Wellness, Social Media Self Importance, Public Spirituality and Me:
A Piece from 2021 that wanted to peep into the Light
I wrote this piece in April 2021 and didn’t publish it. I decided to spend a year (almost two) actually making shifts in my work instead of announcing a thing and then making the changes. When I re-read this piece this morning as I perused some old Notes in my phone, I thought, you know what, I think I have integrated and shifted around this topic. But I def am not perfect and it’s nuanced. Also, the way I perceive my own work and the way someone else perceives it may be fully different. I want to note that when I wrote this I was very inspired by Alex Ebert who was on my podcast last year. (This piece by him inspired me a bunch.) Also, I asked a few friends whom I deeply trust to read this piece and give me thoughts and they were super supportive and gave me the thumbs up. But then I was like: “Hmmm…show, don’t tell, woman. Just make the changes in your life first.” Now, it feels good to reveal the process behind the changes I have made in my work. And it’s taken two years. Bless 2020 for it’s insanity and it’s purification. Deep work to clear up the bullshit. Feels good to share this now, as it still holds ideas and questions that sit deeply with me everyday.
X Alexandra, October 19, 2022
RIPE FRUIT is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Wellness, Social Media Self Importance, Public Spirituality and Me.
A long share. A confession. An apology. A think piece. A consideration.
It’s been a full year since I’ve been mulling over how to write this piece.
It could be titled:
"How I thought I wanted one thing and turns out I didn’t."
Or: "Wellness, The New Age, Money and Me."
Or: “How I Have Participated in Spiritual Materialism and Elitism.”
Or: “The Evolution of My Social Media and Role in Wellness.”
I could keep going but I know you’re busy...so let's get on with it.
The wellness industry is a $66 billion dollar a year industry that I found myself in these last few years. I left my filmmaking and acting career because I wanted to pour my love into a space that felt *less* commercial, money centric, and complicated. And then I found myself directly and tangentially in a space that felt equally problematic. So I took a step back to consider. (Maybe you noticed? ;) After some time to think, I am now attempting to find a small corner that is more on the mystical / artistic - less commercial, capitalistic…more of my soul’s home base, and I want to share why. Since you are a part of my community (thank you!) I want to clue you in and discuss, connect about all this.
I made my web show “Be Here Nowish” about the humor and insanity of modern wellness and spirituality back in 2010, making fun of DIY shamans, self made gurus, expensive cleanses, stereotypical positive thinking and new age-y cultish worlds. (ICYMI - watch season 1 and 2 here.) So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about this whole sale of wellness / god / spirit / wisdom thing for A WHILE. And I’ve been living this new age conscious spiritual life since my Mom introduced me to Louise Hay when I was a teen and gave me my first Lemurian seed crystal and there is SO much I love about it, as much as hate. (Yes, I used that word.)
I love my work with women, my book, and the magic of what I am able to create freely. I love stepping out of old thought systems around trauma, mental health, god, my body and so much more…I love offering care and support and spirituality that doesn’t come from a heady, cerebral psycho-spiritual bio hack boys club. But in this past year I have felt a deep shame having got swept up into some of the shadow sides of the wellness and spirituality biz and for having played any part in the elitist hierarchies that keep so many people in suffering. And the deep self examination has lead me to a recommitment to doing the healing work, holding space, and doing what I love.
On this journey, I have gotten clearer and clearer about the shadow side of the wellness / coaching / new age space I have found myself in and how I have participated in it and I want to share that with you. This piece is not about conclusions about the wellness industry, new age religion, the cult of the self, social media, modern spirituality, or coaching (all huge topics on their own!). No conclusions here, just, honesty about my own personal experience, what pains my heart, angers me, and what changes I am making.
NEW AGEY / COACHY STUFF I HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THAT I THEN QUESTIONED
Here are some basic new age-isms / wellness-speak-isms etc that you may know that in my opinion that often perpetuate white privilege, elitism, separation, and a very dualistic toxic way of thinking in many moments. (*Not in all moments, context is key. Nuance is also possible.)
-You create your own reality.
-You can manifest anything.
-You can self anoint yourself to be whomever you wish if you had a dream / vision / ceremony / download about it and then you can ask others to follow you in that position.
(I.e. coach, guru, shaman, priestess, etc)
-You can and should make bank for your spiritual skills.
-Your own lack of money is your own fault due to spiritual ineptitude.
- You attract what you think.
-Your success is tantamount to your spiritual power.
There are many. Some more of the mainstream wellness side of things. Some more on the new age side of things. Some on the coachy side. Some of these are unspoken agreements within circles and conversations. And some are implied beliefs within a greater subculture that uses words like “intentions,” “manifestation,” “light,” and “heart” in ways that would likely confuse anyone outside the space, like my grandma or yours, and many other populations. Now, it’s understandable that there is a specific lexicon that relates to a subculture of humans. (In this case a spiritual / wellness / personal growth one.) A creation of language to encompass a culture is ancient and I get it. And I use some of these terms. And yet some of these -isms and words and ideas cause a lot of suffering and bypassing and exclusivity and separation and in this last year I have felt that more and more…
SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM + WESTERN VALUES
Another problem that’s rubbed me wrong in the wellness / personal growth /coaching space exists around money. I love money. I don’t have a problem with money. And yet…there is something that feels off for me in the spiritual spaces with money at times and I will outline why in a concise way.
