Enacting a Post-Secular Spirituality: Or, Why Yoga Is So Cool

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An Evolving Faith

Something is happening. On Christmas Day in Whistler this year, the church service was paltry and fell short of inspirational. We even left early. Last year, at an impressive Cathedral on the riverbank in Saskatoon, only eight people made it to mass on that formerly auspicious day. At risk of being cliché, it seems that one of the most sacred of moments in the Christian calendar is mostly about shopping these days. The priest this year even preached that one way to "have Christmas everyday" is to continue to shop and give gifts as a way to show your love. Paradoxically, I heard one of the most profound teachings on the Christmas story this year, not in a church or Cathedral, but in a yoga studio!

All this has me pausing to contemplate what is going on. Something is radically changed about how we worship. The Divine has not changed, but we certainly have, and with us, our perspectives on spirituality have too. This season particularly has me pausing to wonder...

Statistics Canada reports, "Over the last 50 years in Canada, the percentage of the adult population attending religious services has declined dramatically. In 1946, a Gallup poll reported that 67% of adults attended religious services during a typical week; in 1998, only 22% did." Some other reports suggest this is actually as low as 11%.

That we are attending formal church services less, doesn't mean that we as human beings have lost our spirituality. The spiritual dimension of every human being exists. With his teachings on the four quadrants , Ken Wilber points out a tendency in modern societies to preference exterior realities (behaviour and systems) over interior realities (consciousness and culture), and makes the point that a marriage of sense and soul is not only our birthright, but an essential part of humanity's evolution on the whole.

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Wilber points out that just because one quadrant is ignored, such as the UL quadrant, does not mean that it goes away. In other words, because humans are no longer participating in religious life in this modernized, secular society does not mean that people don't still yearn to fill that spiritual dimension that nevertheless exists. It's that we fill it in other ways, such as consumerism and recreational diversions, depression and illness, meditation and yoga, some more effective than others.

James Fowler called our sense of the spiritual our sense of "ultimate concern", and his research showed how what humans have been ultimately concerned about actually develops over one's life. In other words, faith evolves. We can self-reflect on our own evolving faith and we can also see this evolution in faith in the built environments around us, as our sense of ultimate concern became reflected in our infrastructure through history. In Peru, for example, a Pre-Inkan animistic sacred site became assimilated under the chiefdom rule of the Inkas and converted into their own Temple of the Sun. During the spread of colonialism and arrival of mythic monotheistic religion, the temple was replaced with the San Isidro Cathedral. And today it remains partially operative as a church, possibly also a site for archeological research, but primarily a tourist site for visitors to Cusco, as the ultimate concern shifts again, this time towards a secular expression. All those built expressions reflect a changing sense of ultimate concern—from faith in magical animism, to faith in power gods, to faith in a theistic God, to faith in secularism.

In my home country of Canada we can also see a shift in faith in the built structures around us. Though there exists the stalwart array of churches across the city of Vancouver, even as congregation numbers decline, there are simultaneously more and more yoga studios becoming established. A quick Internet search finds approximately 70 yoga studios in Vancouver alone, with likely dozens more smaller studios and gym-based programs available. Not only that, but also each studio has multiple practice rooms, classes run all day long, and most are full and getting more full every day.

Evident questions arise. (And you may notice that you already hold assumptions about their answers!) Are the people going to these yoga studios thinking of yoga as primarily a physical or spiritual activity? Is this rising interest in yoga truly a way for people to fill their spiritual cup, even when they might only be consciously intending to attain a firmer bum? Or is the clarity of mind and sense of peace and wellbeing as much (or even more) of a draw as the promise of greater flexibility and burned calories? Do unpresuming yoga students get drenched into the deep-end of their own Spirit, without necessarily even having a framework to make sense of what is occurring?

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I'll touch on some of those questions later into the article. Though, to be clear, "the state of Yoga in the West" is really a much larger treatise far beyond the scope of this short essay. It's not my intention to tackle it here. Generally I find the current media and discourse on Yoga in the West to be quite grim—it has become almost as trendy to mock yoga as it is to go to yoga classes—and it would be a tangled beast to address this topic in a mere 10 pages. Rather, in this article, with an appreciative eye to what yoga might be actually providing people, I explore how we, as a society, could be shifting towards a post-secular spirituality. That is, how might we be practicing in ways that include and transcend both the essential values and social-organizing principles of organized religion and the secular truths of our government and society, into a post-secular spiritual orientation. In other words, are we leaving religious institutions, but filling our spiritual longing in other ways, as part and parcel of the secular-selves that modern and postmodern life requires? And, if so, does that explain why yoga is so cool these days?

"I'm Spiritual, Not Religious"

spiritual not religious

That phrase, "I'm spiritual, not religious" is bantered around so frequently in everyday parlance that it risks meaninglessness. Though, I think it alone does say a lot about the issue at hand.

As I begin this section, I should say that I do recognize how religion has had, and continues to have, value in our society, and it is from a place of deep respect that I write this article. Chris Dierkes made the point in an earlier article about how actually one can't even be spiritual without also being religious, considering how as soon as we engage with more than ourselves in a spiritual practice, we create 'religion.' Also, most if not all the esoteric mystical practices we enjoy today were carried over thousands of years through their exoteric institutional vehicles, namely: religions. Added to that, most of the population in the developing world is religious, making up some ¾ of our human population. If I care about our planet, I have to care about the state of religions since the vast majority of humans are "people of faith." For that same reason, here in Canada (along with Western Europe and to a lesser degree perhaps the United States), a society on a fast-track to complete secularization, I care about how and why religions are no longer serving people as they once did. Pretending that everything is okay with religion is simply avoiding the issue at hand, which is that congregations in secular societies are declining, and rapidly.

In an article entitled, "Who's religious?" Warren Clark and Grant Schellenberg explore this issue of declining congregations in greater granularity.

"There has been much debate about whether Canada is becoming increasingly secularized. Many argue that institutional religion has a reduced influence on Canadian society. Certainly, religious attendance rates between the late 1940s and late 1990s have declined significantly while the percentage of people reporting no religious affiliation has increased. But does this imply that there is an erosion of individual faith, based on the supposition that attendance rates decrease because people lack the belief that motivates attendance? Well-known social researcher Reginald Bibby asserts that others have been wrong in predicting the demise of religion in Canada because people continue to have spiritual needs.

So, while we may be leaving institutionalized spaces of worship, people a) are still to some extent spiritual, and b) are still somehow meeting their spiritual needs.

