good, and anyone white suburbanite who breaks away from their roots to explore something new should be applauded, not mocked. So what if they get shit wrong sometimes? We're always learning.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:59 AM on April 7, 2007


OK, I guess I am defending them.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:01 PM on April 7, 2007


"I've never really studied comparative religion but think some of you are going too far with this selfless detachment stuff. The logical extreme of that would be to go hurt yourself to do others service and disintegrate".

Not quite. The extreme would be that you were free from bodily/worldy desires, which is one of the philosophies behind fasting. This presents somewhat of a paradox since you could never fully acheive that while being in the physical reality. So really, the point then is that Yoga is a practice (maybe you could call it the practice of death and transcending) to prepare the Atman (self representation of the soul) to converge with the Bhraman.

I wouldn't say its going to far though, as that's what it originally was. And yes, the very idea is extremely intimidating. The actual practice can open someone to some terrifying stuff...it's dreadful...much larger in scale than anything imaginable...scary as shit...because giving up the will to control one's self ultimately is overwhelming (and at the same time enlightening).

I wouldn't say it is hurtful unless someone is misinterpreting what is being taught. The philosophy is beyond the hurt...beyond what we think is good or bad, and beyond our concept of time (as opposed to Judeo-Christianity that is rooted in history and of an unprecedented future). Basically to be enlightened is to "be still" but not neccessarily nothing. My opinion on this is basically when it is converted from a practice to a method to acheive a goal, the entire mindset changes from what it was originally intended to be.

"Look, I'm not defending "New Age" people (honestly, I'm not even sure what that label means), I'm just saying that very few of them seem to be much different structurally from the other major religions."

I think it is problematic to call New Age rituals religious. But I see what you're saying. I think the difference is really between what is considered "donative" verses what is considered "magic" as mentioned. I think if you really look at every facet of religious practice we see today, you'll see slight shifts in the paradigm from donative to magic in everything (just to refresh, donative=devotion without expectation while magic=participation with expectation of a result). I'm not saying that New Age is inherently wrong, but I do think it gets problematically mislabled as a religion because it is fundamentally self serving.

Think of things even outside of Eastern based religions. The practice of prayer for example, within the Judeo-Christian faith, is seeing a major shift from devoted thanks to petitioning (eg. Instead of praying to acknowledge gratitude, I am praying so I can be cured, or I am praying so I can get *fill in the blanks*). This is what fills the faith based TV stations such as Trinity, and in my opinion (I'll probably get flamed for this one) misses the mark almost entirely when it promises something in return for participation (eg. saved soul, wealth, even the kingdom of heaven).

The problem from that is, anyone who only experiences religion through the practice of magic, gets a somewhat dilluted view of what it is all about. It's not give and get in return. It's about giving for the sake of participating in what Socrates would coin "the greater good." (eg. detachment from desire....though don't confuse desires with actual needs such as food, water etc...even in fasting it is recommended to eat to survive, the point is practicing living in accordance with the sacred, not killing youself in the process...heh).
posted by samsara at 1:30 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


samsara, alright, and that sounds a bit like the Sufi idea of getting in touch with the divine, but I'm afraid you're putting too distinct a division between worship vs. request models in spiritualism. Religion is a coping strategy—for history, for luck, for a reason to keep on living. Sacrifices to rain gods, anyone? Few people decide to join a religion just 'coz!

For example, maybe I'm totally mistaken on the history here, but you sort of skirted my question—my understanding is that Buddha set out to figure out how to transcend the suffering aspect of the human experience, right? How is that not related to whether you're personally suffering or not? I mean, it just sounds a lot like stoicism to me—a more ascetic, more detached version of Greek stoicism.
posted by Firas at 1:55 PM on April 7, 2007


I think part of the problem here is that when people think "New Age", they instantly associate it with media caricatures of the smug sanctimony that's typically associated with aging hippies (the Tim Robbins character in High Fidelity). Having spent a significant part of my adulthood on the West Coast and in NYC, where people a more open to such things, I have yet to meet anyone for whom this stereotype applies in any meaningful way.

I personally don't put much stock in some of the spritual smorgasbords that some people indulge themselves with (it can be a little silly), but as I said earlier, to each his/her own path. If you want to belittle someone else's quest based on some superficial judgment or false generalization, that probably says more about you than it does about them.
posted by psmealey at 3:38 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Devonian, by the way, I'd mostly agree with the music evalution, but I have to petition for one particular instance. Have you seen Baraka?

