I made a freakin’ dream catcher.
Which made me realise:
a) They sell dream catchers in all those raw vegan I haven’t washed my hair in months places. Is it okay to pluck feathers but unethical to eat eggs? And what about cultural appropriation? Should I feel guilty? Am I less spiritual?
b) I will probably not thrive as a dream catcher entrepreneur.
Western societies have been moving away from religion only to fall into a Westernised version of Buddhism. Amsterdam, where I currently live, is aspiring to become what LA has been for years: new age junkie heaven. Why those who seek inner peace decide to live in the busiest city in the Netherlands is beyond my comprehension (perhaps it’s more challenging to be an urban yogi than to meditate in a monastery in the mountains).
European flats and boutiques boast mass-produced Buddha statues and posters with a selection of mindfulness quotes. Walk off the the main streets to find stores selling heaps of healing crystals, alternative deodorants (I’ve got news for you: they don’t work), wheat grass shots, and mandalas all packaged and marketed towards the Western buyer. And we buy into it as, ultimately, we all want to be happy.
We hold onto that promise of happiness even if it is irrational, even if we can’t justify why a key ring manufactured in China should keep the evil spirits off us. What/who are those evil spirits anyway—Donald Trump and friends?
It is not my place to decide whether it’s “good” that Eastern philosophy has been so attractive to privileged Westerners. But I do feel that there is a certain competition and pressure in the West to be the most spiritual, to eat the most organic, to drink the weirdest beetroot-coconut-mud from Amsterdam canals cold pressed juices. There is a race to have the most Instagram followers and to show off the most demanding asanas. And once again, we are falling into the marketing trap pushing us to adapt a new lifestyle that requires appropriate commodities such as yoga pants at $70 a pair. Is that really the essence of yoga?
You can then perform a handstand at sunrise and hashtag the brand in your Instagram picture. Perhaps you’ll have a fight with your significant other who can’t take a good picture for shit. Perhaps you’ll fall flat on your face and swallow a handful of sand. How much closer are you to that inner peace?
When learning about a culture, a religion, a philosophy (or anything really), remain just as critical as you are when trying on those yoga leggings. Don’t try to be perfect at being spiritual, perfect at nailing that asana, or perfect at sticking to eating only food you planted in your own vegetable garden. Even the Dalai Lama questions Buddhist teachings and changes his opinion on certain subjects after learning more about them. How do I know? Well, obviously I’m reading The Art of Happiness every day after my evening meditation.