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Are You A Spiritual Snob?

Many people nowadays seem to have turned into unbelievable yoga snobs: they perceive any roll in the mud of our human nature as less than enlightened. And they get downright mean about it.
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Are You A Spiritual Snob?

snob [snob]

1. A person who imitates, cultivates or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing towards others.

2. A person who believes him or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding a certain field.

I'll admit it: I can be a bit of a snob sometimes.

I like hot towels before my sushi, I'm not a huge fan of swearing (unless you count wanker), I must have my seltzer in a wine glass with a lime, not a lemon, and if I went camping, I'd dig it...but would be positively giddy if there were an outlet nearby for my hair-straightener.

I travel to Italy each year to immerse in a culture that knows how to put some appreciation into their food, and get a taste of my beloved Brunello grape. When I return, I want nothing but cuisine made with intention and love.

I'm accustomed to New York City and its refined palates, superb aesthetics and the latest and the greatest, well, everything.

In balance, the finer things can be, well...just fine.

However, when it comes to my spirituality and the teaching I do on a daily basis, I like it down and dirty.

WATCH A FENG SHUI OF SEX video from Ariel Towne

There's almost no subject I won't touch, if it helps my students A) see themselves in it and B) helps them break free from it and move forward into integrity and empowerment.

I like to dig in the dirt as well as smell the roses, unearthing the hidden places in us where we are resisting our own greatness through victim mentality, anger, fear, coping mechanisms and the like.

Shadows are one of our most underused catalysts towards illumination.

I embrace your desire to make money--lots of it, from doing what you love. I talk about my omnivorous diet, the occasional glass of vino, those times when I falter, and when I succeed along my chosen path.

I use sex, relationships, breakups, family drama and insecurities as ways to bring the teachings of yoga onto our real world stage. We can use all of this with awareness and balance to love both our lives, and wake up to the nature of our consciousness.

Yet many people nowadays seem to have turned into unbelievable yoga snobs: they perceive any roll in the mud of our human nature as less than enlightened. And they get downright mean about it.

I see it all the time - in fact, I'm sometimes verbally attacked when I speak out on real world issues. Sure, most people are just getting in the spirit, which is intended. But there are still more spiritual snobs out there than I'd care to count.

Oftentimes, we support this attitude without realizing it. We want our teachers to be better than us, more perfected. It's great to have role models. But don't fall into the trap of believing that you're not already right there, ready and able to be every bit as spiritual as your teachers. Even with a cheeseburger in your hand.

You are that which you seek already. The more you think you're not, the more you're not. The more you think you are...well, you get the picture.

In my opinion, there is a time to be a snob (preferring Chianti Classico over a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 as a pairing with your expensive meal), and there is a time to curb the snobbery altogether.

I, and many other teachers bringing humanity back into the quest for divinity bear the brunt of what my friend and real-world Feng Shui Guy Ariel Towne calls "spiritual elitism." You know, "My technique is better than yours. My teacher knows more than yours. I am more perfect than you."

Many people don't tolerate worldliness in their spirituality. It has to be all higher chakras and no lower ("higher" being a spatial thing, not a "better than"). In class they want to teach you about--or hear about only light and no shadows. "I'm enlightened!" they shout, yet they judge anything that does not move them out of this world as beneath them. And boy, do they communicate it.

If I put out a video on Yoga for Better Sex or the Yoga of Money, honey, it is likely to get negative, even hateful comments. A nice classical meditation video? Not so much.

Yet, low sex drive and blocks against intimacy run as rampant in our society as sleep troubles. Money is one of the leading sources of stress, hands down. To be able to come back into balance around these areas, as well as any other, would erase many stress-related diseases, and amplify happiness, security and peace.



On your inhales, arch the spine. On your exhales, round through the back and pull in your pelvic floor muscles and navel.

Breathe slowly through your nose, and repeat the movement for 1-2 minutes. This pose tones your pelvic floor, sculpts the lower body and stimulates the lower chakras for more sensuality and creativity--all important for great sex. Connect with yourself, and you'll connect more fully with others.