Only one track in the whole world could fit this portion (54 meg avi; youtube), 'The Host of the Seraphim' by the New-Age-y Dead Can Dance.
posted by Firas at 4:21 PM on April 7, 2007


Why do people hate New Agers? The answer that rings truest to me is Dreamsign's "That and people still have a big hate on for earnestness in any form.". I would add, especially when the earnestness is unconventional. "What you think you're different?! The lifestyle of the rest of us isn't good enough for you?!"

True, the people portrayed in that exceedingly thin article come across poorly, but they don't exist as much more than caricatures either. So Mr. Rosenbaum gets to gripe and look superior, as well as suggest that he is less selfish. Yeah, for sure you can look stupid, no argument. And there is an awful lot of silliness, but it's not so much the silliness that people respond to. It's the difference in their interest and also when someone earnestly engages and shows desire they also show vulnerability.

I think it's completely wrongheaded that you have to buy into a tradition all the way or you're doing it wrong, or corrupting it, or it's not real, or whatever. Ultimately, all this stuff, yoga, tai chi, mantras, mudras, any and all physical practices, rituals, prayers, trance inductions, etc. are just something that some guy, ok maybe a gal, at some point created, you know, made up. So if somebody else thinks that practice would be good for them, then hey, go ahead. But there's always somebody there saying, "No, this practice is for people with the 'Eastern' mind'." or whatever.

Please.

Like you're going to turn into a fucking chicken or something if you do it. It reminds me of people talking about books, "I want to read it but I don't think I'm ready for it.".

-------

samsara,

I disagree with a lot of what you say. The Bhagavad Gita does espouse non-dualism and an understanding of man's ultimate identity as void, or capacity, or 'not this' with 'this' being any possible concept, but there isn't anything particularly complex about it. It's just difficult to talk about meaningfully, especially as a spectator. There's a lot of cultural baggage and that can get pretty involved, but all of that is incidental, and easy to separate. It is not all of one piece at all. If the whole subject was all that complex, requiring mental gymnastics, how would Sri Ramana Maharishi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, two fairly uneducated lower class Indians, been able to teach it? They did so because they were coming from a place of experience and showing others that experience, even though experience is the wrong word here as well. But their speech was in part performance and it was dialogue. Both of them had Western visitors who 'got it' just fine. No memorization of doctrine required.

The description of emptiness is used because there is nothing 'there' to identify with. So a feeling of 'groundedness' does not contradict. Many people feel grounded when they get more in touch with their bodies and identify less with their thoughts. A strong sense of physical awareness is perfectly compatible with recognition of selflessness. Selflessness also doesn't have anything to do with being a martyr either, the deeper connection is to attention and gratitude and not much else. The distinction between the practices of the West and East is only true at a shallow levels. Meister Eckhart is a good example of a Christian figure who sees the self in a very similar way to any of the Eastern writers, who by the way span some very different cultures themselves.
posted by BigSky at 5:20 PM on April 7, 2007


Buddhism is a sore excuse for a positive mental state, where all suffering is supposedly caused by desire (even assuming the infinite platitudes one can derive from it) when in the dire example itself all desire presupposes suffering, ie, starvation or pain. It blames the victim all over again: the colonial method in saffron robes.

Even if we assume a decadent couch potato who whines for everything new he hasn't gotten lately, it would be a perverse luxury to call such a state "suffering." There is something to be said for never taking the bait for a spiritual withdrawal and staying outward bound, close to nature, rejecting all forms of idolatry and cults of personality, while exploring and enjoying life until we die. Art will always be our sublime inward nature, which was never literally divine, only figurative.
posted by Brian B. at 5:35 PM on April 7, 2007




Brian B., I'm sorry you're suffering so much. Honestly and sincerely.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:20 PM on April 7, 2007


adam, it really makes you bitter, doesn't it?
posted by Brian B. at 7:30 PM on April 7, 2007


Me? Oh, heck no, son. I think you're projecting. I'm sitting here in my beloved broke-dick Swan chair, watching old SCTV videos on YouTube. Couldn't be happier.