I myself have participated in talk about money that was off at times (Yes, I am judging myself) a few years back and vowed to never again speak in that way about my own money/income, etc. (Braggy and equating it with spiritual manifestation power.) I believe it’s wonderful for people to live well and heal around money and have what they need and desire, and I also personally have my own line about what’s responsible to acquire and accumulate for the self, and how to hold it energetically, and that’s my personal choice.
I have seen many teachers speak extensively about “lack mentality” and I have gotten angry…Why in this greater wellness new age space does material success imply that one is more spiritually advanced than many a school teacher, the person making your coffee, and 99% of others (making minimum wage)? Or those who have more bohemian values or extenuating life circumstances. Just because someone is good at money doesn’t mean they are good at love, or kindness, and this is where spiritual materialism gets tricky. Every time I travel outside the US, I see how, being a westerner, in some ways I am so behind in the cultivation of virtues like generosity. I honestly believe that in the realms of loving, compassion, generosity, kindness there are many cultures more advanced than many of us westerners.
Many of us in the west have just been programmed into materialism, success, self worth based on wealth, beauty, and external success, so that to even imagine worth or karmic advancement being based on a capacity for giving, kindness, generosity is beyond the comprehension of many people. For instance when I go into Erewhon, the natural grocery store in Venice, where smoothies are $15 a pop, people rarely are smiling or laughing loud or saying “Hello lovely!” but mostly looking at their phones. And Aston Martins and Porsches fill the parking lot while a houseless encampment is next door. (Yes, there are exceptions to this scene. I know this.) But there is also a world where I’ve gone into a small Latin American grocer in Brooklyn with loud music and dancing and people saying "Hi!" and "I love your hair!" and "What’s up?!" (I lived in NYC for 12 years so I speak from experience. People say hi a lot in bodegas and especially if you have cool hair.) But basically, the discrepency between what some people in wellness preach, and the lack of attention on generosity and sharing of resources hurts my heart and I have been confused about where my place is in it all.
I’ve wondered…”As people in coaching and wellness accumulate more more more, is there also a plan on how to redistribute wealth, share, and create greater solutions for humanity?”
My own reckoning with the capitalistic, elitist, white privilege aspects of wellness is my own journey and ever since I landed in this field I’ve been questioning it and reckoning with it.
BEAUTY + SELF IMAGE FOR SALE
One thing I have participated in and questioned on repeat has been the meeting of body / beauty and healing...When I started sharing glossy pics of myself paired with deep shares and stories people LOVED them. I loved taking pictures, playing dress up, becoming my own model / star / empowered woman! And I am glad I did! That was an important part of my evolution. To be like “Hello! I’m allowed to be expressed, to be me, to be sexy, wild, beautiful, FREE!” But some of my oldest friends were like “Girl. Ew.” They didn’t like me using my glossy photo shoot images to sell spirituality. But I assured them “This is the new storytelling and art! Social media! Get with it!” I had this whole “Wolf in sheep’s clothing” thing going for me…like…“I can speak the language of beauty and glossy and all that” and I will keep bringing truth and writing from depth too! As someone who has been a performer and artist for a long time I have loved this aspect of play and performance via social media! I love visual stories, beauty, art. It lights me the fuck up. But I also know that it has inherent problems.
The sale of my beauty, body size and skin color even wrapped into the idea of “artistry” and “expression” has its dark side. Even attempting to be subversive using what I often call “weapons of mass seduction” comes at a price…It is much more problematic for “pretty” white women to use the sale of their beauty and body online…there are many layers to that conversation. But essentially I found, that if I looked a certain way - hair blown out, body svelte - then my “expression” had more value over some others expression due to these elements. More followers. More likes....But still…aren’t we all just playing characters online? Curated, edited, avatars showcasing our good days and best looks? Isn’t everyone an actor nowadays making skits on Tik Tok and reels and selling it as a digital course?
I’ve been so surprised to watch so many coaches and healers become comedy actors on Instagram doing skits and scenes! I wondered…”Do they all also have acting backgrounds?!” I don’t say this from judgment, but more awe, and a notion that perhaps there was a buried collective shadow of expression, of the performer, than thousands, or millions of people unleashed via the power of Tik Tok and Instagram. A good friend of mine once said: “Every coach or shaman in LA is a failed actor, musician, fashion biz person turned self help guru.” (And perhaps now it is not just LA, and not just failed actors or models, but whomever damn well pleases to be!) But when my friend said that I choked on my organic superfood matcha.
I looked at her and asked: “Is that…me?”
