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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"New Age" it really "new"? Stereotypes of the New Movement of Spirituality

One day at a demonstration, an audience member approached me after my Taiji sword routine. She asked: "Does one need to observe any of the Buddhist faith in order to do Tai Chi?"

"No, actually.....many concepts in Taiji have Taoist philosophies...and no one needs to "convert" to Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, or anything else, if that's what you mean" .

"If you don't mind me asking, what is your personal belief.....??" she asked.

"Let's just say I'm a combination of New Age-Taoist ..."

"Ah..." The lady nodded as her eyes briefly darted back and forth. "You use crystals and stuff in Tai Chi practice?"

I chuckled. "Um...No, actually. (must've been the "new age" thing that made her think "crystals". I wondered if she thought I carried crystals around in a special silk pouch,if I had an I-Ching set in my backpack, or if I was vegan).....Although I do support the belief that certain crystals are molecularily aligned to facilitate healing, I don't carry crystals while I practice.

As I left the performance, I was amused at the lady's questions....very amused at many of today's stereotypes of "New Age" (or confused by some as the "new hippie").....the "Eco green, vegan, crystal healing, patchouli scented, birkenstock wearing, bohemian attire, incense burning, chanting, meditating, crystal ball gazing, holistic/naturopathic medicine, burning man attendees or wanna-go's, evolution-consciousness-be-one-with-the-universe.....the list goes on and on. I giggled to myself as I thought back to all the people that lump Taijiquan into New Age.

Although, in my honest opinion, I believe that Taijiquan is indeed a tool that fits well for this "New Age" lifestyle....but its been a tool in what we Westerners call "New Age", for thousands of years outside of the Western society. So, with that said....the new age movement is not really a "new" method of personal spirituality. A "new" movement maybe, but not a new method. Many cultures observe the aspects of nature, meditation, energy work, crystal therapy, naturopathic medicine, sacred healing, holistic massage etc. The Native Americans, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, a culture and chances are those countries that believe in naturopathic, energy, and herbal medicine, the Tao, Karma etc, have the same spiritual aspects as other styles of spirituality.

For those of you that know me well, you'll be reading this, waiting for me to put my 2 cents into a I won't disappoint you! Here goes..

So....what's my beef?

I'm amused at those who go so far as dressing a certain "woo woo" way (as some of my friends call it...woo woo.) Really, now, does new age have a dress code? Will we be "ostracized" for not wearing clothing with mandalas, and choosing not to chant the "six healing sounds" while on the bus?

I'm amused at those who think that all "Woo Woo'ers" are vegan, live in a compound, wear amulets and crystals all day, and are borderline 'nutty'.

I'm surprised at people that stereotype this lifestyle as all vegan people taking various drugs, using the lifestyle as an excuse to get high. I've even heard people talk about all New Agers being prone to bi-sexual "free love", or being polygamous people that observe no sexual safety whatsoever.

While there are so many stereotypes, I'll venture to say that if I had to describe myself, I'd say I'm a "New Agey, Taoist, Confucius quoting, Tai Chi player". I think, that some people just see the extremists, and assume that all New Agers are the same way. Although I fit some of the stereotypes, I would appear to most that I don't fit them at all.

I believe in expression of spirituality, and prefer to keep learning about the sense of street smarts, I don't wear the stereotypical stuff...I wear t shirts and jogging shoes, I ride a motorcycle, I drive a sports car, I eat meat as well as veggies, I drink martinis as well as fish oil, I listen to jazz and disco as well as Enya, Trillian Green, and Deva Premal, I love watching Yoga but don't prefer it as my main movement art, I quote the Masters but don't claim discipleship under any, I prefer to be monogamous as polygamy is not my bag, I observe ceremony but don't attempt to typify myself with them, I've never been to Burning Man but love art and all its expressions but I won't be mortally disappointed if I never get a chance to attend a Burning Man Festival, I teach people how to use violence if necessary, to protect their own safety and that of loved ones. I'm a supporter of Holistic, Naturopathic, and Energy medicine, but I won't run to an herbalist if I find out I have BET I'll see a Western conventional MD. Most people would see me as a non-religious, middle aged, martial arts instructor instead of labeling me as a "Woo Woo". But, inside, call me what you will.

I hope that with the "new movements" of spirituality, that there will not be the prejudices within them. Will I not be considered one of the "new expression", just because I don't "fit the type"?

Call it what you will. I call it Spirituality. New age, Old age, New expression, whatever.

Darn it....Now where did I put my crystal?


DarkArashi said...

Here, here (tapping my cane in approval). I get the same type of question. "How can I be a spiritual being, when my training is so violent?" UM...ever hear of "Peace through superior fire power?" You are not alone.

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Restita, Seattle Wushu Center said...

Thank you for your comment, Marion. I hope my article allows some people to think before "typcasting" others. :)