While the new spirituality traverses much of the same territory that spiritual pilgrims have crossed throughout the ages, it also brings us into uncharted lands and presents each of us with disturbing paradoxes: If I focus too much of the self, won't I end up drowning in Narcissus' pool? But if I neglect myself, what will I really have of value to give to others? If I turn my attention to my body, what will keep me from becoming vain, or materialistic, or obsessed with the body's inevitable demise? But isn't the body the temple of the soul? If I work on opening my heart, what's to stop me from becoming an emotional mess? Conversely, won't I dry up if I concentrate exclusively on spirit? With so many ways to worship, seek, and heal, what will prevent me from flitting like a butterfly from fad to fad to fad, never landing long enough to settle into wisdom and health?
It's important to swing back and forth between these questions. Somewhere, in the middle, between the old homogenized, autocratic ways, and the new diverse and individualistic ways, is a clear path through the paradoxes. The goal, as we move from the old ways to the new, is not to replace one set of "isms" with another. Rather, the goal is to become more and more genuine, fearless, and free. Therefore, one of the most valuable skills we can develop as we travel the spiritual path is the ability to known the difference between genuine spirituality and "spiritual materialism," a phrase coined by the Tibetan scholar and meditation teacher Chögyam Trungpa.