You, on the other hand, sound...aggrieved.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:35 PM on April 7, 2007


Well, I don't see anything particularly weird in what Brian B. said, it's a common statement of materialists (in the sense of non-spiritualists) who still wish to make space for contemplative beauty. The slam on Buddhism was probably uncalled for though. It's been around a lot longer than we have, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt ;)
posted by Firas at 7:42 PM on April 7, 2007


adam voluntarily projected:
Brian B., I'm sorry you're suffering so much. Honestly and sincerely.

Implying his projection in my defense:
adam, it really makes you bitter, doesn't it?

adam catches onto the mistake quickly:
Me? Oh, heck no, son. I think you're projecting.

But only one of us was asking.
posted by Brian B. at 7:52 PM on April 7, 2007


It's been around a lot longer than we have, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt ;)

Personally, I give the benefit of doubt to the newer ideas.
posted by Brian B. at 7:55 PM on April 7, 2007


Hey, whatever. I think I'll go do that thing I do whereby I justify the millennial oppression of the Teeming Oriental Hordes by validating the otherwordly, life-hating doctrine of their overlords.

I'm really not sure what it is you're so angry about, but I'm reasonably certain it's misplaced. Sure hope you have a better tomorrow.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:58 PM on April 7, 2007


I'm really not sure what it is you're so angry about, but I'm reasonably certain it's misplaced. Sure hope you have a better tomorrow.

Even after you acknowledge the concept of projection, you still do it as if you have a split personality.
posted by Brian B. at 8:07 PM on April 7, 2007


Hey, I have a better idea of how to spend your time than amateur psychoanalysis if you're still following the thread. Check out the Baraka clip and see if you find it neat/moving/anything-along-those-lines. Meanwhile I'm off. Everybody remember to play nice.
posted by Firas at 8:11 PM on April 7, 2007


Happy Easter, bitches.
posted by psmealey at 8:16 PM on April 7, 2007


Brian B.,

I'm not sure what the couch potato would have to do to attain your ranking of 'real' suffering. Where is the line? By what scale is suffering quantified? What if you're one increment below the cut-off? Does that have a name? Wouldn't oscillating back and forth across that line be kind of a bitch in itself?

If you didn't know, 'suffering' is meant to convey thinking the world should be different than how it is. The point of Buddhism is that suffering can come to an end, not pain, but we can refuse to add misery.

Buddhism is just common sense, nothing more. While some traditions may add on a ton of metaphysical extra, it can be ignored without loss. To quote a poster from a different forum:

"After all, it's clear enough to most people, if they're honest with themselves, that they are perpetually in a kind of internal conflict, that there is a subtle or not so subtle stress that runs through their lives, even when things are maybe going along OK, there is still a discomfort with their existence, a relentless longing for "something more".

If anyone takes the time to actually explore and examine this feeling of contraction or limitation, they can notice how it is always related to attraction and aversion, the very motive energies that propel us along on our way, every day. So, it doesn't really require a great feat of deductive reasoning to recognize the causal relationship between suffering and desire and attachment, nor do you have to be a genius to see that everything changes, and that clinging to things or trying to avoid things results in the sense of unhappiness.

Just so, if you get that far in the observation, leading a life of natural renunciation and non-grasping is simply basic intelligence. Who wants to make themselves miserable?"

It isn't about withdrawal from life, but release of desire. Not elimination of desire but acceptance that sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. Everyone acts with an outcome in mind but staying tense and focused about how it should be after you've acted is optional.

What the above has to do with "blame the victim" or "colonial method" or even "saffron robes", I don't know, but it has everything to do with Buddhism.
posted by BigSky at 9:09 PM on April 7, 2007


It's intellectual suicidalism, striving to nullify yourself as an individual person. So of course self-destruction is incompatible with self-fulfillment, unless you really hate yourself.
In my understanding it's a recognition of a truth - your intellect is already dead, you are already nothing, as your were before birth and will be after death. Knowing that, how to live without building a fantasy world based on false views and clinging to things?
The unique insight of the dharma that struck me when I first heard it was just that - that there is no abiding self, no trancendental power, just this. It's a medicine that addresses the prevailing ills. And yet, it's not about hate, it's about unbounded compassion and liberation.
posted by Abiezer at 9:32 PM on April 7, 2007


I'm not sure what the couch potato would have to do to attain your ranking of 'real' suffering. Where is the line? By what scale is suffering quantified? What if you're one increment below the cut-off? Does that have a name? Wouldn't oscillating back and forth across that line be kind of a bitch in itself?

