What if all the self-improvement is pointless?

Melusine Draco

I am generally amused by journalist Brendan O’Conner because he’s a sucker for the latest health/well-being fad and occasionally comes up with some thought-provoking comments – like the one above … For poor Brendan, the real shock of this heresy was that it came from one of the most avid and enthusiastic self-improvers he knew.   It left him reeling, he wrote, because if folk were to start questioning all these mid-life self-improvement regimes where did it leave them?

Floundering, I suppose.  Because the media is awash with quick-fix information on how to improve health, life-style and spirituality from feeding the gut with live bacteria to personal enlightenment.  The problem is, that once we adopt one of these life-style regimes it makes us feel good, and virtuous and happy that we are doing something to improve our minds, our bodies and our spirituality because self-improvement has become the new religion.

There was a time when we could unwind and switch-off with other like-minded souls.  Nowadays we’re encouraged to work so hard in an increasingly competitive world that we can’t switch-off or relax without some mindless activity; therefore we can’t sleep at night and, as Brendan O’Connor admits, he spends all his free time pursuing things that might help him relax and sleep at night! ‘So basically we spend much of our free time trying to make ourselves able for all the work and trying to undo what work has done to us,’ he added.

So … where does well-being start?  Obviously health, or rather fitness, is a good place to begin and to be able to quit while you’re ahead.  For most middle and older-agers the usual problem is the belly-fat: that lump that appears around the middle that can’t be shifted through diet or exercise. And herein lays the key to weight loss: the systematic supplementation of certain amino acids allows us to stimulate the body to produce enough fat-burning hormones – in a natural manner and in harmony with the body’s needs. Start trimming down the belly-fat and the rest takes care of its self because we now want to get back into looking and feeling good.

And physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help us live a healthier life since it helps us to maintain a healthy weight; prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes; strengthens bones and muscles … and improves your mood.

This brings us to the self-improvement of the mind and spirit … a whole different ball-game whose rules cannot be learnt in five or ten easy steps – or a weekend course with some kind of diploma at the end of it. Spiritual disciplines require years of study to perfect if any level of true mysticism or spiritual erudition is going to be attained; and it takes more than thinking good thoughts or caring for the planet. It’s doubtful whether we are going to find enlightenment with a superficial attempt at meditation although it does no harm to get into the habit of sitting by ourselves in a bubble of calm on a daily basis … but let’s not kid ourselves that nirvana is just around the corner.

The MB&S phenomena is a multi-billion pound/dollar industry and it pays dividends to encourage the unwary to invest in all manner of spiritual enhancers, supplements, products, jewellery, accessories and clothing.  The true seeker needs a teacher to make sure they understand exactly what it is they are seeking because how can you teach yourself what you don’t know exists?

Melusine Draco is the author of Pagan Portals: Western Animism – Zen and the Art of Positive Paganism  ISBN 978 1 78904 123 1 UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 80pp.

“ … her take on Zen is completely unexpected and totally original. I don’t think she has ever failed to surprise and often startle me in her previous books.  This one is no different …”  Alan Richardson, esoteric author

Due for publication July 2019.

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