Ken Wilber writes in Up From Eden how our effort to connect and unify with Spirit takes different forms, and often we settle for substitutes rather than the real thing. Having left religion as such, people have gone to other things to fill that space within, such as scientism, atheism, their own private practices, and consumerism, not all of which actually deliver on that promise. Taking the latter as an example, and following Wilber's line of thinking, consumerism can be characterized as a substitute—an effort to connect with Spirit and a way to become fulfilled. Beyond a brief alleviation of desire, a brief achievement of one's seeking, I don't believe it delivers spiritual fulfillment in a lasting way for its adherents.

A quote by Trappist monk Thomas Merton in an earlier article by Trevor is worth repeating here, as it speaks directly to this:

"The secular world depends upon the things it needs to divert itself and escape from its own nothingness. It depends on the creation and multiplication of artificial needs, which it then pretends to 'satisfy'. Hence the secular world is a world that pretends to exalt man's liberty, but in which man is in fact enslaved by the things on which he depends.... In secular society man is subject to his ever-increasing needs, to his restlessness, his dissatisfaction, his anxiety, and his fear, but above all to the guilt which reproaches him for infidelity to his own inner truth. To escape this guilt, he plunges further into falsity."

In this somewhat bleak situation, nevertheless people still seek to fill spiritual needs. In the hyper-individualist flavour of both modern and postmodern society, it makes sense that private and personal ways we engage spiritually have increased alongside the decline in participation in organized religion. Says Clark and Shcellenberg:

"To get a more complete picture, private religious behaviour such as prayer, meditation, worship and reading of sacred texts on one's own is examined. Although some Canadians have little or no connection with religious organizations, the 2002 EDS shows that they do engage in such private religious behaviour either at home or in other locations....Perhaps most striking is the many Canadians who infrequently or never attend services yet regularly engage in personal religious practices. Of those who infrequently attended religious services over the previous year, 37% engaged in religious practices on their own on a weekly basis."

As worship in a traditional-mythic religious context becomes less and less congruent with our modern mindsets—and as it becomes almost 'taboo' in a secular society—then to fulfill this part of ourselves, we do take it into a private space. Wilber explains in Integral Spirituality how a large percentage of college students in the US pray in the closet, as the religion that is presented to them is too mythic to be integrated with their modern mental models becoming established through their courses of study. (These are some of the very folks you'll hear parroting, "Oh, I am spiritual, not religious.") On the one hand, taking your spirituality into your own hands can be a positive thing in that it increases personal responsibility and commitment to practice. On the other hand, you can't really get too far in spiritual practice on your own, as the ego too quickly and easily co-opts the whole endeavor. And, there is a sense of repressive or even oppressive energy around having to do this in private. Says Wilber, today, the only appropriate modern response to someone catching you praying is embarrassment.

More and more, however, there are socially condoned ways to engage our spiritual needs in a secular context. Buddhism has long been the place to which disillusioned congregations of monotheistic religions have turned. Today, yoga is on the rise in Canada, with an extraordinary numbers of practitioners. And this is what I will touch on in the remainder of this piece, particularly on how might yoga be contributing to enacting this post-secular spiritual endeavor.

Jeffrey Armstrong, Vedic scholar and yoga philosophy teacher, Vancouver suggests, "By 2006, 10% of people in Canada and the USA were practicing some form of yoga. That's over 40 million people." That's a lot of people. The population of Canada is 33.7 million!

I've personally experienced this rising trend in yoga popularity, having practiced yoga intensively since 1997. The first few years of practice, I tried several yoga forms, eventually settling into one very traditional lineage that I spent over a decade practicing and now practicing anusara yoga informed by Tantra philosophy. Having studied in India with the Guru, learning the depth of yoga, and experiencing an unbroken lineage that stretched back hundreds of years, I was at one point very disappointed to see what yoga had become in the West.

My disappointment was specific, and likely shared by many of you reading this, so perhaps it is worth a brief explanation. I was disappointed because I felt we had sacrificed depth for span. For example, the yoga Guru I studied with in India was 94 when he died and had taught yoga for over 70 years! He was among literally less than 10 peers—a precious group of Swamis and Gurus that are in their 80s and 90s today. He was so steeped in the practice of yoga and had so imbibed the wisdom in the yoga texts that his presence alone had an impact on one's consciousness. He stayed true to a very traditional form of practice, and though he taught as many students who came to him, obviously he on his own could not reach a group as large as 40 million people. So, he and his teaching were an example of more depth, less span. Following from this same example, today, to meet the 40-million person demand, there are tons of yoga teachers. An educated guess (based on teacher bios) would say that an average yoga teacher today may have 5-7 years of practice and fewer years of teaching, and certainly not all or even most have deeply studied the yoga texts and meditative practices. So: less depth, more span. 40 million yoga practitioners, multitudes of studios, and tons of teachers, the span of yoga is surely evident. But had it expanded so quickly that we lost the connection to what yoga deeply means?

As time has passed and my own awareness shifted, I have softened on this point, surrendered my preferences of how I wanted yoga in the west to look, and realized that, simply put: for hours, all day long, in studios all across the nation, people are going to yoga. Yoga. Not to the gym, or aerobics, or to the bar, or to the movies. Maybe they are also doing those things, but still there are only 24 hours in a day, so yoga is finding its way into people's lives. I started to wonder if, in amongst the span that yoga had become in the west, the depth wasn't also present too... That is, people are moving towards yoga for a reason, and I intuit that reason has as much to do with depth (meaning, inspiration, and insight) as span (availability, accessibility, and popularity).

Which brought me to the question: What actually is drawing people to yoga, in a context in which, at the same time, people are leaving in droves from churches?

Three Potential Draws of Yoga

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Critics have said (and with good reason) that yoga can focus people on the body and physical achievement, and less on the spiritual dimension of the practice. That most yoga students are there for physical reasons is the most common assumption about yoga today. Some have said wryly that it is understandable that the current modern consumerist culture would take well to such a body-oriented spirituality. In many cases, that is true. Let's face it: some are practicing because they are concerned with their body and yoga is trendy. But, consider this: even with body-focused intentions for practice, the yoga tradition and practice radically includes the gross body, as well as the subtle and causal bodies. Called 'bodies' or 'sheaths' (koshas), the philosophy describes how a yoga practice awakens you to your multiple layers of being. These include: the physical, vital, mental, discernful, and blissful layers of being. So, even if people are going to yoga for physical achievement, nevertheless through simply showing up they are being drenched in these layers of their being, from their physicality right through to their deepest layer of the self, satchitananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss).

