by Karley Sciortino aka Aurora
Last summer, I was at a rooftop party with a girl I’d recently met—I thought it was a date, or at least I hoped it was. I didn’t know much about her, but she was pretty and seemed nice enough, until out of the corner of my eye I saw her swatting at the air above my head. “Is there a bug?” I asked. She answered, “No, there was just some dark energy hanging around you. Don’t worry, it’s gone now.” I stared at her, hoping to find some sarcasm in her expression. There was none. At that moment, I knew we had no hope for a future.
Have you noticed it too? Everywhere you go, there is someone talking about what cleanse they’re on; how someone is just back from a Peruvian ayahuasca retreat; or how you just haveto meet so-and-so’s shaman. My Facebook feed is full of people talking about all the “self work” they’re doing, and thanking the moon and stars for their fancy brunches. Somehow, New Age culture has migrated its way across the country from L.A.—perhaps it has something to do with all us creative types Airbnbing one apartment for another—and these alternative spiritual practices have become an official trend in New York. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, either. I’m just saying that everyone should be aware that the cute lawyer you met on Tinder might have crystals on his bedside table.
I’m about as rational and unspiritual as they come. I don’t know or care about astrology. I refuse to Google what “Mercury in retrograde” means. I went to yoga once, and I had nightmares about it for months afterward. I didn’t mind the stretching part, but the flute music and the weird pose names made me uncomfortable—I just prefer to pedal a stationary bike in a pitch-black room while blasting One Direction. I’ve never meditated, although I’ve considered starting on many occasions, and have many friends who do. I envy their ability to center their thoughts, which is something I struggle with daily, even with the assistance of my Ritalin prescription. I’ll admit, I do love health food and juicing and all forms of kale, but I prefer to consume them in a cynical headspace.
There was a time not long ago where I was pretty nonreceptive to anyone who seemed at all New-Agey. However, the fast-growing spiritual trend eventually led me to realize that if I refused to hang out with anyone who talked about astrology, I would be a very lonely person. And this acceptance is now something we have to navigate in our dating and sex lives, too. Do we resign ourselves to being romantically incompatible with New Agers, and therefore eliminate a large portion of our peers as potential lovers? Or do we compromise and work around it, like dealing with your boyfriend’s cat that you will never learn to love?
I guess this is all at the forefront of my mind because I play the role of a yoga-obsessed lesbian in a new comedy web series called Be Here Nowish—a kind of Portlandia for Los Angeles’s vast New Age community. The show follows two sexually progressive New York girls who run off to L.A. in search of a spiritual awakening, which results in a series of spiritual boot camps, crystal healings, plant medicine ceremonies and sage-cleansed threesomes. The show is written by, directed, and stars Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo, two of my closest friends, and two active New Agers. So, yes, I’ve been mingling with the other side.
And I’ve definitely picked up some good habits from them in the process, in terms of good health, being present, and their general positive outlook on life—which can be very contagious. Yet strangely, it wasn’t until I started spending time with Alexandra and Natalia that I realized I’d never considered the flip side of the equation: that either of them might not want to date someone like me. Alexandra told me, “The question I always wonder is: When are you supposed to tell people? It’s like, on what date do you bring up that you’re into S&M? And at what point do you mention that you see a psychic twice a week?”
“I don’t need to date someone who has a strong spiritual practice,” Natalia added, “but I do draw the line somewhere. Like if I start dating a Satanist, or an atheist who believes that the material world is all there is, that’s just not going to work.” Perhaps, the girls suggested, there should be a line of compromise. So for example: Your boyfriend agrees to tie your arms to the headboard once a week during sex, even though it’s not his thing, and in return you suck it up and go to one of those torturous-sounding hot yoga classes with him. We do these things because they mean something to the people we love.
Also, both Natalia and Alexandra appear to be in happy, healthy relationships, while my relationships are always constant, stressful struggles, so I’m open to the idea that I don’t have all the answers, and might do well to incorporate a therapeutic element into my romantic life. According to them, all this spiritual stuff can be a great tool for connection.
“I think people are becoming more creative when it comes to dating,” Alexandra said. “The culture of ‘Let’s have a drink . . . let’s have another drink,’ is easy, but it’s getting old. Couples now are opening up to meeting at juice bars, or going to workshops. Sitting and meditating together once a week and discussing your intentions can really help a couple get on the same page. My girlfriend and I have gone to yoga together three or four times a week since the beginning of our relationship, and it’s a total bonding thing.”
Now, I’m all for New Age when it means yoga over beer, because that feels like an inarguably more constructive and healthy way of spending one’s time. My problem, though, is when people use their spiritual beliefs as a crutch. It’s like religion—the idea of a higher power being in control is attractive, because it means you don’t have to be responsible for your own life. Like, your car didn’t break down because Mercury is in retrograde, your car broke down because you didn’t get it inspected before your road trip. And while it would be awesome if crystals healed people, it’s a straight-up scientific fact that they don’t. And while many people who practice New Age rituals would scoff at someone who practices Christianity, to me, in certain extreme cases, it can feel very similar—the stance is elitist and preachy; like an acceptable religion for indie people.
“These practices are becoming more and more mainstream,” Natalia told me. “People like Katy Perry and Russell Simmons are talking about how they meditate; Marie Claire recently published an article about ayahuasca ceremonies. The raised awareness is great, but it’s a fine line, because as these things become more popular, there’s a commodification that comes along with it, and superficiality, too. Being into this stuff is suddenly a badge of cool. The basis of a lot of these spiritual practices is letting go of your ego, but as it gets more trendy it actually heightens your ego. I’ve definitely been in circles where people are competitive—like ‘I'm more spiritual than you’ vibes—and that defeats the essence of what it’s all about.”
Of course, I have many friends who have different belief systems than my own: live and let live. But clearly, being friends with someone is very different than being in a relationship. Ultimately, it depends on how strong you stand by your beliefs. The way we think divides us in many ways beyond just the spiritual: Maybe you’re into death metal and cocaine, and I like to listen to Vampire Weekend while baking gluten-free cookies. But if we like each other enough, we can find a way to work it out. And if you really want that Tinder lawyer, you might have to open up your heart chakra and find some love for his crystals.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.