You Don't Need Any of That Stuff: On Spiritual Materialism and How To Step Into Authentic Daily Communion
Crystals. Mala beads. Beaded bracelets. Feathers. Singing bowls. Earthen tea cups. Special jewelry. Statues. Robes. Pendants, wands, cards and shamanic couture.
It can start to feel like we’re just one crystal away from spiritual perfection. Like getting the mala wrapped just so will really get us in the groove.
Let me back away a touch and say that I’ve owned all this stuff. I still have some of it.
That said. Even more intriguing than the perfect social media picture, is the perfectly put-together spiritual altar social media picture.
Consider this an open letter to those to whom it applies.
Is that you?
It can feel so fun, so exciting, to collect all the stuff. It can feel like we’re creating that perfect bubble for ourselves, bordered by amethyst on the left, and cushioned by sheepskin on the right. It can start to feel like we really need all these things. And that the more of them we combine in one place, perhaps our altar, the more “charged up” and spiritual our space will be. The more we will benefit and reap the energy.
Big exhale. And an extra deep exhale if you’re feeling annoyed or triggered right now.
I promise, we’re going somewhere with all of this.
How would you feel...if all that special stuff disappeared? Like, right now.
If you would feel distressed, sad, or anxious, we need to talk.
We can get just as cluttered with spiritual gadgets as we can with the regular stuff. Not like there’s any separation between “spiritual” and “regular”...even the dust bunnies are made of sacred star dust.
But I digress.
At the heart of this discourse, is this:
Can we live without the objects with which we make our altars?
Can we create an altar anytime, anywhere, with any thing?
Better yet, can we make that altar inside our heart?
Can our heart itself be the altar?
How distressed and ungrounded will we feel if we do not have touch with our sacred items on a daily basis? To what extent have we externalized our own spiritual and direct connection, and routed them through the feather, the crystal and the statue?
Can we survive, or rather thrive in divine ease and glory, for months without these items?
Can we step away? And in doing so, come back much more centered, connected, and deeply rooted to the core intention we have carried within all this stuff, in the first place?
Well, if we step away and reconnect, we may not come back with as much zest. Because we’ll realize how none of it is essential to our Divine connection. Helpful, beautiful, alluring...but not essential.
Now back to the questions.
Is it necessary for all we meet to know our spiritual affiliations just by looking at our body? Or can our spiritual light be seen in the eyes, gestures and actions, first and foremost? Are we wearing the tribal regalia, and how important is that? Do we give the regalia more attention and time and energy than our practices of virtue-cultivation and direct connection?
I love my crystals. They hold a special meaning and story for me. I love the beeswax candles that I poured with my mom, and my frankincense mala beads that I bought in India, which I love to sniff after reciting mantras. These items are valuable to me. And I make sure that they are not more valuable than the time I carve out to recite the mantras. And I keep checking in on that.
I keep imagining myself letting go of the mala, and the crystals, and the other stuff. I check in.
When I see photos of the overloaded altars and the eagle-pose hands wrapped in Rudraksha beads, I check in again. Because the weeds keep growing back.
Personally, I have yet to desire snapping and sharing a photo of a sacred altar set-up that I’ve created with my prayers and intentions. Sharing my inner-most prayer-space with thousands of energetic beings across the interwebs hasn’t appealed to me. When I open a sacred space...I just enter it and do what I’m there to do. Sans snaps. If you feel supported and loved and nourished by sharing your sacred altar design, then that is your reason, and I applaud you for knowing that.
By the way, how sacred can some other items be? You know, that sentimental non-spiritual-looking one. We’ve all got those, too, and they don’t fit the bill of spiritual beauty. And we rarely snap and share photos of them. Because they are that special.
All this to say: Stay curious. I’m breathing with you. Let’s transform any threads of spiritual materialism into true communion. What are your creative and intuitive rituals? How do you cultivate the altar of your heart?
A great way to start rooting out the spiritual materialism is by gifting one of your favorite items to a person who seems to have a connection with it. Or a person who you want to bless in some way.
Give it from your heart, and see the true magic unfold.
How willing are you to ceremonially leave a favorite item in the middle of the forest, or to throw it into the ocean?
I can personally vouch for that being a highly interesting experience.
I'm still doing this work, too, and I certainly have my twinges of resistance to imagining letting go of all the stuff. It's a nice way to spot any spiritual materialism still playing in the system.
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In the comments, let me know: How did you feel while reading this? Does any of this apply to you?