So, perhaps a first reason for why yoga is on the rise may simply be: it feels good. It feels good on a physical level to stretch and build strength, it feels good to enliven your vital energy by syncing your movements with breath, it feels good to sharpen your mind and discernment through drawing awareness inward in introspection, and it feels good to be able to rest as who you truly Are.

How great is that?! Especially when institutionalized religion just doesn't fly for you anymore and your secular culture that doesn't give you too many valid substitutes.

This does raise some intriguing questions though.... For example, one of the Beams and Struts editors asked,

"So, if someone comes to yoga purely out of a desire for a better body (and let's say this desire is purely egoic, not out of legitimate health concerns, but just because they want to look hot or because it's fashionable), are they likely to inadvertently get a spiritual benefit from the experience?"

There are couple ways I would go about answering that. I can definitely relate with the question, and the trendy materialism of yoga for a long time caused me much heartache. Though not anymore, and in reading the question posed by the editor above, my first response (from both a non-dual Yoga perspective and from an Integral Theory perspective) was: what is 'not spiritual' about wanting to look hot or be fashionable? What is 'more spiritual' about doing yoga for 'legitimate health concerns'? Yoga teaches us that Spirit is already and fully present in all that is arising, and the extent to which we split half of reality into "not spiritual", we limit ourselves into a dualistic state of constant seeking. This will ring familiar to anyone who has read Wilber's Integral Spirituality. To echo this, in a yoga class recently the teacher closed with a Vedic mantra on wholeness that is often sung as a closing prayer. Om Purna Madah Purna Midam Purnat Purnamudacyate Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnam-Eva-Vasisyate Om Shantih Shantih Shantih, which is one of the most luminous mantras that affirms 'All is Spirit'. It translates as: This is the whole; The whole becomes manifest; Taking away the whole From the whole, The whole remains.

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Getting back to the question posed above, the second way I would answer would be to say, ...well, yeah, maybe! As teacher Christine Price-Clark said in class one day recently, “Regardless of your intention, the highest teachings of yoga will meet you.”  Maybe people who are coming to yoga for completely egoic reasons are actually inadvertently drenching themselves in their True nature—their entire being stretched open, their heart filled and surrendered. Imagine it. It isn't too far a stretch of the imagination since that is what yoga was designed for. Yoga practice sort of assumes that for the majority the path of awakening will begin with the egoic physical layer of the self, and it is designed to gradually bring wakefulness through into the vital, intellectual, discernful, and blissful layers of being (described above as the koshas). This can and does occur in a single class, but usually takes a longer time practicing to become stabilized. Having a strong body is only a by-product of the main point, as most long-time practitioners deeply know. But, a beginning student may experience a moment of awakening in all these layers of being, without even having a framework to understand what's going on! And that's okay. And perhaps as they leave the class, they shift from the experience of satchitananda back into their small-minded concern for their firm body, for their new clothes, or whatever. That is completely possible, since the state that a person experiences in yoga (or any spiritual practice for that matter) will still be interpreted in the context of their current worldview, or stage. This is not occurring just in yoga, it is true in any spiritual practice. For example, I am certain that Christians and Muslims throughout the decades and centuries who had profound experiences in churches and mosques, later acted in ways that seemed incongruent with the profundity of that experience (think: Christian Crusades of the past and Islamic terrorism today). If yoga students have a profound experience in class and then leave the studio thinking about new clothes or a firm body, that's fine on the whole because a) they nevertheless they experienced something that is not-just-physical and certainly different than what they feel in the gym, in aerobics, in the mall, at movies, even at church, (or else they wouldn't be there), and b) what they are feeling into is something that will help unfold their awakening, since that is what yoga was designed for.

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And, as for their worldview...well, we can only hope, at this point, that yoga may assist in evolving beyond a mere physical, egoic, materialistic orientation. Traditional practices East and West were designed to deepen states of consciousness primarily, and thus foster a greater compassionate way of being in the world, but they weren't initially intentionally designed to evolve worldviews. The insights of developmental psychological arose in a modern society, far later than when the traditions became established. An integral spiritual practice calls for a way to also directly engage the evolution of worldviews, along with the deepening of states of consciousness. But, I am curious how well we are doing on that front and will speak to this briefly below.

A possible second reason why people are being drawn to yoga relates to the fact that, being a tradition of 'direct-realization', yoga doesn't require students to act in blind faith. Rather, students are asked to take up a set of practices that have been proven, through a history of thousands of years, to evoke awakening or self-realization (deeper states of consciousness) and may also assist in one's evolution (higher stages of development). But, no one is asked to take that on blind faith! Rather, what is asked is that you practice. And through that practice—perhaps over months, years, decades—students directly realize what the texts and teachers are talking about. This first-person perspective is refreshing after (often) a childhood in the church, synagogue or mosque, where you were told what was right to believe and what the truth was (third-person perspective) or you were required to hand-over your salvation to an unseen Other by whatever name (second-person perspective). There is surely a place for faith in yoga (called shradda in Sanskrit) and for some it eventually may become the very foundation of practice, but a second-person relationship with an external God is not the entry point. This surely assists our modern, secularized selves to take up yoga practice.

This could be a second reason for why yoga is on the rise. As Wilber says, spirituality and religion in a modern and postmodern world is unlikely to survive if it cannot respond to modernity's requirement for empirical evidence and post-modernity's requirement for awareness of social and inter-subjective context. So far, on these two points, yoga is doing fairly well—though of course there is room for improvement—particularly by focusing on the injunctions of the practice, rather that the dogma of the tradition. As a yogi, your task is to take up those practices, through which insight emerges; you are not asked to believe blindly in dogma. "Practice, and all is coming," my Guru used to say. Wilber (2006) describes how, "the meaning of a statement is the injunction of its enactment," and so in this case: the meaning of Yoga is found in the injunction (the actual practices of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi) of its enactment. Not in blind faith, not in being told it is so, not in prescribing to a dogma that you recite on Holy days. To put it simply: being a path of direct realization, yoga is experienced by the post/modern individual as verifiable, empowering, and trust-worthy.

As the Christmas season dawned this year in Vancouver, as lights went up on houses, as stores put out their Christmas decorations to entice shoppers, as churches organized their seasons' services for the holy days of Advent and Christmas, a third reason as to why yoga is drawing so many students occurred to me.