He's actually very self-engrossed already, he's just renouncing the world differently and his self-conscious pursuit of imaginary enlightenment is just as unattainable in the very same sense.

If you didn't know, 'suffering' is meant to convey thinking the world should be different than how it is. The point of Buddhism is that suffering can come to an end, not pain, but we can refuse to add misery.

Which explains why I placed the parenthetical about platitudes in my original post on the subject.

Buddhism is just common sense, nothing more.

Common sense is the very instinctive and profound western tradition which I adhere to. "Not broken, don't fix it" and all that, etc. Yet we disagree.

"After all, it's clear enough to most people, if they're honest with themselves, that they are perpetually in a kind of internal conflict, that there is a subtle or not so subtle stress that runs through their lives, even when things are maybe going along OK, there is still a discomfort with their existence, a relentless longing for "something more".

So, if they don't agree with your source about themselves, then they're dishonest? That's a fallacy, no common sense there. If they want something more, they might want to find it outside the self-absorbed methods they have inherited, possibly from common religious traditions. The rest of what you wrote is very dogmatic, by the way, and is not common sense to me.
posted by Brian B. at 9:54 PM on April 7, 2007


Whoever, way up thread, said they didn't see the problem with The Secret: the flip side of its "power of positive thinking" rip-off is that "negative energy" or "bad thoughts" attracts misfortune and tragedy.

Soooo...everyone killed on 9/11? If they'd just been more upbeat and positive, they could have avoided the whole thing, not to mention become rich beyond their wildest dreams. I'm not making this up; a promotional representative of Secret Inc. (or whatever the fucking official name of the company is) was quoted to this effect in the Toronto Star a few weeks back:

"Burman hosted Diamond at an event at Indigo Books on Bloor last weekend, where she took some questions from a packed audience. "I'm a really big believer in The Secret," said one, a young black woman. "But I also believe that discrimination and racism are real. How can you harmonize those things?"

Diamond, a middle-aged Belgian woman with a welcoming air, nodded knowingly. "You just said you believe in discrimination. You be-live it. I'm going to ask you to stop believing it, because if you focus on the negative, you project it yourself."

Another, from a young man. "I really love what you're doing," he says. "But how, for example, was 9/11 attracted to the people in those buildings? That's something I can't understand."

Another thoughtful pause. Diamond, in her madras blazer and jeans, furrows her brow and speaks softly, breathily. "Sometimes, we experience the law of attraction collectively," she says. "The U.S. maybe had a fear of being attacked. Those 3,000 people – they might have put out some kind of fear that attracted this to happen, fear of dying young, fear that something might happen that day. But sometimes, it is collective."


That's the fucking problem with the fucking Secret.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:09 PM on April 7, 2007


"People are always angry at anyone who chooses very individual standards for his life; because of the extraordinary treatment which that grants to himself, they feel degraded, like ordinary beings."

-Nietzsche
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:20 PM on April 7, 2007


Brian B.,

"He's actually very self-engrossed already, he's just renouncing the world differently and his self-conscious pursuit of imaginary enlightenment is just as unattainable in the very same sense."

This is a bait and switch. Why do this? You first gave an example of a 'decadent' couch potato as someone who did not deserve the description of suffering. Now he's renouncing the world and pursuing imaginary enlightenment. It's hard to articulate what we're even talking about now. And I have little idea what would be an appropriate response.

"Common sense is the very instinctive and profound western tradition which I adhere to."

This is the first time I have heard someone call common sense a western tradition. Typically, a tradition has some proponents. Who are they for 'common sense'? "Not broken, don't fix it" is western? As if a sizable percentage (as in sizable minority, say > 15%) in Jakarta or Delhi or Shanghai or Osaka or Bangkok would disagree? Come on.

None of the ideas that I associate with the west are what I would call common sense, they are mostly political and economic.

What I described as Buddhism and the quote relating to desire and suffering is very similar to Stoicism. It doesn't get much more "western" than that. All of this labeling though isn't of much use outside of academia. Human nature is what it is, whether the location is Manilla or Omaha. If there is a way of thinking about the world that is of benefit the label of origin is insignificant.

