In today’s world, we are all more connected than ever. And I’m not referring to the spiritual definition of the word. Rather, we are very connected to our phones and to each other through social media.
In the yoga world, it is rare to find a yogi who’s not on social media, and probably Instagram more specifically.
Look up the hashtag #yogaasana or #yogapractice or any of those that have the term yoga or yogi in them, and you’ll find an overabundance of pictures and captions to feed your practice.
In the yoga world, it is rare to find a yogi who’s not on social media.
One of the goals? Cultivating and sharing our spiritual life and practices, which, after all, is an important part of this whole yoga thing.
But isn’t this contradictory? If spirituality is about looking for answers to the bigger questions about life, connecting to higher matters and preoccupations, then is it really possible to not let the materialistic aspect of social media impact our spirituality?
And since the answer to that question is probably a negative one, then what kind of impact does sharing and engaging on social media have on our spiritual life?
A Closer Look at the Meaning of Spirituality and a Spiritual Life
No matter how you decide to access spirituality, it is a fact that as human beings, we are made to look for meaning and investigate the world around us. This is what spirituality is about.
Our minds are meant to ask the bigger questions. We are made to wonder about life, death, destiny, our purpose here on earth, and the like.
Depending on a number of factors such as upbringing, personal aspirations, or curiosity, we all approach spirituality differently. Whether it is through religion, inquiry, yoga, prayer, meditation, nature, or art doesn’t really matter. Sooner or later, we all feel this push to look beyond the materiality of things.
But how do we do this today?
A Spiritual Life in Our Modern World
As our world has changed, we have more things than ever (think clothes, technology, bathroom supplies). We consume more than ever (we watch, read, listen every day). And one of the reasons mindfulness has become such a buzzword is probably because we need it more than ever.
In the Bhagavad Gita, the difference between Prakriti and Purusha is very clear. In Vedic philosophy, they refer, respectively, to the material world and the “higher” world, our higher selves.
It is said that to access that higher world (our most precious aspiration), we need to let go of attachment. In other words, let go of things, people, and worldly ambitions.
Aren’t we cancelling out all our practice benefits if we indulge in social media?
So aren’t we cancelling out all our practice benefits if we indulge in social media?
Aren’t we just focusing on Prakriti? And we can’t just get away with this and forget about spirituality because it brings balance, peace, and connection to our minds.
Spirituality is a matter of wellness. If we take time to ponder the big questions and find the answers that ring true to us, we can live in alignment with who we really are. Ultimately, a spiritual life brings happiness.
How We Use Social Media
As mentioned, one of the culprits to our need for mindfulness is definitely how connected we are to our phones. And, more specifically, how connected we are to social media.
Social media has drastically changed the way we communicate today. Among other things, it can help give causes a visibility they wouldn’t otherwise get. (Think of issues that became “buzz” stories from one day to another with a click of a button.)
When it comes to yoga, you can find countless videos and quotes to inspire your practice. You can find yogis sharing their journeys like you and me, and more. And think of all the wonderful people you’ve met through Instagram or Facebook groups!
But, although social media has indeed had a positive influence on our lives, its negative counterparts offer our curious yogi minds some food for thought, too.
The Downside of Social Media
Where should we start? Do we talk about our tendencies to compare our lives to others’ highlight reels? How about giving away likes while mindlessly scrolling for the tenth time of the day? Often, we don’t even bother to take part in the conversations that so many captions desperately call us to.
Should we talk about the amount of judgment humans can indulge in under a picture that triggers them? It’s as if thinking about what we want to say before saying it has become a thing of the past . . . just that old-fashioned thing we used to do back when the internet didn’t exist.
All of these things don’t serve our spiritual practice or our spiritual life. If anything, they anchor us in the material world. They push us to focus on the outside (what can be seen) like people’s asana practice, rather than what can be thought of (like the big life questions).
Again, this is the idea of the division between Purusha and Prakriti.
