MANIFESTO FOR AN INCLUSIVE WELLNESS INDUSTRY

After discovering that there was nothing “wrong” with her body except conventional health messaging, Jillian Murphy shares her manifesto for a more inclusive wellness industry …

Photo: Samantha Santy

I had put on 40lbs in my second pregnancy and they seemed to have nestled in for good. I was eating well and moving my body religiously but I just couldn’t lose the weight.

Every well-intentioned health care professional I worked and interacted with as a naturopath was happy to offer up advice about what must be wrong with my adrenals, thyroid, hormonal health, sleep patterns, food combining, mindfulness, sugar intake, etc. etc. etc. and I had worked on it ALL. But to no avail, and I was exhausted from the effort.

Frustrated, I hired a body image and emotional eating coach and, after explaining my long and convoluted health and weight story to this new mentor, she told me something I was wholly unprepared to hear:

“There is nothing wrong with you except for your belief that your body is wrong. You are exceptionally healthy: you don’t have a food problem and your body is exactly, happily, where it needs to be.”

It was one of the strangest, most revolutionary things I’d ever heard. It simultaneously crushed and liberated my soul. Crushed, because, OMG! All the lost time I’d spent trying to “fix” my body. Liberated, because I’d finally been given permission to shed the physical expectations of our culture and just live my life.

The mere suggestion that my body weight and shape may not dictate my health nearly blew up my brain. It set into motion a 7-year journey of critical thinking, self-discovery, and research that would ultimately serve to heal my relationship with food and my body and revolutionize my understanding of health.

What I realized was:

Conventional health messaging flattens beautiful, complex, and biodiverse individuals into 2D facsimiles. Squishes us into mathematical equations, diets, and wellness checklists that promise abundant health and complete control over our bodies.

This messaging makes us believe that if our bodies don’t fit, we are at fault – too lazy, not enough willpower, intelligence, or effort. And in our attempts to conform, we offer up our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, our peace of mind, and sometimes our sanity.

Now, we in the wellness industries are being called to dismantle and challenge outdated, oppressive, and limiting beliefs about food, movement, weight, and health. To present a model for inclusive wellness that is respectful of ALL bodies; critical of information that leaves us feeling confused and in lack; and that offers alternatives to restrictive and prescriptive health ideologies that ignore the lived experience and values of the individual.

This is my manifesto for a more inclusive wellness industry ….

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1// Pursue physical health without compromising your mental, emotional, and/or spiritual self.

When we exercise though our body is asking for rest; when we cut carbs or calories despite our body begging for sustenance; when we skip dinner out for fear of not having the “right” food options; when thinking about food and health consumes our every thought – we sacrifice our sense of peace, connection, and joy in the pursuit of physical “health.” The outcome is a feeling of depletion despite doing “everything right.”

The shift: Put physical health back in its place, as one piece of the health puzzle and not the whole picture.

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2// Respect and appreciate the diversity of human bodies. 

All bodies deserve access to quality healthcare and health resources without judgment or shame. Current body type and weight ideals are problematic and unscientific (including the Body Mass Index or BMI). They negatively impact our relationship with food and movement, and encourage the stigmatization of all but a small percentage of bodies deemed “appropriate.”  Those in bigger bodies are judged harshly and mistreated in every sphere of society, from the workplace to medicine.

The shift: We must shed the belief that losing weight is the #1 path to health and wellness and work instead to pursue behaviors that have been proven to have a positive impact on health – whether we lose weight or not – while developing a much broader and inclusive definition of bodies we deem healthy, attractive, and worthy.

Photo: Samantha Santy

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3// Define “health” and “wellness” for yourself. 

These terms are social constructs that differ across communities and cultures. It’s also important to recognize that many people don’t have the privilege of prioritizing wellness, even if they want to. We can own our own investment and interest in health and wellness without projecting it onto others. Imagine how many hours a day/week could you free up if you let go of food, body control, and worry.

The shift: Consider what aspects of health and wellness actually light you up. Can you think of moments when you’ve judged the health and wellness choices of others? Begin to think about how our narrowly drawn ideas about these concepts impact the overall health of our society.

