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The Seduction of Spiritual Celebrity
In traditional Sufism, a seeker would find a teacher and study under him for a number of years in a particular order, or turuq. During that time the seeker would have to listen to and diligently follow everything the teacher said. At some point in the apprenticeship, the student encountered a moment of satori—borrowing from the Japanese idea of a ‘breakthrough’—and understood that teacher and student were on the same ground. Their dynamic would immediately change, for the student was now a teacher as well.
I don’t want to romanticize this historical lesson from Islam (as well as other spiritual pursuits such as yoga and martial arts). We can’t be certain such a structure was implemented across all orders—we can suppose plenty of egomaniacal ‘teachers’ poisoned the ranks. Yet the one-on-one and small group tutelage that was a prominent feature of the spiritual life for centuries is today predominantly a relic. In its wake an entire culture of spiritual celebrity has arisen.
Within this varied crew of spiritual, or as they often label themselves, ‘thought leaders,' plenty of honest seekers present their views on why existence was forged in some manner to make human beings excel at talking about how spiritual we are. (A handful of them are more honest: existence is a terrifying and at times overwhelming prospect; here are tools for dealing with that.) Yet when teachers and not the tools take center stage, the prospect of learning diminishes.
This isn’t to claim that the ‘old way’ is better. Finding that form of detailed and all-encompassing education would seem daunting in an age where healing sessions are held in group chats and soul retrievals take place via Skype. It also allows earnest students to stumble into teachers more concerned with his or her power than empowering others, which leads to the tiresome and troublesome cult of celebrity built up around one teacher and not that teacher’s method.
This mentality leaves no room for criticism. The dismissal of critique in American spiritual communities is reminiscent of the anti-intellectual crusade that Richard Hofstadter warned about a half-century ago. No one has led the charge against this as well as ‘yogilebrity’ website the Babarazzi, with articles like this, an intelligent commentary on teachers who think their messages should be above criticism.
The general mindset is this: we are teaching people how to live their ‘truth,’ or heal from some sort of trauma, or find inner peace—all noble endeavors—and thus an outsider should not be able to talk negatively about us. The brilliance of the Babarazzi is that criticism questions the method, not the teacher. Since the site launched last year, many of the ‘targets’ have not understood this; they’ve taken personally what was not meant to be personal.
This is the result of investing too much of your person and not enough of, well, the message. Thus you have a battalion of teachers armed with lessons that only resonate with their own lives, not the lives of their students, which is the only possible outcome when Youtube and online seminars are your platforms: I earn this much and you can too; to heal a broken heart you need to hear my story; to find the perfect relationship/career, do these methods that I did. They are not attempting to help people find themselves, they’re creating clones.
Such trends are compounded with social media, where teachers post photos of their classes without the students' permission when they should be focusing on teaching. They might write ‘look at all these beautiful souls finding inner strength through yoga,’ but the translation is obvious: ‘look at how packed my class is.’ The same is true when teachers post ‘Thank you to all 385 students who came out to class today! I’m so humbled.’ No you’re not. If you were, you’d never write such a thing. The same holds true when actors and pro athletes take your class—it’s not about them, it’s about you.
Such seemingly innocuous examples are effectively harmless, but they’re also indicators of what the focus of that class/teacher is. The fact that you train an actress or the CEO of a famous company takes your class does not make your teachings especially relevant.
Part of the problem traces back to the methods by which we’re taught, which focus on lofty ideals instead of the actual science of understanding. The Yoga Alliance 200-hour program requirements, for example, are not overseen by any state agency, nor do medical professionals have to consult. The entire Anatomy & Physiology section requires a mere 20 hours of study, and only five must specifically pertain to physical anatomy—the other 15 can include metaphorical constructs like chakras and nadis.
This is how the yoga teacher turned into the life coach. While it sounds ‘deep’ saying ‘yoga is not exercise,’ most Americans practice yoga for exercise. There’s nothing wrong with this, and the fact that instructors, who are teaching postures to earn their living, would say such a thing is preposterous. How your third chakra is doing when you just blew out a knee doing an improper lunge or had an inexperienced teacher crank your back open on an adjustment is useless information. No, yoga is not just about exercise, but instead of conjuring past ideals, we need to investigate why people are coming today. Across the country we’re churning out metaphysical cheerleaders instead of teachers.
And these are the spiritual celebrities of our day. They’re not confined to yoga, though that is a prominent sector of this movement. The same tendency that causes politicians to choose power over people, even after setting out with humbler ambitions, happens to these ‘thought leaders.’ The world becomes a reflection of the person they see in the mirror every day. Instead of turning another mirror on those who arrive for inspiration and guidance, they send them a link to their Youtube channel. Analytics have trumped analyzation.
To turn to tradition one final time: a teacher would not accept a seeker to learn postures, breathing techniques and the deeper layers of self-investigation until they proficiently understood the ground floor of yoga, the ethics and moral restraints. Basically, if you were not acting right in society, you were not fit to partake in the overall discipline. But Patanjali did not create a ladder, he imagined a circle, where the moments of self-realization were entwined with how you acted in your culture. You couldn't be enlightened if your actions kept indicating that you thought existence had carved out a special little place just for you. Maybe that's one historical lesson we need to reimplement.
Image: Sweet November studio/shutterstock.com
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?