Why We Need To Talk About Spiritual Appropriation

Being a “conscious intuitive” means being aware of spiritual appropriation, says Natalie Miles

Natalie Miles You Are Intuitive Spiritual Appropriation Numinous Books

Being a “spiritual” person in 2020 means something very different to what it did the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, it felt okay to learn and borrow from spiritual traditions from all over the world, sparking an explosion of interest in Eastern and Indigenous healing modalities.

But fast forward half a century, and the world we live in has changed. These days, anybody on a spiritual path needs to practice what I call “conscious intuition”—that is, to acknowledge that we are each a unique expression of the collective energy of the planet, and that while we live our lives as individuals, we can impact and be impacted by the energy of the whole. Living from this place, we begin to understand that each and every action creates a ripple effect, and that the more aligned we are with our inner guidance, the more we can have a positive impact in the world.

This sheds a whole new light on the concept of “spiritual appropriation”—and how adopting, and especially profiting from, practices that are not in our own lineage can potentially cause harm to others. The dictionary definition of cultural appropriation is: “the act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.”

This is actually rife in modern spiritual communities, and being a conscious intuitive means doing your research and becoming aware of how you may unwittingly be exploiting the spiritual traditions you are borrowing from. For example, placing statues of gods and deities that aren’t from your lineage on your altar, or using sage or palo santo to “smudge” your home or your body of “bad vibes,” could all be labelled spiritual appropriation if not engaged in with reverence, respect, and honoring of the traditions that they come from.

For example, smudging is an Indigenous practice used for purification during ceremony and prayer. But it’s become so appropriated, that the traditional white sage used by Indigenous communities is becoming endangered, with bundles for sale in high street stores. While this is detrimental for the environment, the original sanctity of the Indigenous practice is also lost as white colonialist capitalism profits from a practice that has essentially been stolen.

In the US and Canada, Indigenous people have lost their lives to defend this practice, along with other spiritual traditions. It wasn’t until 1978 with the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act that these people were even allowed to practice their own spiritual traditions. In this context, can you see how harmful it is for the descendants of white colonialists to engage with these practices without asking—and even profit from them?

Which is not to say you can’t borrow from these traditions respectfully. Ideally, find a way to participate in a cultural exchange where you gain permission to participate and learn from that culture, practice or ritual. And if smudging with sage, for example, is not something that’s in your lineage, you can engage with “smoke clearing” using other substances instead, such as rosemary, sweetgrass, and mugwort.

We must also be aware of cultural appropriation in the language used by spiritual communities. For example, the word “woke” is often used as a term for someone who is experiencing their Spiritual Reactivation—as in, somebody who has “woken up” to the true nature of the world and who they are.

But the word “woke” originated in the African American community, and was originally used to describe issues of social and racial justice. As far back as 1962, William Melvin Kelly wrote an article in the New York Times called “If You’re Woke You Dig It,” detailing how white Americans were appropriating black people’s phrases as their own. More recently, “woke” has been used by the Black Lives Matter movement to highlight the continued oppression of black communities, calling them to #staywoke and take action on the flawed political and social systems. So, using the word “woke” in the wrong context actually harms communities of color, as it bypasses and minimizes the struggles of their oppression.  

The word “tribe” is also widely used in spiritual and wellness circles, but this is disrespectful, offensive and culturally appropriative to Indigenous people. We should only be using the word when referring to Indigenous tribes—and using words such as team, group, network or collective to describe non-indigenous communities.

 If you identify as a white person, it may be triggering to read this. Which is a perfect example of being confronted by a collective shadow. While it might feel easier to brush off accusations of cultural or spiritual appropriation, and send “love and light” to all involved, can you see how this is also perpetuating systems of oppression and injustice?

 

ASK YOURSELF: WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

Equally as important as considering the lineages of the rituals and practices we engage with to connect with our intuition, is the provenance of any “tools” we pick up along the way: crystals, plants, herbs, oracle decks, tinctures, and energy clearing sprays to name a few. Some important questions to ask yourself might be:

 Where were these crystals mined or sourced from?

Were they ethically sourced?

Are they even real? (Yes, there are a LOT of fake crystals out there, just like fake Gucci handbags!)

Am I using local wildcrafted plants and herbs?

Am I buying from a reputable source?

Can I buy from a local, independent supplier, versus one of the big corporations?

Never has it been more evident that we each have a responsibility to Mother Earth. The same way we care about the province of our food, clothes, and other products, this means being super aware of the sustainability and environmental imprint of our intuition practice.

