Am I Spiritual, Or Just Superstitious? + A Wellness Audit Exercise
I'm on the east coast this week for work, spending a few free hours exploring Boston, where my partner grew up.
We traipsed around Harvard Square yesterday, where we passed a group of students rubbing the brass left foot of a statue of old man John Harvard. I remember rubbing that very foot on a campus tour of Harvard in my teens — which is both adorable and disgusting, oh-my-god do you know how many people touch that thing?!? — wishing hard for something that mattered very deeply at the time but I can hardly remember now.
It got me thinking about superstitious beliefs, and why we become superstitious (whether we realize it or not) when we really want something. And I think more often than not, the awareness that we *are* being superstitious — but a lack of understanding around how we can step back from that disempowered state of fear-inspired finger-crossing — actually steers us away from tools and techniques that are genuinely helpful for us.
Fear is the catalyst that transforms a practice from spiritual to superstitious.
If we operate out of the fear that not doing *a thing* (insert any wellness practice) prevents us from being the healthiest, happiest, fullest versions of ourselves, then we’ve crossed the threshold into superstition — a dangerously disempowering space. But when we operate knowing that we fully buy into doing *a thing* because it makes us feel GOOD deep down in our bones (not because we’re scared that if we don’t do something, we won’t get the outcome we desire) that’s spiritual, yah know?
Let me give you an example. After our incredible Akashic Records workshop with Helen Vonderheide last year, during which we learned how to open our own records, I was super jazzed to start experimenting with the Akashic plane. [Quick refresher on the Akashic Records here.] If you're anything like me, you're juggling more than a few things in your life that could benefit from some otherworldly guidance. I was stoked that I had another way to essentially double-check my work — I could open the records and see if I was on track ... or if I was waaaay off.
Of course, I introduced the method to friends, and they loved it, too. But I noticed something that made me feel a little off: One of my dear pals wouldn't make a decision without first consulting the Akashic records. I'm talking about all decisions — from things as banal as, "What should I wear to my date tonight?" to as complex as "How should I set my budget for the year so I can quit my job?" And I'm sure you're imagining some head-in-the-clouds hippie-person wearing all white, but this woman was not that. She's one of those highly mathematical, practical minds who work well in corporate settings and enjoy wearing pointy-toed shoes.
She became increasingly superstitious, though, about using the Akashic records to make every last decision — including where we should eat for lunch. It was exhausting ... and after a while, the Akashic records evolved from this incredible tool that she could use to strengthen her own intuitive choices to a crutch that kept her in a limited headspace.
And I was so turned off that I, too, stopped opening my records for months. Do you realize how silly that is? It'd be like writing a book by hand but refusing to open the dictionary on your desk to make sure you've spelled a tricky word like cantaloupe correctly; of course you don't need to look up how to spell every single word, but you might as well save yourself some grief and look up the ones you need help on.
I don't think my friend is alone in her experience. From my view, much of wellness media encourages superstition, from the esoteric practices to modern habits:
If you don't follow your diet for one day, you'll mess up your hormones and blood sugar and epigenetics.
If you use toxic skincare products, you'll do irreparable damage.
If you don't meditate every day, you won't be able to deal with your life in a healthy way.
If you don't write down your intentions for the New Moon, they'll never come true.
If you don't have the correct crystals, you'll never manifest abundance.
If you're not high-vibe and fall out of the vortex, nothing good will ever happen to you.
Sounds a bit familiar, right? And even if the sources around us aren't saying this outright, often there's a little high-pitched voice in our heads that's barking this fake news into our brains.
It seems to me that in order to make wellness practices work for us, we have to avoid creating superstitious beliefs in two-steps:
1. Stop wanting.
Wow, rude. But yeah, stop wanting it so bad. I'm not saying you should revert back to being an apathetic teenager, but simply that you maybe notice when you are grasping. In Buddhism, grasping or clinging is one of the causes of suffering. It's the idea that you're trying to control the outcome because you believe that *your* version of how things should happen is the absolute best. No offense, but that's a pretty cocky belief, especially because we're merely humans with tiny brains and limited imaginations. (Please also see: problems with manifestation).
Don't fully throw your life to the wind, Buddhism says, but surrender the belief that you can control the outcome. You can't. You can help steer the boat in the direction of the outcome you'd like, but at the end of the day, you just have to accept what happens. Superstition rears its head when we believe that we can completely control the outcome through our actions.
2. Form your beliefs from data and first-hand information.
"The Subtle Body without experience is superstition." - Guru Dev Singh
Basically, until it works for you, it's not working.
"Work," of course, is a subjective word. A new vegan diet could be working not because you're more energized after eating, but simply because you enjoy shopping for the food you need at the farmers' market. A special ritual around the moon's lunations could be extremely effective because it forces you to sit down and focus on your intentions once a month. That killer jumpsuit outfit that wear whenever you want to close a new client might not be lucky — it might just be that people take you more seriously when you're well-dressed.
Create your belief systems on the information that's being handed to you in every moment of every day. Information looks like:
soft analytics, like how you feel physically or emotionally
hard analytics, like numbers, facts, and figures
Take a look at the data. What does it tell you about how well your rituals and processes are working for you? You might be surprised by what you find.
Here's what I'm keeping in my wellness routine. I circled everything that, when I really looked at the soft and hard analytics, actually works to improve my life consistently. The other stuff is just icing on the cake.
Tell me — what rituals and routines are working for you?