This pose also targets the adrenals, helping them balance and soothe anxiety. The breath slows down your central nervous system and calms your fight-or-flight mode. The movement helps release any overabundance of energy so you are more likely to sleep.

When you're satisfied sexually and well-rested, you've removed two major blocks to enlightenment.



But we spiritual teachers, especially more modern ones speaking the language of our times, get the text equivalent of a backhand if we dare show our students how they can translate ancient principles of yoga - or any other practice - into the actual issues we face. You can read the comments section of an offering that partners spirituality with anything we want, but are told not to by our spiritual "superiors."

This especially applies to taboo issues like cash flow and what happens between the sheets. I've gotten multiple "you're not a yogi" comments from people because I wear makeup and have a stylish haircut.

This comes in part from a stubborn and outdated adherence to the original yogis who were monks, and as such, eschewed anything financial or gods forbid, sexual. Most people who practice yoga today are nowhere near the original austere yogi experience, and yet we continue to teach our students as if they are, which is kind of ridiculous. We can't teach you to live like a monk when you're living in a condo and day trading.

We can, however, teach you to be a monk on the inside, and still take care of business on the outside. But many people have misunderstood that difference.

The lotus flower grows from the mud, a perfect symbol for the fact that most of our transformation is born from questions and struggles surrounding life's sensual desires. What we crave can either help or hinder our spiritual practice. But I most often hear about the hindrance, and so we push them away.

Desires are seen by some as an impediment to enlightenment. Upon closer study, however, we see that it's not THAT we want something (or someone), it's when we can't let it go, thinking something outside of us is our sole source of happiness that gets us stuck in the muck.

As Buddha taught, "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." Buddha also reminds us to use our experiences and truths as a gateway to developing a broader perspective on life, and through working with our resistance, to set ourselves free: "Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it."

I'm here to show you how your world can help you achieve your spiritual and material goals equally. It's high time that yoga teaching transformed in order to fit the needs of our time, and the type of yogis we have become.

Hanging on to selective teachings to prove that your path is more effective than mine would not only horrify Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, who said that personal experience trumps any external writings or teachings any day, but it causes yoga to become something that does not resonate with modern students and their lives.

It's like trying to learn about sex from a 1940's book: an uncomfortable fit, at best. At worst, it leaves out crucial information you need to survive and thrive in your own time.

In yoga, one of our primary aims is to remove what we refer to as dukha, which means unsteady, disquieted, or bothering us enough to stop us from attaining enough harmony with our lives to be able to focus on the greater truths about ourselves.

In other words, if we're always worried about where the rent money is coming from, it's harder to find the time or space to fully concentrate on the soul.

Duhkhas include anxiety, fear, stress, frustration, irritation, sadness, depression, pain and dissatisfaction.

As the Buddha said, "Life is suffering," and so these things will always come at you in one form or another, but you can learn to deal with them in a way that lessens their presence AND power over you.

The problem is many spiritual leaders don't confront the issues you actually have. They just want to show you the path through all that, so you can meditate and find bliss now.

This is all fine and good if you're a person with no possessions or relationships or responsibilities sitting in a cave, dedicating your life to communing with God. This, by the way, was yoga in its original form. There were no householders, only those who went whole hog into their discipline, often by retreating to a tree, a monastery or a mountaintop, closing their eyes, and leaving the world behind.

By this measure, even classical yoga teachers among us today are really only deeply committed amateurs. They drive cars, live in homes, have relationships, make money and are hardly adherents to the ascetic path set out by the original yogic scriptures.

And that's totally fine with me. I don't want to be the kind of yoga practitioner who, as the dictionary says, "practices extreme self-denial, or self mortification for religious purposes."
And self-denial is exactly what is running rampant in yoga circles today, as if facing one's shadows would somehow threaten their light. I know people who say they are never angry, blissfully smiling away, yet they are horrible to everyone else.

Denial is denial, even if there's a meditation shawl wrapped around it.

My problem is not with the's with the message. I don't care what path anyone chooses to explore their spirituality. I do take issue with spiritual snobs, who actually think that by ignoring money, sex, relationships, their own issues and resistances, all the things most people have to and want to deal with (my landlord doesn't accept karma), that they are actually more spiritual than the people who think about earthly matters, care about them or actually use them as part of their spiritual process.