When my two TV shows didn’t get greenlit after a successful run with agents at CAA and 4 eps on a TV show I turned coach! And she said: “Well, at least you don’t act like you know it all. You are real. And you actually been on your spiritual path for a long time.” This helped me justify my sale of self to myself. But 2020 was a slap in the face for white women on socials and I am very glad I re-examined EVERYTHING. I deleted old posts. Swapped pics. Got feedback. Read books. Talked to people. Soul searched. And mostly…stepped back.
I also redid my curriculum for my yearlong program I was leading making it way less WOO WOO (Yes, I am using that phrase) and way more practical and grounded in reality, with more time, mentorship, guest teachers, and a diverse curriculum based on real tangible things I knew about or could hire others to teach on. In this time questioning while also keeping a business alive, I have been slowly evolving my social media towards something that feels more aligned and it’s taking time. I lost lots of followers when I became less “empowered woman coach telling you what to do, always looking fly” and more soft and ambiguous and poetic, mystical, offering suggestions and not orders. I also asked myself the question: Is social media it a place for depth and nuance? I concluded…No, probably not most of the time…But sometimes I feel it can be. So I’m okay with being less popular but with more people who are actually interested and not just looking for fast self help or fast fixes cause, honey, there are none in life IMHO.
You can meditate and do yoga and say affirmations and someone you love can still get cancer. Your partner can still cheat on you. There is no guarantee in this realm. No way out of suffering. And for folks looking for that out, I’m not your gal. I see it as we can change our relationship to the suffering, but the suffering isn’t going anywhere. And new age / mainstream wellness speak often says the opposite.
I’m in the biz of feeling, opening, expressing, grieving, connecting, exploring and discussing. Feminine mysticism. Heart. Soul. Depth. Enjoying this life now. Stop fixing. Stop leaping out of the body.
No answers to how you can get the guy, make the big bucks, etc.
FETISHIZING OUR STRUGGLES AND SUCCESSES: A SALES TECHNIQUE!
Another piece of this puzzle I have participated in via SM is the fetishization of struggle and success. You can feel when someone is using their struggles or successes as a way to pull you in, seduce, and sell…or when it’s a heart wrenching tender share born of humility and trembling with real feeling. And I have done both. In the same way you can feel the depth of someone’s presence when they don’t mention to you that they have a depth of presence cultivated over X retreats with this and that master…Or the depth of someone’s practice who doesn’t advertise to you how deep a practice they have. (I have also been guilty of that.)
Or you can feel when someone is selling you something in a way that’s cringey and putting themselves on a pedestal above you asking you to need them…And I bet I have done that and well, it was a part of my own evolution and maturation process…what can I say...Sorry. And of course some of us have mastery in some things and some others so a healthy dose of this is OKAY. More than OKAY! So again, this is not me taking sides, this is a look into the gray area, past binary thinking.
I do deeply believe we should not be capitalist workers bees if we don’t wannna be, and we can indeed get paid to do what we love and be of service and create own companies and feel massive joy for our work. It is simply a fine line as to what to sell, how to sell, how to seduce, what language to use and all that jazz. Integrity and exclusivity and privilege and many other elements are present in these spaces I have found myself in, which is why honestly I would prefer to be in NO CLUBS if I am truly honest…which brings me to:
MOVING FORWARD, WHAT I AM COMMITED TO
I am committed to asking questions in this time such as…
-How do we tell stories on social media responsibly?
-Where do we want to steward the influence and communication going forward?
-Where has the wellness industry eroded trust?
-Where does beauty and self image help get a message across? Where is it slimy and destructive?
I wanna keep writing and supporting women in the way I do in coaching and mentorship, not be harmful, and keep asking questions and examining my own integrity. I will keep charging money for my work and creating things that feel aligned at all different price points and working towards buying a house and creating a retirement fund for myself, and sharing with organizations whom I respect monthly, and offering scholarships.
I am very much still deeply in process around my place publicly in the space of wellness / spirituality / etc but so far I feel…just so you my Beloved community knows :)
(Hi You, yes thanks for reading btw!)
I wanna be amongst the mystics / mystical writers / writers / philosophers / wild ones / and artists asking hard questions…
I will keep doing what I have been doing for 20 years now, leading ritual, chanting my prayers, invoking, making offerings, creating altars, screaming and moaning and crying in spaces with women, holding space for people to feel, mentoring women on the spiritual and creative path, and making art. And I will keep asking myself questions about money, integrity, and practice.
I will keep paying attention to whom I align with and question the new age wellness cults (as well as capitalism and other problematic things I engage in) as I have for over a decade as I plough forward in my own human journey, longing for love / spirit / soul / home…writing about that soul longing, the pain I feel for all suffering, and my curiosity about life….
I stand for humanity.
For the Earth.
For being in the body.
For dismantling old oppressive structures.
I will do my best to stay real, wild, loving and free and keep sharing with you the honest real shit.
I am super grateful to everyone who bought my book, supported my projects over the years, and is on this newsletter. SERIOUSLY.
Thanks for listening, reading, being with me on the journey.
Written April 2021
Photo taken by Eli when we went to see the Aspen leaves and play in the golden deliciousness. October 2022.
RIPE FRUIT is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.