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4// Become the leading expert on YOU.

We have been taught that we must rely on externally devised, highly moralized food plans telling us how much to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. The Now Age way is to turn to models for nourishing ourselves that put us back in touch with our innate ability to regulate food variety and quantity. These models consider the needs of our physical bodies, while also taking the mental, emotional, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of food, movement, and health into account.

The shift: Promote eating based on our bodies’ internal cues instead of following fad diets or parroting somebody else’s food rules. (ED: read Jillian’s tips on using body positivity to unlock your intuition).

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5// Cultivate a sense of purpose and worth beyond your physical form.

The exhaustion, digestive issues, inflammatory processes, and body concerns I see in so many of my patients are one part physical, two parts spiritual/emotional. We feel disconnected and the stress of floating through the world unsure of where we belong, what makes us worthy, and what our purpose is shows up as dysfunction in our thought processes and bodies. We then cling to the rituals, routines, and ideologies of wellness and weight that serve as the ultimate distraction.

The shift: Replace diets and health “regimens” with rituals that connect you to the moon, meditation, talk therapy, dance parties, ditching toxic relationships, eating mindfully, speaking up, saying no, walking in nature, swimming in the ocean, lighting a candle, giving back. Anything that reminds us that our worth is inherent, we are more than our bodies, and we are connected to everyone and everything.

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6// Work to change the systems in place that deeply affect the health and wellness of our culture and community.

Socioeconomic status is the leading determinant of health. Accordingly, we must work to shift these issues on a systemic level if we truly care about our health and the health of those around us. There are systems in place that can’t be “love + light”ed away, and we all have a responsibility to pull apart our own oppressive beliefs and work toward amplifying the perspectives of those who experience this system differently.

The shift: Realize that representation matters – if we want to feel normal and acceptable in our various forms, we need to SEE those forms and diverse paths to health. Start with your social media feed by including a wide range of body shapes, sizes, races, abilities, and gender expressions, and enter into those spaces with the intention of listening. As you learn, commit to engaging those who share your social identity in conversations that question your current health and wellness beliefs. Be an active catalyst for change.

CHOOSING COMPASSION IN A CALLOUT CULTURE

A former social media “comment crusader,” diversity and inclusion specialist Aaron Rose is committed to moving beyond the “us vs. them” callout culture. PLUS Aaron shares 7 ways to upgrade your spiritual activism by choosing connection and compassion over fear …

Photo: Alberto Vasari

With 15 years working as a facilitator, educator, and consultant in the field of “Diversity & Inclusion,” my overarching mission is to heal our world’s generational patterns of separation so that we can all thrive as our authentic selves. Though always important, this work has of course taken on even more urgency in the escalating polarization following the 2016 election.

But in the last few years I have had to rethink some of how I was originally trained to approach this work. Namely, that relying on a callout culture of shame and dehumanization—however subtle or justified—as motivating tools of change, will never resolve the isolation and exclusion we ultimately seek to address.

Historically, my work focused on explaining the history of institutionalized oppression and practicing “dos and don’ts” for interacting with different groups. The premise—albeit often unspoken—was that we were there to help the privileged people understand how to treat the marginalized people better. Many people did indeed leave feeling more informed and better prepared to work with people different from themselves. However, when others would express feeling upset, confused, or silenced, I knew something was missing.

Many of my colleagues wrote this off as collateral damage—some people would just never get it, they said. And if a white man left feeling upset, maybe that was a good thing, because lots of people have been upset for a long time. I understood the logic, but this theory of social change felt incomplete to me. It’s a dynamic that has become all too familiar in social media interactions in which people are called out for offensive or exclusionary behavior and summarily “canceled” or rejected without any space for recourse or repair.

Back then, my life mirrored my work. I genuinely saw light and potential in everyone—and wanted to help us all understand each other better. But, truthfully, I usually meant, you (a person with historically more access and power than most) needed to understand me (a trans and queer person with experiences of violence and marginalization).