"So, if they don't agree with your source about themselves, then they're dishonest? That's a fallacy, no common sense there. If they want something more, they might want to find it outside the self-absorbed methods they have inherited, possibly from common religious traditions. The rest of what you wrote is very dogmatic, by the way, and is not common sense to me."

You're right it is a fallacy. The assumption can be denied. I posted it because I have found it to be true in my own life and from what I have observed of others. In my opinion the quoted claim is self evident, it is there in most uses of the word 'should' and all expressions of contempt, but that's not proof. When you say they should find something more outside the self-absorbed methods they have inherited you're pulling the same bait and switch. There is nothing in that quote that identified the discomfort as coming from an inherited method, after all they could be materialist aesthetes. This is a subtle little rhetorical maneuver. My viewpoint, and I assure you the quoted one's as well, is that suffering is reduced by listening less to our imaginary vision of how the world is supposed to be and paying more attention to how it is. In other words, paying less attention to yourself. From paying attention to what is present, gratitude increases and suffering lessens, perhaps even disappears. In disagreeing with me and offering the suggestion that they stop their self absorption you imply that my response is to offer them more of the same.

A clever trick.

If this is dogmatic, and given that you don't recognize a causal connection between attachment and suffering, I see that it would be, fair enough. God knows, I hate an evangelist.
posted by BigSky at 11:59 PM on April 7, 2007


This is a bait and switch. Why do this? You first gave an example of a 'decadent' couch potato as someone who did not deserve the description of suffering.

How is it a bait and switch? It was my example, and you completely misunderstood when you assumed he needed to suffer as some goal. (The absurdity is so subtle that I dare say very few will notice.) I only assumed a vocal desire, denying that it could be called suffering without finding another description for starvation or disease. Take away the couch, you have classical Buddhism.

And by the way, common sense implies a sense that is common, and without elaborating on its development, it never implies that one is a disciple of a proponent, nor is it someone's set of theories--hence my careful use of the word "instinctive." Adhere means to stick to.

You lost me on the last part. It smells like personal religion, no offense, which anyone is free to associate with a less flattering psychological problem because they are often the same.
posted by Brian B. at 12:22 AM on April 8, 2007


"I disagree with a lot of what you say. The Bhagavad Gita does espouse non-dualism and an understanding of man's ultimate identity as void, or capacity, or 'not this' with 'this' being any possible concept, but there isn't anything particularly complex about it."

I don't think I said it was void at all, rather I said it was striving for "stillness" rather than nothingness. I do agree with what you said afterwards though, this stuff is pretty hard to explain meanginfully, and even in my studies it has taken a long time for a lot of the concepts to sink in.

Basically the point of view I am describing from the Bhagavad Gita is that of what *perspective* you view the world. I suppose you can imagine viewing at different angles. If you're here on earth, of course you have identity, and of course you have a consciousness/soul (or Atman). From the point of "the one" everything exists as "one," so therefore everything that we experience in this world (time, individuality, or any deviation) is really an illusion. The one is what eminates everything, and is what manifests itself as reflections, and what gives us our concept of time. If you agree with that description then we could logically say that human beings long, or are naturally drawn to transcend past the illusion that they are trapped in, where the Atman merges with "the one" in Nirvana or returns to the illusion to go at it again (aka reincarnation within Samsara...not the perfume, nor me..heh)

Let me add to that though, that there is a lot of debate over whether this eminating dualism supercedes a strict monism... so your argument, BlueSky, is shared amongst a lot of scholars. The logic behind monism insists that even the duality all falls back into the one. (this hurts my head, I need to remind myself that math need not apply here).

samsara, alright, and that sounds a bit like the Sufi idea of getting in touch with the divine, but I'm afraid you're putting too distinct a division between worship vs. request models in spiritualism. Religion is a coping strategy—for history, for luck, for a reason to keep on living. Sacrifices to rain gods, anyone? Few people decide to join a religion just 'coz!

This is a great example Firas! I try to think back in time to when the first man on earth realized there was something greater than himself at work in the cosmos. He found himself overwhelmed, dropped to his knees, and called out to the stars "HELP!"