Social media isn’t always as glamorous as we think: 10 Negative Side Effects of Social Media (and How to Overcome Them)
Social Media and Spirituality Don’t Always Connect
Instagram, among others, can sometimes feel like a big pool of noise. Often, it’s a noise that doesn’t help us connect with who we are at our core. Sometimes, spirituality is nowhere to be seen but in overly shared Osho and Rumi quotes and heavy, supposedly enlightened captions teachers share because they feel they have to.
To the mix, add that spending time on social media can cause anxiety and even lead to depression. We can become addicted to posting, collecting likes, comments, and follows.
Many yogis, maybe even more so teachers, will definitely relate to these feelings and tendencies. Isn’t that ironic?
Unfortunately, to each positive aspect listed above, we could find a negative one. For example, the other side of the coin when it comes to giving causes visibility is “slacktivism.” This is sharing without engaging with the cause itself. It is simply pressing the share button online without taking action in real life.
It is so very tempting to like and share without truly doing the work off screen.
What does this have to do with our spiritual life? Well, think about. How many times have you shared the words of people you admire, that made you think about the world, life, purpose, destiny for a second and then forgotten about it?
How many times have you liked a post because it showed up on your feed, without actually taking the time to think about what the author was saying about x, y, and z?
And, how many times have you posed for a picture or recorded a video without focusing on your breath, intention, or the things that take you closer to your spiritual self?
It is so very tempting to like and share without truly doing the work off screen. Besides, time spent on social media is also time not spent reading, learning, asking, or with friends and family getting into deep conversations.
Unless we focus on having deep conversations and using social media without scrolling mindlessly, chances are we’re not feeding our spiritually-hungry mind.
So What Now? Here Are 3 Tips and Tricks to Add Some Spiritual Life to Your Social Media Time:
We can’t just leave social media. That would be avoiding the problem. And we shouldn’t have to live one extreme (be mindless social media addicts) or the other (live in an ashram in deepest India).
Rather, we need to adjust our time spent on social media. We need to make it more present, and make it feed our desire to be more spiritual and connected.
One of the most important things to do when it comes to spiritual life and building a spiritual practice and cultivating it is to ask. Asking questions helps you keep an open mind and puts you in a mindset that is open to change. So ask more often, and more specific questions.
Be proactive in your spiritual journey, and make social media a part of it. Here are three examples of how to do just that.
1. Look for people who are sharing their true spiritual life journeys – authentically!
Unfollow people who don’t have anything to say, who don’t help your practice. Would you go to a yoga class that didn’t move you?
See your social media time the same way you see a practice. If you don’t feel inspired by a studio, don’t go there. If you don’t feel inspired by someone, unfollow them. Because if you don’t, it would be a bit like surrounding yourself with people you don’t want to listen to. And that can’t be good for your spiritual life and aspirations.
A couple of my favorite, thought-provoking accounts are: @thebroadplace, @onbeing, @risingwoman, @danafalsetti, @wombenwellness, @__nitch.
2. Savor posts
Call yourself out when you’re mindlessly scrolling. When you do, you’ll be taking your spiritual practice off the mat and into your daily life. (This is what we’re after!)
Think about the people behind the posts, appreciate the effort they’ve put into what you’re seeing and reading, and listen to what they have to say.
Welcome their ideas and take them away with you off the screen and onto your mat or meditation cushion. This is how they’ll feed your spiritual practice instead of feeding your restless mind.
3. Take part in conversations
Don’t give away likes. Take the time to read what people write and comment when you have things to say, when they make you think, when they help you, when they add value to your life.
Social media is meant to be social! Use that opportunity to make your spiritual life and practice social. Connect with others on a deeper level.
The Takeaway on Social Media and Spiritual Life
Not everything in your social media feed has to be serious (yogi memes are just too funny). However, it is important to give what you consume some thought.
As long as we keep liking and following accounts that don’t help us discuss and answer the big questions we ask ourselves, they’ll stay around and keep depleting our practices rather than enhancing them. This is the exact same way plastic cups at Starbucks and high fructose corn syrup will continue to be the norm as long as we continue agreeing to use them.
It’s way too easy to be mindless when using these platforms, which doesn’t help your search for meaning or satiate your hunger for deep conversations. The good news is you have a choice. It is up to you to decide what you consume. Use that freedom!
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