As usual, I went to yoga one afternoon, to a class of about 40 students. Being a small room, our mats were placed "India-style"; that is, with only a couple inches between them. The room was one unified movement of breath, each person's awareness drawing inward and deepening. The teacher began to teach, surprisingly, on the Christmas story! She spoke eloquently about how the story is actually an age-old story of how we as humans have followed the Light. Followed the Light unwaveringly, until we found it as Spirit incarnate. She spoke of how that had occurred on Christmas night some 2000 years ago when the wise men searched for and found baby Jesus, and that it also occurs in other different spiritual religions worldwide, in different names and forms. Comparing our use of mantra invocation to the Word becoming flesh, she reminded us that it occurs again and again in us, moment to moment, as we practice: we follow the Light and realize it as our Self.

Completely congruent with both yoga and Christianity as I know it, I was simultaneously moved by what she said, and also very saddened. Saddened that in all my time spent in church, I've never heard that teaching conveyed as crystal clearly as that. Saddened that this insight and beauty of the Christmas story was being given in a yoga class and not in church, the very religious institution where it should be shared. And yet, I was deeply moved too. Moved, first and foremost by the insight of this Christmas story, which in first-person mystical terms is truly astounding. And, secondly, moved that it would be shared come hell or high-water, even in this secularizing society, in a context in which 'we're leaving the fold', in a context where 'the only appropriate modern response to being caught praying is embarrassment.' That it would be shared, despite the encroaching secular attributes of our society, in such a way that numerous students upon completion of the class pulled the teacher aside to quietly say how inspiring it was.

This makes up a possible third reason that yoga is on the rise: it's fulfilling a spiritual dimension that isn't being met elsewhere. Wilber describes how we'll naturally find ourselves gravitating to practices that resonate for two aspects of ourselves (and as we become able to, we can consciously track and engage them in our practice). They are: our stage of spiritual growth, which is our stage of faith or stage of ultimate concern. And our state of consciousness, or our realization that deepens through practice from gross to subtler and subtler forms of insight (eventually to 'samadhi' in Yoga, 'enlightenment' in Buddhism, 'unification' in Christianity). So, stage and state are important.

All too often, the messaging of religion is put forth for a traditional, mythic stage relating mostly to a gross state (which is why so much of the Christmas story remains literal) maybe with some very preliminary subtleties (such as, the occasional metaphorical explanation offered in Mass). Infrequently a priest will teach in such a way to evoke deep state of unification in a church service, and much more rarely anything beyond that. Proponents of religion explain that this is so, because the majority of the congregation is at a traditional and literal stage. True. But, better put: that is where the remaining members of a declining congregation are at, and begs the question, where are the ones that left at?

People will invariably go to where they are met in their stage and state of consciousness, whether one practices privately or whether one seeks out alternative forms of spirituality, such as yoga. And usually that is not because we 'feel the best there'; on the contrary, usually that is where we are in fact most challenged and stretched. A true spiritual aspirant will go to where his or her realization is deepening, not to where he or she are under-challenged and coddled. Even in yoga, as mature practitioners progress through the practice, some reach a point in their realization where they actually need sophisticated support in deepening their meditative states. Since, while you can find such advanced yoga teachers, they are simply fewer around (more depth, less span), at this point of their practice, some yogis have turned to other spiritual teachers wherever they find them (Buddhism, Christianity, Tantra, etc.) as a complement to their yoga practice.

Of course, a critic might say that to contextualize spiritual practice as this evolution of realization through stages and states would promote individualism, turn religion into a series of "meeting needs," and therefore basically become infected with consumerism. Good point. Perhaps. Though, the risk of not meeting the stages and states manifest in your congregation or group of followers means that you are literally not serving them in the very reason they are coming to you. They are coming to be inspired and challenged, fulfilled and awakened, devoted and delivered.

Wilber has coined the phrase 'conveyor belt' in describing the unique potential that religion has to become a pathway of evolution for its adherents. In Integral Spirituality, he describes very comprehensively why religion isn't actually fulfilling that potential and how it is stuck at a mythic, traditional and literal interpretation. He challenges religion and spirituality to find a way to navigate from traditional towards a modern and postmodern expression. Looking at the expression of yoga in the West today, note some of the things it focuses on: it affirms our individuality and unique sense of self, it focuses on empowerment, self-improvement, and performance, it is held as a universal practice for anyone rather than being exclusively for those in the tradition, it emphasizes opening the heart and heart-connection with others... all of which arises at modern, universalistic and postmodern, pluralistic worldviews! Right before our very eyes yoga may be making this very transition that Wilber calls for, becoming a conveyor belt from traditional to modern and postmodern! If this is true, why have we missed it? Well, perhaps we are more entrenched than we realize in what Wilber calls the Level Line Fallacy—seeing spirituality as synonymous with the traditional stage—so that we hardly even have a sense of what 'modern spirituality' might be. Perhaps some of the assumptions about how yoga has lost its depth by becoming so popular and physically oriented is actually part of our inherent sense that spirituality should be traditional, and shouldn't be framed and practiced in this 'modern' way. Interesting to consider. I am truly not sure about whether I am right on this, but I am willing to consider it more deeply.

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In the same way, I wonder if the church congregations are increasing in the churches where the ministers and priests are evolving their messages, still aligned with the tenets of the religion but interpreted in modern, postmodern, and integral ways, and evoking deeper states of illumination and unification? The United Memorial Church on W. 16th and Burrard, in Vancouver, comes to mind, with Reverend Bruce Sanguin at the helm. And, the integral inquiry on post-postmodernity here at Beams and Struts is being promoted, stimulated, and lead by Chris Dierkes, a recently ordained Anglican priest; how he'll engage his congregations is something for us all to look forward to in the coming years and decades. By whatever routes, we'll seek to be met and we'll naturally gravitate to that which most resonates and inspires. My experience in yoga during the Christmas season speaks directly to the ways in which we are seeking to be met spiritually, in both our stages and states, and, in unseemly places, we are continuing to find the Light in the Christmas story.

Towards a Post-Secular Spirituality

So, on the eve of 2011, my inquiry is, what could a post-secular spirituality look and feel like in Canada? How might we integrate the truths of spirituality and religion with our secular values into a post-secular worldspace?

In the natural flow of development, we have moved from a predominantly traditional and mythic faith into a modern and universal ultimate concern which spawned many of the secular beliefs our lives are guided by. For some, this has progressed to a post-modern, pluralist ultimate concern with spiritual materialism, inter-faith dialogues, 'yoga for the people', and the like. Yet, how well are we navigating this evolving faith, this evolution of our ultimate concern, and are we able to integrate truths from all these waves of consciousness in an integral spiritual practice? That is the question that both inspired this paper and that I continue to reflect on.