 

THE DANGERS OF SPIRITUAL LABELLING

Adding to this, it has never been trendier to label a brand or business as “Spiritual” or “Intuitive.” We’re in a time where everybody gets to be their own brand (myself included!)—and with this, there also comes the temptation to trademark “new” healing methods, modalities, products, and services. But nothing about spirituality and intuition is new. These are human tools, available to everybody, free of charge, that have been around since time began. This means Intuition is SACRED. But as spirituality becomes more and more mainstream, and develops into an even bigger industry, the power of the $$$ potential means the brand often becomes the priority.

As humans, labeling things makes them more accessible, for ourselves and our potential audience. But be aware of the spiritual labelling that is happening across social media platforms and businesses. Practice discernment. Ask yourself, “does this feel genuine? What does the energy of this brand/person feel like? Is it legit?” And remember, whenever someone says they have a “new label” to a healing modality, or have discovered a “new” way to work with Spirit, it’s just that. A new label. What we’re connecting to comes from the same source.

It’s exciting that more people are looking towards intuition and spirituality as an anchor during these shifting times. That more of us are returning to our inner power and connection. It’s also fantastic to see more people sharing their experiences and their intuitive gifts with the world. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that intuitive power and connection to Spirit are the property of the collective, and make it all about the label, the brand and the trademark.

Here’s to us all becoming conscious intuitives for the Now Age, and engaging with our spiritual growth and development in a way that benefits not just us, but the collective.

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Excerpted from You Are Intuitive: Trust Your Truth, Take Back Your Power by Natalie Miles, out now with Numinous Books.

IS IT EGO, FEAR, OR INTUITION?

How to tell the difference between ego, fear, and intuition, is about learning to listen to—and differentiate between—the different voices in your head, says Natalie Miles.

You Are Intuitive Natalie Miles Numinous Books Intuition quote

It’s the question I get asked the most: “How do I trust what my intuition is telling me? How do I know it’s real? Is it all my imagination? Is it my ego talking? Am I making this all up?”

Learning to differentiate between the different voices in your head is often the key missing piece when it comes to trusting your intuition, as it will help you tune into and prioritize what it’s telling you. The thing is, all these voices sound just like you. Let’s take a closer look at the role of these three inner voices.

Your Ego Voice is the voice of your external identity, or how you see yourself in the world. It is also the part of you that keeps up a running commentary of the fears, worries, desires, needs and judgments you generate daily just by being a human in the world. When this chatter is running the show, it’s very hard to hear the softer, gentler voice of your intuition.

It’s easy to see why common wisdom in the New Age community is that the Ego is a “negative” part of us, and that we should do our best to try to transcend it. And it’s true that paying it too much attention can be the cause of so much suffering. But if we truly lived from a place of no Ego, we’d be denying the fact that we’re still humans having a human experience on this planet. Not to mention that when we suppress our fears, desires and the emotions connected to them, it ultimately causes us more pain and suffering. It’s actually when we accept the duality that lies within us, no longer viewing the Ego and its concerns as either good or bad but simply a part of our whole self, that we truly step into our authentic truth and power.

This can also be said for the Fear voice, which is the voice of our inner survival instinct. We are all programmed with a fight, flight, or freeze mechanism to help us respond to danger. The Fear voice is the Ego voice with the volume turned up, and it kicks in during times of panic and acute stress and discomfort. Although this mind is programmed within us to help us survive in these moments, more often than not, it can be hard to distinguish between what is real and our Fear mind causing even more chaos as we lose all perspective. This is why discovering how to use and trust your Intuitive voice during these times is a skill to relearn and master.

Meanwhile, your Intuitive Voice is here to support you and guide you. It’s important to stress again that all these voices will “sound” like you. You’re not going to suddenly hear strange voices from another realm or the “voice of God” in your head. But unlike the Ego / Fear Voice, which is like your personal trainer barking at you, your Intuitive Voice will sound confident, gentle, and calm. You’ll also hear it from the “back” of your head, while the Ego / Fear Voice will come from the “front” of your mind. The Intuitive Voice also isn’t hung-up on things happening on any particular time frame, or on any specific outcome. This can make it feel riskier to trust, as nine times out of ten we want the Intuitive Voice to show up when we need an answer quickly! What actually happens, is that your Intuitive Voice will deliver its message and then disappear —the skill being learning to listen when it speaks to you, versus trying to make it show up when you want. The Ego / Fear Voice on the other hand, is ever-present, chattering away in your head and urging you to act NOW.

