A few years ago when walking down a street in Granada, Spain, I glimpsed at a poster in-front of a shop window that aroused this strange existential-flash in my mind. The guy was wearing an expensive watch, had a great haircut, very handsome and adorning a pristine suit… and although I’d seen this advert a thousand times, across a multitude of different mediums – there was something on that particular day that stopped me in my tracks (I subsequently also wrote a pretty impassioned, or petty, ramble about it on Instagram after).
Behind the aesthetic the underlying message was – and always is – “you could be this guy, but at the moment you’re not”. This is the very phenomenon that drives impulses towards consumption in the ever-revolving momentum of capitalism. Essentially preying on the premise that the subject feels lack and low, using this as the gateway in which to provide a remedy that promises them that once they’ve succumbed and proceeded to obtain these additions, then they will consequently feel whole.
I often feel disillusioned as someone who attempts to have a very open or humble approach to spiritual practices, especially when taking into consideration how I intend to share them. Broadly speaking, I try to hold a reverence toward the Yoga that I practice and I share it with this imperative principle in mind: none of these practices, modalities, techniques, concepts or philosophies ‘belong’ to me or you. They aren’t ‘ours’ or anyone’s actually. We are merely vessels enjoying and exploring the compositions of these teachings.
With this in mind, how does the interference of ownership over teachings manifest? If one cultivates teachings for a genuine sense of individual development then it is commendable if the person applies these outwards trans-individually as well in the hope of a collective result.
But to claim these as assets almost exclusively to oneself…? To harness any teaching as a way to ‘gain-over’ another? This is a very different utilization that treads very dangerous territories… and it is fertile breeding ground upon which advertising – and opportunists across the spectrum – prey on in order to perpetuate similar feelings in their consumers of inadequacy and disheveled vulnerability that further feeds a seeking of answers from ‘other’.
A whole host of public figures and organizations have begun to traverse down this path, offering workshops and courses in a way that my cynicism spikes stating: this is anything but a disseminating of ideas for the collective good, this is for the seller’s validation to uphold a self-image. Every advert on the internet is wrestling with us to sign up for an online course so that we can be ‘autonomous’, ‘work from anywhere’ and become an ‘online marketing whizz’ (ironic).
The problem is that if we aren’t discerning as individuals and consumers in this time of great upheaval, at a time when our moods are sporadic and we’re generally dismayed at the current trajectory of life, then we are directly feeding the inferiority complex that has long been the underlying lynchpin that fueled all of the abuses in the yoga world (not to mention that this is only one small fragment or structure where there has been abuse).
The Opportunity for Evaluation
Now this is also not to say that if I see somebody charging huge fees for courses and workshops that I judge or label it instantly as inherently bad. No, on the contrary, quite the opposite. There are some remarkable teachers in our world and if given the opportunity, I would happily invest all my time and money in order to study with them. I value, respect and honor what people can offer. Graciously respecting their own dedication to the undertaking of practices.
What I’m pointing toward is an acute awareness of those ‘selling’ lifestyles, teachings, quick-fixes and offerings that are imbued with a sense of both grandiosity and a disregard of sensitivity. For example, if one has sought guidance of a mentor or teacher and then this teacher in question rings their client from somewhere such as Miami; sipping a green juice whilst telling you how to ‘manifest’ your way out of your reality – which if you’re in the UK, the last year you’ve been in lockdown – then this teacher/coach/mentor is most likely a person who is consciously or unconsciously (it’s irrelevant really) playing the inferior complexity game.
So, in the long run, whatever you’re trying to work on, improve and grow towards is both achievable by your own means and/or with assistance. Ultimately though it is about harnessing an awareness that discriminates if this helping hand is discreetly affirming any inferiority complexes you may hold within or is the ‘other’ simply walking you home as Ram Dass famously said.
This is key to both individual and trans-individual growth, ensuring that the teachings and their usage avoid falling into the pitfalls of capitalistic and/or opportunistic narratives. Just remember, any ambitions of development, growth or even desiring ‘more’ aren’t wrong nor bad… and they definitely don’t denote that you aren’t already completely whole.