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The term "post-secular spirituality" asks us to first include and integrate secular truths with spiritual truths. This could become a requirement for religions today, as Wilber reminds again and again in Integral Spirituality, that religions more likely to survive the post/modern turn will be ones that can answer to modernity's call for objective evidence and postmodernity's call for inter-subjective contexts. Which basically means, religion needs to include secular truths. Some may ask, eyebrows raised: religion include secular truths? That is a tall order, precisely because it re-defines both religion and secularism in a new light, an integral light.

While we are a long way from that, I treasure its potential. I feel hope, even as I watch the congregations' numbers decline and our society rest in the freedom and vacuity of no organized spiritual engagement and insufficient modern substitutes. Even in that vacuum, to recognize and fulfill their spiritual dimension, people nevertheless are turning to spiritual practices that can and do enact a post-secular space. This holiday season, I am humbled and moved to see that yoga just might be one of them.

...

My gratitude to Sjanie McInnis for an inspiring teaching on the Christmas story and to all teachers today—in Yoga, Christianity, or any tradition—that unwaveringly provide conduits for our awakening.

--

Gail Hochachka works in international development and humanitarian aid in Africa and Latin America using integral principles with two Canadian non-profit organizations. Having witnessed first-hand how a comprehensive philosophy like Integral theory is achingly needed to address global issues, as well as having felt the compassionate impact of its application in the world, she is simply and deeply committed to integral practice for the planet. She is adjunct faculty at JFKU in the online Master of Arts in Integral Theory.

To read Gail's full bio, please go here.

This is Gail's first guest contribution at Beams & Struts.  

References

Clark, W. 2000. Patterns of Religious Attendance. Statistics Canada — Catalogue No. 11-008.

Wilber, K. 1984, Up From Eden. Boston: Shambhala

Wilber, K. 2006. Integral Spirituality. Boston: Shambhala

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20 comments

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Monday, 10 January 2011 22:25 posted by TJ Dawe

    I'm curious to know what the atmosphere was like in that Christmas mass in that Saskatoon cathedral with a mere eight people there. Cathedrals are big and majestic. Eight people???Was it awkward, the way a play or a concert is when hardly any audience shows up? What was like to have only eight people singing the hymns? Were they drown out by the organ? Did the whole experience seem like a great big whopping symbol of our culture's shifting spirituality?

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Monday, 10 January 2011 23:39 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Hi TJ,

    Yeah, great questions... Well, on the one hand, I loved it and found it to be very contemplative. For some of the reasons stated in this article, my own practice has become more and more private and contemplative over the years. And so, it was nice to have the quiet spaciousness of the cathedral literally to ourselves to 'hold' the service in a contemplative frame. On the other hand, it was awkward and sort of embarrassing. Embarrassing not for the priest or for the church, but for our society...that we may really doing as the cultural critics say: celebrating consumerism in lieu of the central meaning of the holiday. After the service, I left impressed with how resolutely the priest held the service even with so few numbers, and also wondering about it all -- a 'wondering' that led me to write such an article here. If not this, what else is fulfilling people spiritually today?

    Was this a, "great big whopping symbol of our culture's shifting spirituality"? Yes, I think so... Not in a negative sense, though, rather in the sense that this is yet another display of Spirit's unfolding. That is, one of the 'signatures' of a post/modern era is that essentially YOU get to chose how you fulfill yourself spiritually. There is something beautiful about that, an expression of greater freedom and fullness, even though some might balk at the individualistic flavor. Consider how traditionally people were born into a religion and simply carried forth in that religion. In a modern and postmodern context, people will fulfill themselves in a spiritual sense in myriad ways. Shopping, physical excellence, wilderness experiences, meditation, contemplative prayer, philosophy study, yoga. The post/modern 'signature' of this is that it is your choice! Wow. How freeing would that have been moving out of the prescribed path of the traditional era? As I wrote in the article, some ways of course are more effective than others. But even this -- this personal choice of how one engages spirituality -- even this is a deeper curve of Spirit's unfolding! It enacts more freedom and fullness than what came before. So, yes a meager eight person congregation in an empty cavernous quiet cathedral does represent a big whopping symbol of our culture's shifting spirituality. And I think we can be appreciative with how we receive that and skillful with how we engage it.


    By the way, TJ, thank you for your wonderful editing on this piece. I really enjoyed your ability to catch nuance and your questions helped me to deeper certain ideas here. On the whole, I am grateful to Beams and Struts for promoting and holding this discussion on such topics in such a solid way. Thanks!

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 11 January 2011 02:06 posted by TJ Dawe

    And thank you for writing this piece and expressing these ideas so well. I really enjoy the intellectual exchange involved in the Beams editing process, and the continued exchange in the discussions section.

    these are very interesting insights on spirituality you present in this article - especially for someone like me, who grew up with traditional religion that flaked away as I hit adulthood. But of course, one's spiritual needs don't just fizzle, they change their focus.

    and I'm very curious to see how different our cityscapes will look when I'm an old man. Cathedrals can't support their upkeep on the collection plate donations of eight people. But damn, look at all those yoga studios thrive! If this trend continues, in a few decades maybe the yoga studios will be the size of cathedrals, and vice versa.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Tuesday, 11 January 2011 02:53 posted by Chris Dierkes

    Gail,

    You wrote:

    "The term 'post-secular spirituality' asks us to first include and integrate secular truths with spiritual truths."

    Can you explain how you understand secular? I think that would help me grasp better what a post-secular might look like.

    I guess I'm curious bc when you wrote above (in response to TJ's comment) that the postmodern is the freedom to choose, that's basically what I understand by secularism.

    Hope that question makes sense. Thanks for this is intriguing piece.

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:14 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Hello Chris,
    Secular? Straight up, I am no expert on this and am moving more with a felt-sense here. I guess I would say... Secularity is the expression of society separate from religion. Emerging with the rational worldview (in terms of Gebser's cultural development) and initiating the separation of Church and State as well as providing a platform for the emergence of women's liberation and egalitarianism, among other things. And yes, from what I see, I believe it includes the freedom to choose (it's 'signature' as I was putting it above). (As an aside, reflecting on your question, it feels to me that most of the ways we engage in society today are secular--it is so close to us that it can be hard to see, like the water we swim in. Maybe a better question would be, what is not secular?) My question and inquiry is, what is the practice-space that transcends and includes the traditional and the secular? The dogma of religions and the 'picking and choosing' of secularity?

