Will Hardy

June 25, 2024

In my last blog, I wrote about community. I am incredibly grateful for the beautiful aspects of my personal community, and for the larger yoga community around the world. Most of my friends come from this world, having similar aspirations for inner peace, holistic health, connection, and love. While I’ve found these elements in abundance along my journey, there are also traps that seek to undermine independence.

When I say independence, I am talking about the freedom to live and think as one sees best, with conscious control over what is allowed to exert influence. As it pertains to yoga and spirituality, it’s clear that we are all interdependent, and that sharing is vital to our collective growth processes. However, too often I see my fellow practitioners relinquish their intellectual independence for a multitude of reasons. 

Honestly, sometimes it feels like the broad yoga and spiritual community discourage skepticism and encourage blind belief. You only have to scroll through social media to encounter all kinds of wild, unfounded claims promising the moon to those who would be true believers. I find this particularly ironic among those of us who have veered away from a traditional Christian path due to rigid dogma and faith requirements only to enthusiastically adopt eastern mystic traditions without thorough investigation. That’s to be expected. Across belief systems, it’s usually converts who are most fanatical.

Why do we do this? Why do we use all of our faculties to justify rejecting one system, and then dispense reason in accepting another system with just as many contradictions and complexities? Well, one culprit is that reason doesn’t always dominate our decision making process. Often, emotions rule. To be clear, it’s valid to adopt a new belief because it feels right, even if we can’t articulate why we’re pulled towards it. What I find problematic is getting so carried away with our new shiny thing that we neglect to do our due diligence. This can lead to us becoming lost in the wilderness of this new, yet ancient frontier.

In this wilderness, our insecurities and unfulfilled needs become liabilities to be exploited by (often, but not always) well-meaning guides. Some of those insecurities and needs include the need to belong to a group, the need to feel superior to others, the ego boost from thinking we have some secret esoteric knowledge, the need for recognition, or the need for security in an inherently uncertain world, to name a few. Again, just peruse the ads in a yoga or spirituality space and you’ll see that these needs are being subconsciously spoken/marketed to. 

I also notice that we’re susceptible to the gravity of charismatic teachers. Charisma and confidence are indistinguishable from skillfulness and wisdom to the undiscerning. Of course, in every teacher there’s always a bit from column A and a bit from column B, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. I encourage my students and fellow practitioners to learn to parse the difference between the heart of an offering and what amounts to fancy packaging. 

We risk losing our independence when we lose our skepticism and critical thinking. Please don’t conflate skepticism with cynicism. Skepticism says “tread carefully”. Cynicism says “never trust anyone or anything”. In life, and especially in the yoga world, we mustn’t lose that innate curiosity we all had as children to ask “why?”. Either it gets conditioned out of us or we become lazy, but either way, we learn to accept what we’re told without critical analysis. And then we just repeat what we’re told, taking statements by others to be facts, and the cycle goes on. Be wary of teachers or systems that discourage asking why. Truth is never afraid of being investigated, and values most highly the independent thinker who has pondered deeply before accepting. 

We must also learn to recognize our internal biases and our insecurities. If you’re drawn to one particular path or teaching, ask yourself why? What in you is being nurtured, stimulated, covered up? It’s not wrong to have preferences, yet if we don’t understand the underlying causes, we’re stuck in a loop we can’t even perceive. To know ourselves, both our strengths and vulnerabilities, makes it less likely that we fall prey to those who would influence us for their own gain.

There is so much to consider on this topic that one could write multiple PhD level theses and never run out of content. I’ll end with this condensed excerpt of the Kalama Sutta from the Pali Canon, a book of the Buddha’s sermons. The Kalamas were a people living at a crossroads where many spiritual teachers came to proselytize. They told the Buddha that many have come to share wisdom, and sometimes those teachings conflict. What should we believe? The Buddha said thus:


“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.


Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.


Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.


Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.


Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.


But after observation and analysis when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.”


To read the long version of this Sutta, you can visit the link below. Thanks for reading, and feel free to reply with your thoughts!



About the Author

Will Hardy

Will is the director and co-founder of Suan Sati. He founded Suan Sati as a lifestyle that would allow himself and others to live the practice and not only visit it. He is currently E-RYT® 500 certified and continues his studies with well known teachers in his time away from Suan Sati.

About Suan Sati

Suan Sati runs on-going meditation and yoga retreats in Chiang Mai, Thailand throughout the year. We welcome those who are new to yoga and meditation, and also to those who have an established practice and want to deepen their understanding. We offer guests the opportunity to come and join our family for a yoga retreat of a few days or a few weeks. We welcome those who are new to yoga and meditation, and also to those who have an established practice and want to deepen their understanding. We offer a range of all-inclusive meditation and yoga retreats in Thailand at an affordable price for those on a budget. Whether you’re new to meditation and yoga or a seasoned practitioner, we’ve got something for you. We also host our own 200 hour yoga teacher trainings in Chiang Mai multiple times per year.