This is actually a key way you can distinguish between an ego / fear based message and your intuitive guidance. Notice: what message has been playing on a loop in your head the past day or so? What would happen if you just let the need to act on this go, and trusted that the “real” time and course of action to pursue will simply let itself be known?

Now let’s look at some other ways to tell the difference between ego, fear, and intuition.

 

QUALITIES OF THE EGO VOICE

-You can’t stop thinking about something and the voice keeps going ‘round and ‘round in your head. Am I doing enough? Should I do something different? Is this going to work?

-The voice has an agenda, expectation, goal, or plan. When am I going to get that job? I need to know if they’re the one. My five-year plan says I should be doing this by now.

-There is a desire for a logical and obvious “solution” to fix a situation or get guidance. I must work out a detailed, step-by-step plan for how to proceed and make changes in my life

-It wants an answer NOW! I should have worked this out by now! I don’t have time to wait! I have a deadline to make a decision.

-The ego voice often uses the words “should,” “would,” or “must.” I should do it this way. I must act now. How would that be perceived?

 

Location

The Ego voice comes from the front of the head.

 

In the body

Can make your body feel tense or tight.

 

Quality of Voice

Chattering

Fast paced

Fearful

Foggy

Easily led

 

Emotional Guide

Anxiety

Panic

Confidence

Motivation

Overwhelm

Confusion

Frustration

Anger

 

QUALITIES OF THE FEAR VOICE

-Wants to control everything around them including the actions and emotions of others. The more control I have the “safer” I will be.

-Suspicious and paranoid. Wants to question everything and everyone.

-Kicks in during stressful events, conversations, relationships, uncertainty or trauma. It’s time to get into survival and protection mode.

-Fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and not knowing. What might happen to me? I don’t have a plan. What will this mean for the future?

-Feels like it’s missing out on something. I might miss out on that opportunity. I don’t want to fail at any cost. I want to feel differently from how I am feeling right now.

 

Location, Emotional Guide, and Quality of Voice

Just like the Ego Voice it comes from the front of the head. It will have the same voice quality and emotional guide as the Ego Voice, but amped up—like having a military general barking orders at you or the volume dial being turned up to MAX. Your whole energetic intuitive body feels like it’s on overdrive, and everything seems overwhelming, chaotic, and out of control.

 

 QUALITIES OF THE INTUITIVE VOICE

-Guidance comes in and then disappears from your mind. Speak to this person. Listen to this creative idea. Do this. Go there. Take action. You will hear it once and it won’t keep niggling at you.

-Isn’t attached to any desire or outcome. Nothing is “right” or “wrong,” and it doesn’t matter what I think I “want.” 

-Doesn’t feel forced or have an agenda. I surrender up energetically to what is happening or will happen in the future.

-Feels good in your body and energetic sphere. Something just feels “right” as if I know it to be true.

-Doesn’t feel fixed or logical but you want to know more. May offer up a different path or route that you had not thought of. What about doing it this way?

-Timing is flexible or does not factor at all. It doesn’t matter when it happens, my job is to stay on the path and trust where I am being taken.

-Feels like it wants to support you and guide you. Feels like a best friend or confidante that always wants the best for you. Feels like it has your back and wants you to succeed.

 

Location

Deep in the back of the head or mind.

 

In your body

May be felt throughout your whole intuitive body, as body tingles, warmth, cold breeze

(There’s a whole chapter coming up on how you can identify the bodily sensations of your intuitive voice)

 

Voice Quality

Confident

Calm

Rational

Trustworthy

Guiding

 

Emotional Guide

Calm

Centered

Balanced

Reassured

 

Are you starting to tell the difference yet? The next step is to consciously listen out for when your intuition is speaking to you—and then take action on what it says.

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Excerpted from You Are Intuitive: Trust Your Truth, Take Back Your Power by Natalie Miles, out now with Numinous Books.

(NUMINOUS) BOOKS ARE MAGIC

Following a year-long hiatus, we’re back as Numinous Books. Founder Ruby Warrington explains the process behind this evolution, and why she believes books are magic

Nnuminous books self-publishing Ruby Warrington

As regular readers will know, I put The Numinous on hiatus in July 2019. Since attempting a failed “comeback” in November (which I knew was gonna fail, put which I put us all through anyway!), I have been in even deeper reflection about the next evolution of this platform. A very tired and cynical part of me wanted to just walk away. I was exhausted from the constant churn of maintaining the socials, the newsletter, the podcasts, the blog—and I badly needed to focus on work that actually paid my rent.

