Spirituality, Consciousness and Systemic Oppression
I have long wondered with the universal teachings of love, oneness and acceptance, why doesn’t contemporary spirituality as a practice do a better job of explaining and then helping to heal systemic oppression experienced by oppressed peoples. I have asked this question in my mediation and prayer practice for a little while now and through a series of live answers, I realized that my beef is not with Spirituality per se as it is how people choose to use it. Allow me to share some thoughts.
The practice and principle of love (and expressing this through a mindset of consciousness) as the ultimate divine power is what I speak and teach through my coaching, speaking and training practices. As a result of my own spiritual journey, or as I like to call it “remembering who I really am”, I understand the creative power of the mind & how to apply the Universal Laws. Because of my own level of privilege and access to great spiritual teachers, I have been able to snatch the space to personally and spiritually develop. Due to this space reclamation, I have been able to acknowledge, be angry, grieve, process, tolerate, have compassion for, and eventually shift my consciousness around a number of personal and worldly situations in my life. It was only when I got to a place of healing, that I was able to accept “love” as the answer to all things. As I have been taught and as I teach, anything outside of love is an illusion- a trick to keep us separated from the highest version of ourselves because once we are separated- we are easier to control through fear. And it is in fear that humans do terribly fucked up things. I teach that we are our most powerful when we remember who we really are and stand in our individual then collective power.
So even though I teach, and in my own way help to heal others, I struggle and find my faith and my faith in my path tested by the ways of the world on a daily basis. Outside of just listening and holding space, I struggle with how to share healing truths with others who have been systemically oppressed and have not had the space to deal and heal so that the real work can begin. To explain that every time there is an injustice against someone, a mortal wound is inflicted on that person’s soul and on the collective soul of humanity. That no amount of positive psychology is going to heal this wound until the actual wound, and the process by which this wound was inflicted, is acknowledged. I look at how the separation has created space for systemic oppression (slavery, colonization, disenfranchisement, racism, sexism, classism, learned helplessness etc) and how lives- particularly black and brown lives have and are continuing to being railroaded away from their divine inheritance because of power, money and skin color.
I get frustrated with how some contemporary spiritual teachers and New Age Thought Gurus refuse to address issues of injustice both domestically and globally especially when it deals with black and brown people. That, while the sky is burning, many say that “it’s just mind over matter” or “it’s all an illusion”- or other faulty positive psychology mantras while they charge members of their “tribe” thousands of dollars to “fix your mindset” for the benefit of each individual’s material gain. Or how many spiritually minded folks espouse the values of yoga and meditation and the teachings of Dr. King and Gandhi while missing the fact that they are supporting a white supremacist establishment by remaining silent about the injustices of the world- especially those that happen in their own country. Who will exclaim “Namaste!” but refuse to see the Spirit in others. Who will run to see the Dali Lama but miss the point of his teachings about oppression. For reasons of guilt and feigned ignorance it is easy for many new thought practitioners to chalk injustice up to “people thinking bad thoughts”, instead of realizing that the system is screwing us all over.
What good is all of this consciousness speak, if we refuse to acknowledge the systemic tragedies that have and continue to happen? That the many injustices waged against people literally rob people of their right to fully develop both personally and spiritually? What good is this work if we as a spiritual community refuse to be activists, using our understanding of mindset, connection and Universal Truths to only enrich ourselves individually? What’s the point of telling someone that their “pain is an illusion” if you don’t have the spiritual wisdom to acknowledge the source of the pain in the first place?
Often times, spirituality does not do justice to injustice because like every other belief system, it is rife with practitioners who buy into the dogma, doctrine, and ideology and refuse to apply the principles of oneness and love universally. Staying up in the “ethers” is great for one’s sanity, but what’s the point if “you are so heavenly minded, that you are no earthly good”? We have to do better.
In my opinion, a spiritual journey is not just about the individual even though this is where the work begins. I am of the thought that everyone who calls him or herself on “the path” has a moral obligation to engage in spiritual activism starting with one’s self. Own your own biases and acknowledge, speak out, and take inspired action against injustice- in whatever way it shows up in your life.
For myself, what I know to be true about healing strife is that change and transformation start at the level of connection and consciousness. If the smallest shift in my perspective can usher in a miraculous solution in my life, what would happen if this understanding was amplified ten fold? A hundred fold? Miracles, that’s what.
My thoughts and feelings were confirmed through an in person teaching by Radhanath Swami. In response to this very question by another participant, he shared that in addition to your own practice, the real work comes from building community where people fully support each other in their individual and the collective journeys so that we can all heal. So for all of you who are out there creating genuine space for healing, keep doing the work. The world needs you and we all need each other.