That harms all of us. There is so much energy, richness and breakthrough waiting to happen when we confront our shortcomings, our struggles and pain, and use them as catalysts to embrace the shadows and move towards the light.

When we refuse to acknowledge the darkness within us, we lock ourselves out of half of ourselves and our latent life energy.

Using the light as a shield against feeling the earthly emotions, or dealing with the actual world--and telling everyone you can do this, is not only snobbery at its best...'s a lie.

"You're not yogic," the spiritual elitists will say, or worse. I have seen white-robed teachers actually turn up their noses at students who ask how to take their yoga practice into their finances, because they were tired of money stress.

"Money is nothing. Just meditate. All bliss is there," a major teacher once said to a packed hall of hundreds, while shooing the student away.

Another guru was renowned for enlightenment and ability to transmit enlightenment to others, yet would hit students away with a stick when tired of having them around. But there was never any mention of anger, boundary-setting or any useful teaching around this dynamic. People just got smacked.

And some of your most spiritual teachers, and I'm talking at the top level of the spiritual
world, folks, are broke, rude, and in and out of dysfunctional relationships (how many gurus can you count who had affairs with their students?). It gets my goat that they still act like you're a bottle of grape Mad Dog 20/20...and they're a Super Tuscan. All the while their lives are a mess. They're not facing it, so how can they teach you to?

Now, their messy lives aren't my issue. Who among us doesn't create messes now and then? And I know there are many teachers who are willing to reveal their humanity and use it as a powerful teaching tool.

My beef is with the people in charge of your spiritual journey while ignoring their own dysfunctions and then telling you that yours are to be ignored as well. They tell you their "secret," that all you have to do is feel and intend something, and it will happen. Never mind the other part about actually paying your taxes, not overspending so you can someday actually be rich, having the courage to look at your relationship patterns and change them or busting through the fear and sitting down to do your life's work each day.

They espouse that meditation and the belief that yoga will solve everything, and you'll never feel anger or worry about money again if you just goooo...insiiiiide.

Meditating through all your issues is a helpful tool, but if you're unwilling to take personal responsibility and apply those tools to heal your day-to-day problems and create just as much abundance, integrity and bliss in your outer world as your inner, then you'll come out of meditation with your house getting foreclosed upon and your wife and kids walking out the door.

That's not spiritual. It's just plain irresponsible.

The more harmonious our outer lives are, the less dukha we'll experience and the more we can get back to our natural state of living from the core of who we really are.

So embrace your insecurities, and work on them. Lose 5 pounds and feel proud. Make more money doing your life's work, and help someone else as well as buy that new dress. Go dancing, eat a free-range steak if you want, and please, pretty please, find someone to love who loves you and have some really mind-blowing amazing sex. Get to yoga class or equivalent, meditate regularly and eat mindfully from the earth most of the time. Treat others with respect and do your best to live a life of integrity...not snobbery.

Remember: any celebration of your existence, both human and divine is spiritual too!

Even if I get comments from the spiritual elite for writing this, and believe me, I will, know that there are teachers out there who are redefining the parameters of what constitutes your yoga practice. We are coming out of the cave and into the world.

You can be IN the world AND not of it too, but as much as you seek personal transformation, be sure to face your shadows, and use them for your own good. Remember to revel in your life and your relationships, love your clothes and your vacations and have some fun while you're here. Get your personal transformation in while you're at it. It's all about balance.

We can't only focus inward and upward if we are to remove more suffering, both personal and global. We have to look down into our hearts, our core beliefs, into the world and root out all suffering and resistance wherever we can.

We can take time to enjoy life and make it a practice of all yoga lessons off the mat. When we are happy inside and we have done the other half of our work, matching our outsides to our inner refinement and clearing away any and all roadblocks to center, we can find by working with them instead of against them that we have truly become whole.

We must stop being so snobby about our lives needing to be all good all the time, stop talking only in pleasant "yoga voice" tones, get back to some straight talk, start dealing with our own bullshit--and turn it into fertilizer for our spiritual gardens.