My approach was that of a pretty typical East Coast liberal. I would passionately launch into Facebook comment monologues, determined to get people to understand how they were hurting others, while distancing myself from people based on their presumably more privileged identities. My tone was condescending at best, and vitriolic at worst. I wanted people to understand the harm they were doing, and I wanted it to stop. Now.

Deep down, I, like so many others, felt scared and misunderstood. In most of the jobs I’d had as a young adult, I’d experienced harassment and discrimination—from prying questions about my transgender identity, to constant misgendering, to sexual harassment and violence—and the pain of my own marginalization kept me in a defensive stance.

I was quick to judge people’s politics, and even quicker to let them know about it—when separated by a screen and a keyboard. In most cases, there was little hope for redemption once someone had acted in a way I deemed oppressive, racist, heterosexist, transphobic, or more. But for all my accusations of division and dehumanization, I too was compartmentalizing people, saying things like “I could never be real friends with a straight guy … he just wouldn’t get me.” It hadn’t occurred to me yet that maybe I didn’t really get him either. I had never thought to ask.

While doing the work of humanizing historically excluded minorities, I had been unwittingly dehumanizing others. It seemed natural to view my work as an us vs. them quest to change some people’s minds on behalf of others. But I’ve come to understand that this approach will only continue to amplify the feeling of uneasy disconnection that characterizes so much of modern life, particularly online: the fear of being judged, the fear of being harmed, the fear that saying the wrong thing will result in excommunication.

The work that many pioneering LGBTQ people, people of color, women, and other historically marginalized people have done to legitimize the acknowledgement of our individual pain and institutionalized discrimination is important and invaluable. That kind of self-expression and community accountability is indispensable. But if simply being able to recite our personal and collective histories of oppression back and forth to one another with flawless terminology was going to create true progress, we would not be in our current accelerating state of political polarization and identity-based isolation. If we truly want a more just and connected world, we all have to go a step further.

Today, I no longer take to social media with fear and contempt to catalogue the ways in which others are letting me down. I’ve shifted my focus from what we’re tearing down to an approach that does not calcify divisions but instead catalyzes connection. This does not mean releasing people from accountability or never speaking up against injustice. It simply means setting the intention to treat no human being as if they are disposable, even if they are failing to honor our humanity. It means creating the conditions in which we can, as adrienne maree brown writes, “default to trust on a community level.”

Below, I share 7 ways we can be stewards of this paradigm shift:

Photo: Gwendolyn Rodriguez

1// Heal yourself to heal the world. Your work starts with you – owning your story, and releasing the blocks that stand between you and truly recognizing yourself in another. Regardless of your identities, our conditioned social autopilot reinforces the idea that connecting with people from different backgrounds puts us at risk in some way. For those of us (read: all of us!) who have felt minimized or unsafe because of who we are, leaning into even more discomfort can feel scary. But the more we connect with our own sense of humanity, the more we can extend that to others.

**Action Step: Take some time to meditate on welcoming feelings of safety. The more you cultivate a feeling of security within yourself, the more you will be able to welcome others into your world. You are safe, you are resilient, you are here to thrive and make space for others do the same. This meditation is one of my favorites. You can also check out my meditation series here.

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2// Redefine how you love. We are all called to love each other now as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke often about agape love as the driving force behind all his work. He said, “And this is what Jesus means … when he says, ‘Love your enemy.’ And it’s significant that he does not say, ‘Like your enemy’ … There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people … But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them.”

**Action Step: Practice silently blessing every person you encounter and wishing them peace and happiness. Your world will begin to transform before your eyes, from the inside out.

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3// Meditate for real. Meditation creates space between external stimuli and our responses, allowing us to act as we choose, versus on autopilot. In the same way that  we cannot change our world unless we face the truth of it, we cannot embody a new energy of love unless we retrain our nervous systems. Meditation is the path to this change.

**Action Step: Practice the Buddhist metta, or loving kindness, meditation. A common mantra is: May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe, May you live a life of peace. Extend this blessing first to yourself, then to those you love, then to the world around you, and finally to the people who you find it hardest to love. This practice is a gift you can give yourself anywhere, anytime.