The emphasis is that there is a BIG difference between requesting audience with God and requesting desires from God. Or in other words, a difference between *participating* and *wanting a result* It's a frame of mind within religion that is incredibly hard to grasp in our post modern world because nearly EVERYTHING we do in this age is result oriented. I think of all examples I could give, the best would be the difference of "God, could you please cure my uncle's illness" in contrast with Martin Luther King praying "Give me the strength to do your will"

That strength, was the core of what began a journey I'm sure most of us know quite clearly :)

But there's a fundamental difference in approach here. The difference is the degree of possesiveness excerted, as opposed to the letting go of one's own desires and placing them in the hands of a higher power. It's this commonality that you see in every religion. And it's this commoninality that explicitly excludes New Age as possesive magic, and not religious.

What I'm trying to explain are the ideals present in these religions...the fundamental reasonings. I am not taking a side and saying one's right and one is wrong. Rather I'm giving a philosophical shot at explaining what's taken tens of centuries to evolve into what it is today. Not a single religion is 100% ideal, and every one of them screws it up in one way or another, whether it is through gross misinterpretation, or even it its extreme sense, murder and war. Well long story short...we're human. We realize we are imperfect, and I believe that is exactly what keeps us longing for these ideals.

(my philosphy professor would have a field day inking up what I've written so far..heh)
posted by samsara at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd like to pop up here to point out that New Age Pseudoyoga (or whatever the fuck we're talking about here) is as loony as Hare Krishna, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Xianity, Trotskyism, Objectivism, Wicca and Pomo. It's hard not to giggle when adherents of competing looninesses argue. Please continue entertaining me!
posted by davy at 9:40 AM on April 8, 2007


Some interesting discussion in this thread. and some clueless trolls.

Airy fairy has a counterpart in the world of the hardheads. There are many ways to avoid apprehending reality. Knowing what is what and knowing nothing can both serve.
posted by pointilist at 11:29 AM on April 8, 2007


MetaFilter: Some interesting discussion and some clueless trolls.
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on April 8, 2007


The Card Cheat, ok, I see the issue. Rather than just saying that you need to be mentally tenacious it's a complete system saying that everything that happens is caused by mental vibes? Yeah, I can see where having a bunch of people literally believing that can be very dangerously cultish.
posted by Firas at 4:32 PM on April 8, 2007


Nobody who reads Deepak Chopra has ever told me I'm going to hell because I don't regularly read Deepak Chopra.

No, but a devotee of The Secret told me I lost a baby this January because I "let myself imagine it too many times." I was already pretty much in hell and she was like a special demon poking me with a red-hot pitchfork.
posted by not that girl at 4:39 PM on April 8, 2007


I think, in everything from The Secret to Trotskyism to Catholicism, the ultimate point is to avoid definite absolutist conviction about cause-effect relationships. Does that make sense?

You lost the job because you were thinking bad thoughts. The war is because of capitalism. You're ill because God's punishing you.

Yeah, now that I think about, I think I'm onto something. Absolutism about causation is the first step to derangement.
posted by Firas at 4:42 PM on April 8, 2007


Ah, I see. So it's not really about them, it's about your fear that someone out there thinks they've figured out more than you have. Are you sure the problem is with their ego?

No, it probably stems from wanting, or stepping off the path to enlightenment or not balacing my chakras or some other crap that neither of us understands, assuming it ever made any sense.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:07 PM on April 9, 2007


Nobody who reads Deepak Chopra has ever told me I'm going to hell because I don't regularly read Deepak Chopra.

No, but a devotee of The Secret told me I lost a baby this January because I "let myself imagine it too many times."


The person that told you that no doubt deserves to be stabbed in the eye with a salad fork, but why associate The Secret with Deepak Chopra? From what I understand, Chopra thinks the Secret is a big load of crap along with the rest of us.
posted by psmealey at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2007




The wrong reason for doing yoga
posted by homunculus at 1:20 PM on April 18, 2007


New Age Pseudoyoga (or whatever the fuck we're talking about here) is as loony as Hare Krishna, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Xianity, Trotskyism, Objectivism, Wicca and Pomo.

Fixed it for you.

It's hard not to giggle when adherents of competing looninesses argue.

Yes, let's!
posted by gignomai at 2:01 PM on April 18, 2007


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