    I found it beautiful reading a bit about the etymology of 'secular'... "Secular and secularity derive from the Latin word saecularis meaning of a generation, belonging to an age." The idea being that something temporal (i.e. of a particular age and within the steam of time) was distinctly separate from something Eternal. So, secular life became concerned with the temporal things of this world, and religious life traditionally was concerned with the Eternal and things not-of-this-world (i.e. Heaven). How beautiful to consider the practice-space that transcends and includes the temporal and the Eternal!

    How do you find this arising in your Church, I wonder? Can you feel into the textures of what is secular in your ministry (perhaps the ways you make decisions as a team?) and what is traditional? I'd love to hear your perspective on some of these ideas, and feel grateful to explore these inner landscapes with you all. Thanks, Chris.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:25 posted by Chris Dierkes

    G,

    I appreciate you saying you were moving into a felt sense and your discussion of how close secular is to us. It's surprisingly subtle terrain.

    I feel honestly like most of the spiritual work being done in this city (whether at churches or yoga studios) is very secular. By which I mean it tends to place the emphasis on individuals, inner experience, and finding personal meaning/fulfillment in life. I don't think that's all bad (some of it is good), but it's pretty secularized nonetheless.

    In other words, it's not very threatening from a economic, cultural, or political standpoint.

    So I'm still wondering if there is transcending of the secular? If so, what does it look like? Because the secular worldview generally speaking (minus a New Atheist here or there) is perfectly fine with spirituality-religion that is a personal affair and isn't "forced" on anyone. Even if what we call traditional elements are brought up they are done so within the frame of a secular society.

    So I'm still trying to think what post-secular looks like. Really.

    Habermas talks about a post-secular society as one in which religious (spiritual) and secularist individuals recognize the validity of each other's worldviews and learn to live together. It's really in that sense, post-secularism (secularism being there an ideology). That would end the culture wars I suppose and there could be good works done in common, but that only really seems like a start.

    If I understand you rightly, you use post-secular differently. Or are trying to imagine something different than what Habermas says. Yes? No?

    I bring all this up because I'm very interested in cultural and social change and what role spirituality (if any) has to play in this.

  • Comment Link Carol Horton Wednesday, 12 January 2011 03:26 posted by Carol Horton

    Hi Gail: Thanks for a very interesting post. A few thoughts re your editors' question:

    I think most people start yoga for purely physical reasons - whether health or vanity related. I also think that many find to their surprise that they get much more out of it than that - although I don't think that this necessarily means that it turns into a spiritual practice for them (although this is possible too).

    More commonly, I think that people discover that there really IS a mind-body connection. We are normally very disassociated from our bodies - "living in our heads" as they say.

    Asana practice (if well taught) opens up new energy flows in our bodies - and gives us what usually an unprecedented opportunity to FEEL them.

    Both from experience and reading up on somatic psychology, I am convinced that emotions do in fact live in the body. Hence, for example, the very common experience of having an intense emotional release in a deep hip opener like Pigeon. Repressed memories can also be released. (This was why yoga is becoming such an important modality in working with PTSD - check out the work of Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk if you are not familiar with it - fascinating).

    Yoga also provides a means of utilizing different parts of the brain than we are normally used to. As does meditation - but because of the physical, health, and de-stressing benefits, yoga is much more accessible to most people (at least initially).

    So, in other words, there are very concrete reasons that asana works to connect us with our emotions in new - and healing - ways. This is part and parcel of working with different, more intuitive, less rationalist parts of the brain.

    I've known quite a few people who would never describe their yoga practice as "spiritual," but who would not hesitate to say that it's changed their lives. Often this is very concrete - it enables them to realize that they really hate their jobs and need to make a change, or whatever. It gives them much more clarity in terms of what they really feel and therefore what they really want in their lives. This, in turn, can be a road to a more self-consciously spiritual practice (though not, in my experience, necessarily).

    BTW, have you read Yoga Body and Yoga 2.0? Both fascinating works that I would recommend given your interests.

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Wednesday, 12 January 2011 03:51 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Carol,

    I am so happy to know you read this! I checked out your blog recently and tried to figure out how I might go about emailing you, as I thought you'd have a great perspective to bring to this. I look forward to following your work and writing.

    Yes, I agree with you here on all these points... definitely. yes yes yes.

    The only thing I'd add is that, even though yoga doesn't necessarily become held as a 'spiritual practice' I believe that it is being conveyed in ways such that it can.

    That is, in any spiritual practice, practitioners take it greater or lesser depths. Consider how in a church, some come to Sunday mass simply to show up, be seen, go through the motions, but don't really engage this as a truly spiritual practice, while others are really contemplative and devotional. In yoga, certainly some stay with it as a physical practice only. Others will take it further. Point being that I don't see an inherent glass ceiling that prohibits this move towards greater awakening. Which is what I actually have felt (heart-breakingly so!) in the Church--like there is an actual effort being made to not preach on the very passages in the Bible that are most awakening and liberating and profound.

    I love your reflections on how yoga can support healing from PTSD. Beautiful. The iRest work on this also really great. And how yoga makes us more sensitive to the body-mind connections such that we can *feel* them. I also have experienced and see in other long-time yogis how that sensitivity flows out into our other relationships. Moments and people become more transparent, as a yogi's intuition heightens, and seems to support a greater heart-receptivity. Know what I mean? In this alone, it is a gift to our society.

    Hmmm.... Maybe it doesn't so much matter if someone characterizes their practice as 'spiritual' or not, as long as they allow it to change their lives...

    Thanks, Carol, for your take on this and your other writing. I already made a note of Yoga 2.0 and will definitely check out the other as well. And will continue to read your blog!

    Gail

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Wednesday, 12 January 2011 17:37 posted by Chris Dierkes

    I've added a short piece on Charles Taylor's understanding of secularism to the Bits & PIeces side of the site:

    http://www.beamsandstruts.com/bits-a-pieces/item/255-charles-taylor-on-the-secular-age

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Wednesday, 12 January 2011 20:06 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Hi Chris!

    I've been trying get more clearly what you are asking in your previous post (I haven't had a chance to watch Charles yet), and reached out to a philosopher friend to help me out on this (hopefully she'll join in on this secularity/post-secularity thread, either here or email me and lend her perspective). For now, here are some thoughts that have arisen thinking about your posts...

    I sat with you said "I feel honestly like most of the spiritual work being done in this city (whether at churches or yoga studios) is very secular. By which I mean it tends to place the emphasis on individuals, inner experience, and finding personal meaning/fulfillment in life." In my own experience and from what I see around me, I don't really see church on the whole to be held as a secular practice. Maybe in some cases, or some denominations. But, on the whole, I just don't see that to be the case. And that is sort of my point really ...that since it isn't resonating for folks, they are leaving congregations. Can you speak to how you see that specifically in church; how the religion is held in a secular way?