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4// Know our history, know yourself. We make it a lot easier for others to trust us and give us room to grow when we show up fully. In the context of identity and social change, this means understanding our world’s historical patterns of exclusion and violence. Acknowledge your part and make amends, for yourself as well as your ancestors. Understand both your access and power, as well as your history of pain and struggle. Recognize that we all have inherent biases, and be prepared to acknowledge them as they surface. Learn bystander intervention protocol and be ready for action.

**Action Step: What are your identities? Where do you fall toward the margins and where do you have more access? Explore Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality to develop a deeper understanding of how our combination of identities shape our experience of the world.

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5// Release perfection, embrace integrity. We will all make mistakes along the way. Doing this work is about integrity: staying in alignment with your values and maintaining your sense of wholeness in the process. No one comes from the same perspective, and many of us do not have an academic foundation in theories of oppression and liberation. Despite our commitment to love, none of us will have the perfect word every time.

**Action Step: How will you respond when you or someone else messes up? What are your go-to phrases for communicating when a boundary has been crossed? How will you apologize and repair? Practicing ahead of time allows our brains to find the right words when our bodies are in fight or flight.

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6// Reframe callouts as opportunities for connection. When someone tells you your words were offensive, it’s easy to get defensive and push back. And to build a culture where everyone can thrive, we need to reframe how we perceive negative feedback. Humans don’t often take the time to let somebody know they feel hurt unless some part of us cares about being understood by the person who hurt us. Framed this way, each callout is a gift in service of our collective healing and evolution. Show the same investment in the connection by showing up to learn and repair together.

**Action Step: Practice responding to call-outs with grace and integrity. Pick your go-to phrases. Some options: “Thank you for letting me know how my words impacted you. I’m committed to building a community where everyone feels welcome.” “I hear what you’re saying and I will shift my words in the future. I’m sorry I used that hurtful language.” P.S. You really have to mean it, so align your energy with your words before pressing “share.”

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7// Redefine the personal vs. political binary. Who actually benefits from the idea that there is a difference between the personal and political? Certainly not you and me. Taking responsibility for caring for all life on Earth is the most profound investment we can make in our own self-care.

Action Step: How can you realign what is best for you as being what is best for all sentient beings? For example, is your meditation or intention-setting practice exclusively about your individual life? Set intentions not only for personal wealth and happiness, but for white people’s capacity to release our dependency on white supremacy, for example. For the renewing of our healthy relationship with planet Earth. For men’s commitment to repairing the wounds of the patriarchy. And for ongoing guidance about your role within the larger process. The support is there. You need only to tap in and ask.

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Aaron Rose is a writer, speaker, and diversity & inclusion coach. In his spare time you can find him waxing poetic about quantum physics, boy bands, and healing intergenerational trauma. Follow Aaron online at @aaronxrose and learn more about his work, including his upcoming healthy masculinity intensive for conscious men, at www.theaaronrose.com

WHY WE HAVE TO GET REAL ABOUT DIVERSITY IN THE WELLNESS INDUSTRY

On the brink of opening a brand new studio in Harlem, SHAKTIBARRE co-founder Corinne Wainer confronts the status quo, and shares 5 ways to get real about diversity in the wellness industry right now …

When I read that 77% of yogis are white, and that in New York roughly 44% make over $75,000 a year, I was astonished. Also, like I had been de-naïved. Seven years ago I founded a yoga and literacy non-profit for 7th-12th grade girls called YoGirls Program, but I had not assumed that the lack of access to wellness education my young students experienced would follow them into adulthood.

I started YoGirls Program because I knew the shameful feeling of being excluded from this often elitist world. Though I’m not a cultural minority, I didn’t grow up with money, and wellness education is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. And there was the one time I was told not to come back to a barre class because my shoulder injury, which necessitated modified moves, would make their sequencing “look bad.” Given this minor “image” infraction, you can imagine what other exclusionary practices exist.

