Hollywood is not particularly outspoken about spirituality or spiritual practices. However, with the hustle and bustle, and the mental strain that often accompanies creative projects, it is little wonder that many celebrities are beginning to turn to religion and spiritual practices to cope.
Hollywood stars have often led the charge on wellness trends, practices like transcendental meditation (TM), have received significant marketing from being featured in movies and music. Celebrities like Megan Fox, Paul McCartney, and Connie Britton are very open about staying centered and meditating for a few minutes daily. The effects of such spiritual practices are numerous, depending on who you listen to, from lowering anxiety to stress reduction, sleep improvement, and stopping wrinkles. However, for most people drawn into these practices, the main goal has always been to achieve enlightenment and inner peace.
According to Nina Verkoeyen, a trained Psychologist, and the founder of spiritual movement; Meta Spirituality; “The era of new age spirituality is fading and all over the world, more and more people are voicing dissatisfaction with most of the practices for the simple fact that they do not offer any long term peace or centredness. I spend most of my time writing books, traveling and speaking, and my message is simple; New age spirituality is now old age, and meta spirituality is the end of spiritual pursuit.”
Verkoeyen is the author of 5 books and has taught self-awareness for the past 15 years. She has appeared twice on the cover of Yoga Journal (Russia), New Yoga Magazine (USA), YOGA Magazine (UK), and numerous international publications.
Alicia Keys was not always one to try spirituality or any form of religion, but motherhood made her try meditation for the first time. The grammy award winner and “No one” singer admits to trying meditation for the first time after she gave birth to her youngest child Genesis Ali.
The mother of two shared in an op-ed in USA Today, “Like many new moms, I was exhausted, but the depletion was more than psychological; my spirit was shot…I will be honest, the first time I tried meditation, I slept off… I tried it again, and I felt a spark.” The 42-year-old singer admits, “Once you make that kind of deep connection with yourself, your relationship with everything and everyone around you changes. As I’d hoped, I became a better mother because I was more confident in myself.”
Reacting to the constant search for peace and connection among some of Hollywood’s elite, Nina Verkoeyen says, “As a trained psychologist, I have studied the human mind and why we deal with frustrations, why every change in our state, like childbirth or loss, distorts our internal balance so much. I spent years practicing mindfulness, Yoga, and all forms of new-age wellness therapy, but there was always something missing, a piece of the puzzle, while I did find some comfort in these practices, they didn’t give me the ultimate peace that I sought. The problem with new-age spirituality is that it often thrives in novelty, but it begins to have less impact after a while. This is because it is only a stage in our ultimate pursuit for truth, it is not the ultimate.”
Emma Watson is more popularly known for her role as Hermione Granger in The Harry Potter Series. She has since gone on to build an impressive career in Hollywood and starred in the controversial movie Noah, which aimed to explore the story of the biblical Noah while taking some artistic license.
Watson has repeatedly spoken about the evolution of her spirituality; from first considering herself a universalist, she became curious about Buddhism, leading her to start reading and studying more. In her words, “My interest in meditation was born of a curiosity for Buddhism. I started being interested in a literary way, but I realised that reading books wasn’t enough – that you have to practice for it to work. So I started it, and I love it!”
According to Verkoeyen’s model of Meta-Spirituality, Emma’s spiritual evolution follows the normal order; “We often move from Paganism or a lack of belief in a higher power, to religion, where a lot of people begin to follow different religions and perform many different rituals in a bid to reach the creator, then [sometimes] there is spirituality, where we learn to calm ourselves, look within ourselves and find the will to be happy and to thrive, but what I teach about is a fourth level, it’s meta-spirituality, it is the revelation of who you are, your oneness with the creator, it’s a focusing on the now and not worrying about the future and present. Meta Spirituality is a culmination of all your internal studies, the end of your spiritual journey and the beginning of a completely different, extraordinary chapter in your life.”
From Jennifer Aniston to Christy Turlington, the number of celebrities turning to new-age spirituality is rising. A close observation will reveal that many celebrities interested in spirituality are women. However, on the flip side, the most popular spiritual teachers and trainers are male, suggesting a hint of patriarchal practices even within the spiritual consciousness movement.
Two years ago, the Guardian published an article; A piece of the controversial title of the article read; When Meditation Turns Toxic and detailed the sad story of abuse and embarrassment that a young meditation enthusiast Tara Bach faced at the hands of her male spiritual leader after voicing out about miscarrying her four-month pregnancy due to the physical exertion during a spiritual retreat.
The fact that most spiritual leaders, teachers, and gurus are male makes it especially tough for leaders like Verkoeyen to make their mark. However, she has continued for the past five years through challenging circumstances, growing an audience and becoming a notable female spiritual leader, with followers from Hollywood to Russia.
She narrates one of her earlier experiences; “For many years, my biggest frustration was not being taken seriously due to the common prejudice that a young, good-looking woman cannot be a spiritual teacher. As a 30-year-old, I once overheard a comment from a woman just before one of my speaking engagements. She said; ‘let’s see what this 25-year-old model can teach us about spirituality’, From that day, I couldn’t wait to get older, but since my experience in 2016, the superior message I have received has somewhat paved the way for me and that’s ‘It’s refreshing to have a strong female voice in this space’.”
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