    I definitely agree it is the orientation is more secular in yoga (and also Buddhism probably) but since they are 'direction-realization paths' they are inclined that way from within the tradition. That is, the very tradition focuses on personal awakening. I agree with you in saying that it is also being held a secular practice and is communicated to resonate with a secular society (in that it focuses on personal choice, etc.)

    Which gets to where I think you're going with this: is yoga post-secular, or actually secular? I don't really know, but I do think it can and is relating with both sets of worldviews. Both or folks that orient more towards secular life, and for those that are looking for a transcendent secular/spiritual practice (something I am exploring calling 'post-secular').

    Do I see post-secular in the same sense as Habermas? Well...no, not completely. I think the unfolding of worldviews is a process, and both his version and what I am considering are points along that process. Have you heard Terri O'Fallon speak on her current work? She describes in the self-development process how there are various patterns that continually play themselves out. One such pattern includes four steps: 'one leg of a pole', 'either / or', 'both / and', and then 'the interpenetration of both.' So, if we can consider this reflected in the stages of a social discourse for a moment: traditionally, there was simply religious life (not separation of church and state). Then, there was either religious life or secular life (the latter essentially meaning, 'separate from religion'). Then, perhaps what Habermas was calling for was a 'post-secular' meaning both religion and secularity. What I considering is their interpenetration.

    So, what Habermas is saying is perhaps an early version of it--a transition point--but what I think I am feeling into is the interpenetration of both the religious and the secular.

    What that actually looks like, I truly don't know. It's what I am wondering about in this article, with yoga as an example.

    I am really keen to have someone more familiar with these ideas on secularism than I, and hope that Emine will chime in at some point. I like how much rigor you are bringing to this, digging into what we are actually talking about. Thanks, Chris.

  • Comment Link Carol Horton Wednesday, 12 January 2011 22:06 posted by Carol Horton

    Thanks for your response, Gail! I think that we are very much on the same page - I agree with all of your points about yoga and spirituality - practice can definitely evolve to that level, and it doesn't matter if you call it that or not (although conscious self-reflection about what's happening with your practice is, I think, key to deepening it after a certain point).

    As an aside, since it sounds like you have been pretty disillusioned with your experiences with Christian churches - it was actually a church that first got me to understand that yoga could in fact BE a spiritual practice! A very post-post-modern Baptist church, in fact . . . so it IS possible to rework Christianity in a way that not only keeps it living and vibrant, but also integrates it with the evolution of yoga and meditation practices today. This is what I experienced and it was wonderful. And, if you have a lot of Christian ritual embedded in your cultural DNA, it can be very healing to experience this sort of reinvention of the tradition.

    Glad you like the blog! BTW, I have a review of Yoga 2.0 on there with links to the website. And the authors will be commencing a series of weekly discussions about the book soon - you might want to check it out - I am participating via the remote audio option.

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Wednesday, 12 January 2011 23:37 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Hi Carol,

    Yes, we are on the same page, and I am happy to know of your work out there! (thanks to Beams and Struts, since I likely wouldn't have connected with you otherwise!)

    And we're on the same page with Christianity it sounds too... I am not so much disillusioned at this point, having spent the last 5 years re-integrating my roots and connection with the religion. It is more that I've met Christian teachers that DO present the tradition in stunning, mystical, profound ways, and I am heart-broken that the mainstream expression is so not that. The photo of Rollie Stanich above was chosen by the editors, but I love that he's up there, since he's been a huge influence on me during these years. I do believe that there is a possible deeper expression emerging in the religion, and maybe my energy here is heart-broken impatience that it is so glacial in shifting... But, I don't mean to come across disillusioned; I am feeling more realistic to what is actually happening and encouraging of the faith to figure it out. I love to hear how this post-post-modern Baptist priest was reinventing the tradition in ways that were healing for you. What a dude! I love hearing these types of stories. We need more of them.

    Yes, I will check out the 2.0 discussions. Thanks!

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Thursday, 13 January 2011 00:02 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Great article, Gail. Thanks for bringing such genuine and intelligent inquiry to these issues...

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Thursday, 13 January 2011 19:26 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Hi Gail, thanks for the great thought-provoking article, and for bringing your intelligent presence to the site.

    As I was reflecting on your piece and the discussion thread yesterday, a few things started to form for me that I wanted to throw out there. There's a bunch of things you've brought up that started to click together for me. Firstly, Reverend Bruce Sanguin is mentioned in the article, and I happened to be at his site yesterday and found a recent post of his that seemed appropriate to the conversation here; in it he describes his struggles in naming the kind of (post-postmodern) Christianity he's doing. That post is here:

    http://ifdarwinprayed.com/the-meaning-of-progress/

    (More about that in a moment). I was very intrigued by the four part pattern of development that you (via Terry O'Fallon) laid out. I was particularly intrigued by the notion of 'interpenetration'. I can see what someone like Habermas is going for, and in a pinch I think it's a helpful stopgap solution, but I'm also interested in this interpenetration, or how the secular and the religious can be integrated (made whole) at a higher level.

    My feeling/experience is that "evolutionary spirituality" (one vision of which Bruce lays out in that post above) brings forth just such an interpenetration. I've been a member of Bruce's church for two years now, and have been working with his teachings and practices, and I also just recently became a practitioner-student of Andrew Cohen's at EnlightenNext, who also teaches a form of evolutionary spirituality. So all I can do is speak from this limited experience so far, but my rough off-the-cuff feeling this morning is that this experience might look something like what you're leaning into.

    Firstly, it retains much of the secular/modern. For one, I'm still a fully autonomous agent. There's no tradition telling me I MUST be this or that way. I'm free to choose, in this Canadian culture, what spiritual tradition I want to study within, and I've entered Bruce's church with that understanding and autonomy. I was not forced there by family or culture. Furthermore, Bruce takes part in a broader emerging tradition where the Bible is read metaphorically and not literally. This releases the text into a role as a repository of wisdom teachings, one's that I can take into my internal individual life in my search for meaning-fulfillment. Further, this metaphorical reading allows for interpretation, which accords with post/modern developments.

    I'm also no longer at the whim of some external forces, or a transcendent God who only sometimes acts in history. I learn to be a living vehicle for Spirit as it lives through me now. Now, I do learn to live beyond the personal or small self, and to be a living expression of Spirit-in-action. So there is a transcendence of the strictly secular self (roughly the Freudian ego), but that deeper current I contact and serve, is actually my deepest Self, so ultimately we wind up in a place that still retains the freedom and autonomy won by the secular age (but at way more powerful levels).