Soon, I began to realize that theses issues needed to be tackled in the wider world. At first, I pitched articles to wellness editors along the lines of: “Hey, I see you have many articles written about elitism in the wellness industry but none that really discuss how to solve the problem … can I write about that?” My “idea” became SHAKTIBARRE, the yoga-barre studio and community space I opened with my partner in 2016.

Our mission was to actually DO SOMETHING about the aforementioned wellness injustices. So we implemented a sliding-scale pricing model, offer classes that emphasize body, cultural, and spiritual inclusivity, and dedicate 10% of net profits to YoGirls Program. As my friend Robyn from The Babe Collective says, it’s been about building a biz without becoming a superficial a**hole! This is all the more imperative because the yoga industry is 82% women. Change starts with us.

In an industry that profits from your self-doubt, any wellness initiative that supports you liking yourself is a healthy rebellion—but amazingly, we’ve gotten explicit push back for this, and been told we should just “stick to exercise and stop caring so much.” Or haven’t been invited to things where our mission wouldn’t be popular with those who are after more glitter-worthy press.

Because good intentions are one thing—making real change at a grassroots level requires GRIT. It’s not enough to hope our overall vibe and messaging would magically erase a deeply ingrained and capitalist-motivated lack of diversity in the wellness industry.

So if you too desire to create tangible change—in wellness or any industry where there is a lack of integrity and action—then read on for 5 ways we turned feel-goods into do-goods, and let the SHAKTIBARRE story be your guide …

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1. When we took a survey. So far we’ve had over 10,000 students and achieved a 4.9/5-star rating. Exciting. But we couldn’t help asking: “what’s up with that missing 0.1?” So we created a survey asking direct questions on everything from mat quality to cultural equality, promising to implement response-based changes within six weeks. We discovered that real empowerment comes from dynamic conversations, and thousands of our members were more than happy to share their honest insights when asked. The learning: In an industry where “exchange” has become the creepy synonym for “money,” make direct inquiries and practice active listening.

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2. When we said “no” to big opportunities that would compromise our integrity. We’ve been asked countless times to partner with corporate brands and been offered 6-12 million dollar investment deals; and it was a memorable magazine moment that taught us early on the power of staying true to our SHAKTIBARRE selves. An incredible article was written about us, but the title used a pic of a supermodel as click bait. The feedback from some new students was that they’d been afraid to visit because they felt nothing like the famous woman portrayed in the piece.

From that moment on, we’ve refused to film or do interviews with anyone unless they use inclusive pictures and dialogue. We also decided to fundraise for our second location instead of taking on investors who may prioritize financial gain over our community efforts. The learning: Always emphasize your mission over money and fame. And be honest: if your mission is money and fame, reevaluate your mission.

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3. When we got totally transparent online. Originally, we thought SHAKTIBARRE was just going to have local impact, but we realized our responsibility on-site and online. We take time each week to individually reply to reviews and Instagram comments, and pay extra special attention to tense conversations. For example, a woman recently challenged our fundraising campaign in response to a post we wrote with Alexandra Roxo, arguing that we’re “a for-profit company who can just go to the bank.”

We created a whole newsletter on it and asked for input from our community, ultimately opening our Quickbooks and telling the whole world exactly what we make, why, and how, all in the name of transparency. We even invited her to tea! The learning: Every criticism is a chance to unveil a deeper truth for both parties.

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4. When we empowered our OWN community. We have about 30 people on our team at any given time, and in order to help them bring their gifts to the world, we extend our services inward. This means we’ve raised salaries twice before paying ourselves more, provided free coaching when asked, generated promo codes and worked out various continuing education opportunities (marketing seminars, teacher trainings, and attending outside classes, benefits, and performances together). The learning: When your team gets to experience your mission first hand, your foundation becomes rock solid, and your impact will be true.

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5. When we became socially … awkward or awesome (you decide). We are a trendy, boutique fitness spot that also promises to create large-scale sociopsychological shifts in the way women experience wellness. That is why we sometimes post (with permission, of course) really provocative shares from teachers and students about racism, sexual assault, vaginal health, chronic illness, family dysfunction, learning disabilities … you name it. That is why we create SHAKTIPOPS (SHAKTIBARRE classes with a theme) that take deeper looks at how wellness is more specifically experienced by people of color (there’s a class coming up on December 3rd!), queer populations, Latina heritage, Judaism, morbid obesity … again you name it.

