Groupthink as spiritual practice

Since launching in 2008, my website contact page has regularly received communications from fundamentalist Christians. Their basic message is that I am engaging in sinful practices – meaning yoga – which are antithetical to my salvation, something they see as uniquely possible through Jesuschristourlord.

Many of these messages go on for several long paragraphs, although I seldom read beyond the first sentence or two, which is sufficient to get the gist of their proselytising. What I find most fascinating in these missives – apart from the fact that somebody actually takes time out of their day to track down offending websites, find the contact details and fill out the form – is that the sender is ALWAYS anonymous, and uses a fake email address and contact number (which is usually 1234556789).

In their blind conviction that I am a sinner (and therefore doomed to I’m-not-sure-what because I don’t read the whole thing before deleting), they don’t seem to find it problematic that they are dishonest in their attack – after all, one of the Bible’s Ten Commandments is don’t lie (often written as bearing false witness).

In fact, they very probably don’t see what they’re doing as an attack at all, but clearly think on some level it will appeal to me and show me the error of my ways. It hasn’t worked so far. It does nonetheless regularly remind me of the unreliable nature of the human mind, which can trick itself into believing and justifying anything and act upon those beliefs unquestioningly. (And for this reminder I am truly grateful, Amen.)

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. / Ceux qui peuvent vous faire croire à des absurdités, peuvent vous faire commettre des atrocités.

~ Voltaire

This isn’t just a problem in religious circles – it’s clearly a problem in the world of politics, and even the supposedly rational realm of science, wherein self-identified scientists frequently reject out of hand ideas (as well as research conclusions) that don’t fit with their preconceived notions, seemingly without considering (at least publicly) whether doing so is genuinely scientific.

Are you sure?

Zealots can be found everywhere, maybe even in our own head. We are never entirely safe from the influence of our own beliefs and biases in our thinking. If our spiritual practice does not have us questioning and reassessing our thinking on a daily basis, we can be easily led down the garden path by those who convincingly repeat what we already believe to be true. There is something reassuring about feeling we belong to a group of people who think and feel the way we do.

Are you sure?

Yet, it is impossible for two human minds to think and feel the same way about everything. Step back from the headlines, the social media feed, and the fear mongering of every stripe and colour. What if we regularly took some time to challenge our current beliefs, and allowed ourselves to simply not know how we think or feel about everything all the time? It’s remarkably refreshing to keep an open mind, to question and update cherished assumptions, and to try to understand what is behind all of it before settling on one side or another.

Especially now, we must ground our spiritual practice in discernment and detachment. While people around us are increasingly fearful and polarised, we can be a source of stability for everyone in the eye of the storm.

With much love and light,

Join me this Thursday 28 January from 19:30-21:00 for a Full Moon Meditation online – find out more and register here!