    Evolutionary spirituality is also in accord with science and its understanding of the natural world/universe. In fact, a central part of this teaching (from both Sanugin and Cohen) is to identity with and to live in accord with the cosmic unfolding, as a living conscious agent of that process. Sanguin employs the provocative term 'mystic empiricism' when describing this teaching. It's a profound (and highly enlivening) identification with the cosmos as a whole, a realization that we are a product of that process (we are a-part), and that we can consciously take part in that process as it continues to unfold.

    Which brings me to a couple of other points that were made. You mentioned the roots of the word secular, which was very interesting. It referred to being temporal and this-worldly (to which I would add the words immanence and becoming), as opposed to an eternal and other-worldly transcendence (at the heart of the traditional monotheistic religions). It's my experience that an evolutionary spirituality marries these two together. We contact, and to the extent our practice has made possible, live out of this eternal dimension (Spirit, Source, Being), while actively taking part in Spirit's immanence in this world as it lives through us and continues to create in and as the universe.

    I also realize that some of the above may lean toward the abstract or theoretical, but the practices themselves are very straightforward and immediate. I learn to more and more contact that current within- what Andrew Cohen calls the evolutionary impulse, what Bruce puts in Christian terms- and try and live out of it (and for it, 'Thy will be done'). It demands a deep receptivity and sensitivity to what is being called for, what wants to happen next, and life can become a day to day adventure with the future completely unformed ahead. This might seem like a frightening proposition, but I've actually strangely found this a liberating experience. There's a deep sense of trust that starts to develop with Reality itself, with the larger processes of which we're a-part. I feel released from the desire to re-create the world in my image, and to understand the master plan. I simply serve the process to the best of my ability on a day to day, moment to moment basis.

    Alright, I should stop there before I write an essay, but I'm passionate about these things and again, thank you to your article and the subsequent comments for jarring all this stuff loose in me.

    Before I finish though, I want to circle around to the question of yoga as you've raised it. What I've described above has a lot to do with context. What greater context(s) are we putting our spiritual practice in. It's my view that any post-secular spirituality must widen the contexts within which we approach and partake in our practice. Larger contexts such as culture, earth, and cosmos. Could this type of teaching be brought into a yoga context? In many settings that might have to move slowly, but as fate would have it, I actually went and tried a yoga class last night with Sjanie McInnis, the teacher you mentioned above. Not only was she fantastic, she brought in more of those larger contexts in a way that I found very meaningful. There was the immediate context of group practice; when people did poses other than what was called for, she asked them to think about the group and to practice all together (having them come out of their pose and into what the group was doing). She talked about how our yoga practice can affect others and the culture we live in. She often brought up the universals that run within us all. It was by far the most charged yoga space I'd ever been in. My partner was with me and she felt the same. So who knows, maybe one direction for a post-secular yoga is to keep reminding practitioners of the greater and greater wholes of which they are embedded, and how our practice can serve the health and growth of those wholes.

    Well, those are some shreds and scraps that have been unearthed by this piece. I hope that there's something of value that can be weaved into the greater tapestries that we're creating together. Thanks again Gail!!

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Thursday, 13 January 2011 19:56 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Just heard Lama Sura Das, with his penchant for pithy prose, call physical yoga classes a "dharma gate".

    I like that.

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Saturday, 15 January 2011 00:42 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Trevor,

    Just wanted to say thanks for exploring this in the practice of evolutionary spirituality. Wonderful 'shreds and scraps' that you've shared.

    The secular meaning temporal was huge for me as well, in the same sense as you are meaning it. More on that later as time permits on my end...

    And how great that you experienced an anusara yoga class with Sjanie! I enjoyed hearing your impressions.

    On another note, I am glad to hear that ISE2 went well -- your updates were much appreciated!

  • Comment Link Nick Beem Thursday, 27 January 2011 00:20 posted by Nick Beem

    It's nice when someone else writes down something I've been thinking to myself. Very well said. I would second the recommendation to read "Yoga Body" by Mark Singleton. It really opened up my understanding of the history behind modern yoga. It shows how modern, asana-based yoga is a hybrid practice that owes much to European physical culture and Western medical science. It encourages me to let go of the notion of teaching an "authentic" yoga class and instead take my place on the evolving edge of post-secular spirituality. I'm a yoga teacher and studio owner outside Chicago.

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Wednesday, 23 February 2011 18:11 posted by Gail Hochachka

    I just saw that the yoga teacher who's teachings inspired this article, Sjanie McInnis, wrote in her blog on this topic of post-secular spirituality. Her writing is amazing and really gives you a sense of how powerful a yogini she is. Check it out if you are intrigued!

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Wednesday, 23 February 2011 18:17 posted by Gail Hochachka

    Here is the link:
    http://www.heavymetta.ca/2011/01/31/where-your-fist-stops-and-their-nose-begins/

  • Comment Link Kurt Quereau Tuesday, 13 September 2011 20:30 posted by Kurt Quereau

    One facet that this article greatly underestimates is who exactly it is that is doing yoga. Yoga, by and large, is practiced by upper-middle class white youth (Gen Xers and on). This demographic consists of young professionals, often with stifled — yet well funded — suburban backgrounds, living in cities. They are educated, technologically proficient, and at the very least culturally interested. However this remains a small demographic relative to the rest of the country and world. In the same cities that boast countless yoga studios, around the block there are minority communities, older professionals, ghetto kids, Republicans (because, let's face it, yoga is by and large practiced by the lost and guilty Liberal elite), etc. And there are the people OUTSIDE of theses cities who obviously don't practice yoga -- any yoga studios in Crossville, Tennessee? They are still in a, by your definition, pre-Modern (Medieval?) belief system of believing in God. Having said this, what makes yoga so pathetic and mock-worthy is that it'll never catch on. Why? Because you need money, you need a city, you need a dearth that emanates from over-education, depression, and other suburban "illnesses." The reason we (I) mock yoga is the same reason I mock an extreme art piece that never catches fire, an extreme ideology that one dies by, etc. And for those who believe we're evolutionarily on a pathway to post-post-postmodern bliss where yoga will somehow be relevant, please know that nothing will change. We will keep the same structures we've had for centuries. After all, the only people proclaiming a new world order of post-this, and post-that, are the extreme minority in the cities: wealthy, white, and young. Funny, they're the same people doing yoga.

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