These subjects can be super triggering, and are NOT necessarily gonna get us all the likes on Instagram. But we see it as our responsibility as role models to go there. The learning: With every second you have in the limelight, say something consciously disruptive to exclusive wellness industry statistics. Want to get ridiculous right now? Post our crowdfunding link on your Instagram and start a conversation about real change through wellness.

 

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The biggest challenge you’ll face with our 5 tips? That you’ll have to let go of being accepted and step into being accountable. The greatest reward will be a loyal, lasting, and long-term impact on an industry ripe with opportunities for equal-opportunity empowerment.

As I build more and more studios over the next 5 years (where do YOU wanna see one?!),  more and more adult women will get inspired to become activists, and more young girls will have a fully-funded after school program. Meanwhile, my co-founder Shauny Lamba will continue expanding our Shakti Teacher Trainings all over the globe which is where this dream gets even more real because every year the YoGirls design a service project where they visit a city in need and learn alongside their local peers! And this all starts in our SHAKTIBARRE empowerment hub home-bases …

We entirely believe in you to make this shift and hey sister, we’re in this together. Come visit us in Brooklyn this Thursday at our benefit party (and next Spring in Harlem, which you can learn more about here) and share your stories of becoming actionable in the name of women’s wellness.

SKIN DEEP: DO TATTOOS MAKE ME LESS SPIRITUAL?

Calling all spiritual truth seekers: it’s time we cut the judgement and accept all who don’t fit into our preconceived ideas about what spirituality looks like Chris Grosso Artwork: Alessandra De Cristofaro

It’s not only racists, sexists, and homophobes who have closed minds. I find it very interesting to watch just how much some “spiritual” people get bent out of shape over other people who don’t fit their image of what spirituality is supposed to look like.

I have lots of tattoos. I honestly don’t care if you’re tattooed or not; I just happen to like them, and so I get them. As a result of said tattoos, however, I’ve heard comments like: “Anyone who desecrates their bodies couldn’t know the first thing about spirituality, compassion, loving-kindness, or well-being.”

I’m not singling anyone out here, because I’ve caught it from Christians, Buddhists, yogis, nondenominational spiritualists, and more.

But it’s not just those of us with tats who are on the receiving end of this. The stereotypes often carry over to include people whose lifestyle and appearance deviate from what’s traditionally considered “acceptable” as either a spiritual or cultural norm.

This can include dyed hair, piercings, nontraditional attire, and a plethora of other choices that “don’t fit the spiritual mold.” And, sadly, it pretty much goes without saying that to be “different” is to subject yourself to occasional mockery by those who fear the unfamiliar, which is never a good time.

But as happens with every generation, younger people immersed in counterculture are speaking out. Like those who came before us, the 1960s hippies for example, we know our hearts are dedicated to the revolution, to changing humanity for the better – no matter how we choose to present our physical form to the world.

And sure, some of us may look funny to others – but isn’t life’s diversity something to be celebrated rather than scoffed at, especially when the “funny”-looking people are also working hard at making this world a better place?

I’m grateful to no longer feel the need to judge others whose outsides don’t match mine – though it certainly wasn’t always like that for me. Relinquishing superficial judgments is something I’ve worked on diligently. Through years of practice, today I can honestly say that I’ve made sincere progress.

I don’t give a shit about your style of dress or haircut or whatever other external things seemingly make us different. I’m much more interested in what’s happening on the inside—what does your heart have to say?

When my first book, Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spiritualitywas published, I received criticism from some “spiritual” people, based solely on my outer appearance. What surprised me was that some of it occurred when two spiritual teachers I deeply respect, Ram Dass and Tara Brach were kind enough to share the endorsements they’d written for it on their Facebook pages, in support of the book’s release.

