The other day I had to laugh when I stumbled upon a post of a friend who has since became a “spiritual influencer.” This post talked about how you can “escape the matrix and become a self-made millionaire.”
This literally blew my mind. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Escaping the matrix while making $$$ and living your best life… Until you think about it seriously.
Because escaping the matrix is a serious thing. There’s no going back from that. It may seem the matrix means the 9 to 5 corporate job, and entrepreneurship is the red pill. Well, I think it’s totally wrong. Escaping the matrix means giving up many things, and one of these is the bondage of materialism.
The problem is that “escaping the matrix” is so complex, yet these so called spiritual entrepreneurs make it seem so easy, so shallow: Is it really all about the type of job you have and who you work for? And mainly: Is it only about money?
For me, that doesn’t sound spiritual at all. Spirituality is all about the soul and its development and enlightenment, and not material goods, appealing pictures of crystals and flexing in bohemian yoga wear, advertising shit we don’t even like while exploiting and taking advantage of others who are “less woke” than we are so we can squeeze money out of them, so we can “live our best lives”—while in the background we desperate look for more naive people we can feed off and fuel our greed and hunger for money and build a personal brand on it. Which is really spiritual bypassing and spiritual narcissism, if such terms even exist. There can be no spiritual growth without empathy, and no empathy without social consciousness.
I’ve personally never heard of the term “spiritual influencers” up until I was called one a few weeks ago. So many of us online tend to share our “content” about well-being and manifesting that I wasn’t sure what it all really meant.
Spiritual influencers are your average Instagram/YouTube/Facebook influencers, but offering workshops, lectures, wellness products, holistic healing sessions, breath work, leading podcasts and pretty much everything you’d expect from a one-week retreat packet in Ubud, Bali to a half-year-long online 1:1 coaching program.
I studied at IIN (The Institute for Integrative Nutrition) and I also came up with such ideas as creating a coaching program and started a YouTube channel where I uploaded my yoga and meditation videos because this is what I learned that a “health coach” had to do. So I can see how someone would think of me as a spiritual entrepreneur when they see my collection of healthy, gluten-free and vegan recipes, my yoga and meditation classes, or seeing me work with affirmations and learning Ayurveda and plant medicine. I continue to take more courses in my areas of expertise and study as much as I can. But as I thought about it, I realized how awful all this is. I wanted to heal myself, then I realized it is a passion for me and wanted to share it with others, so I bought my ticket to the “health coach train.” Now I rather feel like I was kind of brainwashed to believe this is how it has to be done, if I ever want to make a living from my passion.
While I really believe there is nothing wrong with spiritual entrepreneurs until they are really teaching what they are qualified to teach and really walk their talk and it is really about helping people but I did start to wonder about just how influential some of these spiritual leaders or influencers can be. What happens when they attract the most vulnerable people and/or teach them the wrong things they basically know nothing about just to seem more authentic?
We should really consider if we can rely on someone’s health and life advice who is in their early 20s with barely any life experience. The most popular influencers on the internet seem to be so young I sometimes wonder where they picked up all of this information in such a short time.
Do we really want to follow the tips and tricks of celebrities who probably only sell their ideas to us because they receive a lot of money for talking about it? There are online coaches and mentors who have never spent a minute with studying about what they teach and get offended and defensive when someone asks about their qualifications (yet never prove them). Many of these influencers simply ride the waves of social media followers coming in, going with the flow of the algorithm, selling them products and programs without ever thinking about the consequences or considering if what they sell really helps someone’s health or life in general.
In our modern, technologically advanced days with the high rise of social media, “community” is not necessarily geographically bound. Gathering like-minded people is now done through social media algorithms. With people becoming ever more disconnected from one another and more invested with the internet, many people continue to seek for things like culture, community, guidance, pleasure, and clarity online.
It is so easy now to go on the web and Google any questions you have and find literally hundreds of different answers. Younger generations have the tendency to believe everything they find on the internet (and so did our grandparents believe television back in the days.) but media is called media for a reason. We have to be selective with what we read/watch and what we believe to be true from this. We have to do our own research and turn towards professional experts instead of mindlessly believing what an influencer says online, just because they are really good at selling something we might desperately want (and most of the times even these influencers do not have, either—as they say, act as if until it manifests). I see so many people signing up for online yoga retreats with self made yoga teachers teaching them incorrect alignments (if ever paying attention to their students), or people making important decisions based on generic pick a card tarot readings in YouTube, while some expect their cancer to be cured from reiki infused crystal healing sessions they attend over Zoom.
The responsibility of spiritual leaders (and well-being experts, astrologers, tarot readers and self-help gurus) will have to be carefully watched. It might be time to look into the moral duties they have on society.
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Photo: Gabby Bernstein; Robislav Bali via Unsplash