We’d had seven good years after all, and what began as a project to help me learn more about the mystical arts, had also done its job, in a way: I had learned enough about astrology to develop my own personal practice, and along the way (surprise!) I found I had begun to heal the hurting, over-achieving “good girl” part of me that felt the constant need to prove myself. A journey that is documented in the three book projects I had also put out, beginning with the release of Material Girl, Mystical World in 2017—with Sober Curious (2018) and The Numinous Astro Deck (2019) telling their own parts of my story.

But also … I’d put so much time, and love, and passion into building this thing. Could I really just walk away? NO. At least … no so fast. And so I sat, and I waited, and I meditated on a question that I have come back to periodically since reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks: “What is my zone of genius?”

Hendricks defines the zone of genius as the state in which you get into “flow,” and find ceaseless inspiration as you engage with your natural abilities, rather than those you have leaned and perfected over the years (the latter being your “zone of excellence”). The theory being that the more time you spend in your zone of genius, the more energized, fulfilled, and successful you will be. What I landed on this being for me? Reading. Writing. Words. BOOKS. I’m always surprised when authors talk in interviews about the “torture” of the actual writing process. Not me! Put me in a room with a laptop and a big idea and I’ll be happy for days. I love editing other people’s words just as much, and even enjoy the intricate map-making of finding my way out of writers’ block. In short, making words on a page brings me the kind of satisfaction I imagine farmers reap from harvesting a bumper crop.

As soon as I turned my attention back towards WRITING, it was like the magic magnet effect the manifestation gurus talk about hummed into action. In my burnt-out state, beginning another book project myself was out of the question. But before I knew it, I was inundated with work helping other people craft, write, and edit their book proposals and manuscripts. And able to earn a living from it. By the time COVID came along, I felt like I’d cracked the fucking DaVinci code. I found myself actually getting paid to do what I actually love … with zero pressure whatsoever to look good in selfies or have something funny, deep, or provocative to say on Instagram every day!

Halle-fucking-lujah. I call this “book doula” work, I LOVE IT, and it is currently how I’m spending the majority of my time. Not that I haven’t been working as a writer and editor my whole career—but it’s the words-to-self-promotion ratio that’s shifted. The actual “making words on a page” part of my work (i.e. zone of genius) in journalism, for The Numinous, and as an author, has always been squeezed into the margins until now. The pitching of ideas, hosting of events, and growing of the socials (i.e. constantly trying to prove myself) having taken precedence. Too much time spent on “zone of excellence” shit—now that is what will burn a person out.

As for how this applies to The Numinous? In alignment with this new personal direction, the platform is back as NUMINOUS BOOKS. Ta-da! This is where my year of soul-searching has brought me. And it feels SO RIGHT. A natural extension of my book doula work, this means I am also working with a selection of authors to self-publish their books across this platform—meaning working with them to concept, write, and edit their books, as well as consulting on the design, marketing, and PR process. Each “Numinous Book” will also have its own launch across the Numinous blog, social media, and newsletter. And you’ll be hearing about the first Numinous Books project very soon!

Over the years, The Numinous has been home to so many diverse voices and perspectives on emotional and spiritual wellbeing in the Now Age. As I have also written about here, the fact that much of the deep wisdom that’s being made available to us thanks to the internet also gets boiled down into bite-sized, snackable, and ultimately throw-away chunks of social media “content,” has also never sat right with me. Which brings me back to BOOKS.

There’s a bookstore in Brooklyn called Books Are Magic—a phrase that has spun circles in my head since I first heard it. Because it’s true. Books are also meaningful, impactful, and a slow-cooked antidote to the pace of modern life. You can’t read (let alone write) a book in the time it takes to swipe up. It is the commitment asked of us by reading (or writing) a book that gives it the power to transport and transform us, to shape the way we think, act, and see the world. Reading a book—whether it’s a novel or memoir that allows us to walk in the shoes of the main protagonist, developing empathy for others along the way, or a text that teaches us something profound—is like having a deeply private and intimate conversation with the most essential and always evolving part of yourself. Put another way, books are both our mirrors and our mediums for communicating with our unseen selves.

It’s no wonder dictators and fascists like to burn books—just like they burned the witches back in the day. And it is also an act of resistance that The Numinous will continue to be a home for books and modern mystics alike, to both the “reading” and the “readers” that we turn to for answers when trying to make sense of ourselves and the world. Thank you for being here for it—and sign up for our newsletter and keep following @the_numinous for a bit of both each week.

They say everybody has a book in them. Might yours be a fit for Numinous Books? You can learn more about our publishing services here—and contact us to set up a discovery call to discuss your project.