Chris Grosso: a.k.a. The Indie Spiritualist

Both Ram Dass’s and Tara’s work have been extremely important in my life, so I was touched that they took the time to spread the word about mine. Their Facebook posts included a picture of me, clearly showing my heavily tattooed arms. In all fairness, the majority of the comments from people were very nice and supportive, but there were still those who felt the need to leave shitty remarks based on nothing more than my appearance.

An example from Tara’s page is: “I’m at a loss on how true wisdom can exist simultaneously with the obsession to tattoo your body. It would seem that seeing through the maya of social conditioning would include seeing the silliness of tattoos, especially many, many, many tattoos.”

If you truly consider yourself to be invested in spirituality for the betterment of all humanity, please take a moment to contemplate whether those who live differently from you or practice differently from you are affecting your life’s well-being – spiritual or otherwise. If they’re not, then why not continue to explore why you care?

I’m offering you these questions from a sincere place, a place where we can attempt to find some reconciliation rather than create more separation.

Accepting one another for exactly who we are as we step foot onto the spiritual path is of paramount importance because—regardless of the differences in our personal tastes, styles, or beliefs—bettering ourselves through conscious, intentional living is always for the greater collective good, which includes all of us.  

Each moment any of us (and I mean any of us) sits in meditation, says a prayer, practices yoga, counts a mala or rosary bead, or takes a mindful breath while skateboarding, hiking, making love, or rocking out at a concert, we truly benefit all beings.

And if your spiritual practice doesn’t help you practice kindness, compassion, and acceptance, and include everyone, then what’s the point?

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About the Author: Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist (Beyond Words, 2014) andEverything Mind (Sounds True, October 2015). He writes for ORIGIN, Mantra Yoga & Health Magazine, and The Huffington Post, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, and more. A self-taught musician, Chris has been writing, recording, and touring since the mid-90s. Visit The Indie Spiritualist

FULL MOON IN AQUARIUS: A VEDIC READING

Vedic astrologer Eve James explains how the July 31 Full Moon in Aquarius speaks to the unification of global consciousness…Image: Shae Detar

There’s been lots of talk about this being a Blue Moon, as the second Full Moon this month. But I won’t spend any more time on that here as it’s simply a calendar defect, and if we followed a lunar calendar, this discrepancy wouldn’t exist. However, in the Vedic calendar the second Full Moon in July is aligned with the star sign of Sravana, and takes place on July 31st at 6:34AM EST (3:34AM PST).

This star sign is traditionally accepted as the birth star of Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, arts (creative action) and music (the divine sound or vibration penetrating the entire universe). As the last Full Moon was in Purva Ashadha, a sign of great selfless love, and the haunting beauty of sacrifice, it makes sense that there follows a sense of unity, knowledge or wisdom.

True creative action begins when all minds in the sea of humanity are unified in the vibration of love and understanding, as opposed to divided and fragmented in our singularities. Goddess Saraswati represents the creative consciousness behind diversity, bringing a multitude of flavors, colors, sounds and experiences to the Universe. And it is within that ocean of diversity, that the song of unity is orchestrated.

The goddess is shown holding the Veena (a musical instrument) and the song of her Veena expresses each note using the one voice of a united Universe. She is also associated with the Divine Voice within, the voice of intuition, the architect or creative principle of destiny. The star sign Sravana is associated with the ears, with listening and receptivity; the ideal student.

Falling at the tail end of July, this Moon will affect much of August, guiding us into an introspective space in the coming month, and highlighting a need for truly listening to the voice of our intuition.

Even though the principle energy of both July Full Moons is potent, it is still only enough force to cause a ripple in the water. This summer will continue to be the catalyst for inspiring possibilities, yet concrete realization of these goals will still be a work in progress.

This Full Moon should be seen as a mirror reflecting all the possibilities of the future. For those of you who choose ride the waves and utilize your full potential, you will achieve your goals – especially if those goals are ultimately in service of unity, or with any cause bigger than the needs of the singular self.

How will you work with the energy of unity and collective consciousness this Full Moon period? Connect with us and share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

Read more from Eve James, or book a reading at Eveofastrology.com