An Epidemic of Spiritual Manipulation in Holistic Business ?

It was a staff meeting at a yoga teacher training school: You would think that a meeting at a so-called spiritual enterprise would begin with a grounding meditation and everyone sharing their new ideas from a heart-centered place.
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It was a staff meeting at a yoga teacher training school:

You would think that a meeting at a so-called spiritual enterprise would begin with a grounding meditation and everyone sharing their new ideas from a heart-centered place.

After all if Fortune 500 companies, like the Chairman at Ford, Oprah, and Arianna Huffington are incorporating Meditation into their daily start, and offering it to their staff-you'd think it would be a no-brainer that a yoga enterprise would do the same.

I mean wouldn't it make sense that a holistic enterprise would operate from a clear, focused center of spirit?

Instead the owner of the enterprise started the meeting scolding the teachers about a recent event (where one teacher had the guts to speak up about dirty conditions at a recent yoga teacher immersion training, and the owner didn't want to hear about it.) Then, they were all pressured to sign new contracts that even Comcast wouldn't create. Think: less pay, more responsibility, and a clause where you could be fired at any point for no reason.

Then in a calculating tone the owner says "You need to be grateful that you have an opportunity to teach."

Look--I'm all for gratitude, but when the practice of gratitude or any soul-practice is being used to manipulate another person into taking action on something which is degrading, unfair, or inhumane--there is a serious problem.

Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon in the so-called spiritual world:
For decades spiritual teachers have gone to the dark side of spirit and used their position of power to manipulate, control, coerce and even steal from their followers.

And now with spirituality making its way into the mainstream with yoga studios budding in every corner of the world: the sad truth is: many of these spiritual centers are not doing business from a spiritual perspective. Often the hype of this trend and the lust for money is the only reason the owner is building the business.

When that happens, the spirit gets lost. A spiritual business needs to be run from a spiritual perspective in order to maintain its integrity.

What's a spiritual perspective?

It's really quite simple: It's about being a contribution, remembering that the people who work with you are humans with basic human needs of food, shelter, and time-off to spend with family.

But often these spiritual centers will control and manipulate you by controlling your schedule, expect you to work extra hours unpaid (they'll tell you it's in the name of karma-yoga) and then via spiritual bypassing you'll be manipulated into believing that "If you were really a yogi you wouldn't need to get paid" And if you were "really spiritual you'd just be grateful all the time."

And yet if you make teaching your full time career - it is the only source of your income, and even if you live modestly, there is rent to be paid and stomachs to fill. To compound this problem, the owners that take advantage of their workers know that with the surplus of yoga teachers there will always be someone else to fill the spot for lower pay.

The lack of integrity rests on the shoulders of the owner. Not the new yoga teacher who's simply eager to teach, gain experience and share the practice from a place of excitement. It's the owner's responsibility to come from a place of integrity and be mindful to pay a living wage to full time teachers, especially when it comes to those leading trainings (which is often the bulk of a studio's revenue anyways.)

And yet, integrity often gets thrown out the window in an attempt to cut corners-with the only focal point being their bottom line and not the experience of the teacher. There are even 200-hour registered schools that lie in their paperwork, marking up false hours in order to get less experienced teachers who'll take a smaller pay to teach for their trainings.

Not only is this behaviour shady and feel like an Enron Scandal, the graver problem is the manipulation that orchestrates this from happening. People are afraid to speak up, and often cave into thinking "Well, I should just be grateful and settle for whatever I can get."

At the root of this epidemic is fear and a dreadful turning away from spirit.

The fear is from the employees: nobody wants to be out of a job, and in the spiritual community it's much too common to want to see the good in everything and everybody and give up your power and inner voice out of fear that if you spoke up you'd be condemned.

Fear is also at the root of turning away from spirit. After all, if every so-called spiritual company practiced and lived the teachings they gloat about, there would be a lot more humility, humanity, connection, and respect for everyone involved.

Fear cannot thrive when you are connected to spirit. So anytime you feel manipulated, coerced or time-pressured into something (like being told you only have 48 hours to sign a new contract) you know that fear is driving the business.

The point of this article is a shout-out and a call to wake up:

If you work at a spiritual enterprise take a moment to pause and reflect:
Are you being treated with respect and being compensated appropriately so that you're actually getting paid more than welfare?

Does your company/boss meditate and support an environment where the spiritual teachings are being practiced and at the helm of staff meetings?

Look--Apple, Oprah, and the Founder of Def Jam Records start their day with meditation and recognize its value for business. Shouldn't the spiritual community at large wake up and treat their employees and clients and business with the same level of consciousness?

Please do not get tricked into what somebody tells you or fall prey to the epidemic of using spirituality as a façade to control and manipulate you into complacency.

Trust your inner guidance, and give yourself permission to only work with enterprises that support the practices of humanity, mindfulness, and where you feel genuinely cared for, respected and that the owner is coming from a place of integrity.

At the end of the day: the only thing you know for sure is what you feel. If you ever feel like you're being manipulated--get out as fast as you can.

Tova Payne is a writer, teacher, and consultant based out of Vancouver. She believes integrating mindfulness into business is essential for creating work with clarity, focus and integrity. Get a free meditation audio for business clarity and an e-guide on the 5 keys to start + finish your Projects at

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