Beyond media portrayal of spirituality


Selah Keegin

Pictured above is the QR code for Selah Keegin’s Discord. In this space, students collaborate on learning and educating about spirituality.

With the surge in popularity of modern-day spirituality, the origins of its practices may be murky for many people. Beneath the surface of trends like manifestation and crystals lie deep roots in Buddhist, Hindu and Native American cultures. 

How do people who follow these religions feel about new spiritual practices? Kathy Lam (10), who identifies as a Buddhist, believes that society has drastically changed the meaning of what was originally people’s culture.

“I do think that it is whitewashed,” Lam said. “Especially on social media, I have seen a lot of people wrongly educate others about these different practices, which is not only disrespectful but can also be very dangerous. A lot of people do not know [that] what they are doing came from ancient religions like Buddhism or Hinduism.”

One spiritual practice that derives from traditional culture is manifestation, which has circulated widely on TikTok recently. Matt Stewart (11) explains the practice of manifestation, which asserts that one can gain anything by appealing to the supreme force of the universe.

“It’s a practice that came from the Hindu Law of Attraction,” Stewart said. “Manifestation also comes from the idea of karma, which is also largely from Hindu and Buddhist cultures.”

In addition to Buddhism and Hinduism, Native American culture has heavily influenced mainstream spirituality, most of which has become monopolized by large, non-Native companies. For example, dreamcatchers, which are widely circulated nowadays, come from the Ojibwe people.

“People use Native Americans’ closed practices as a result of the spread of witchcraft,” Stewart said. “For example, chakras, dreamcatchers, white sage, spirit animals, etc. are all things people who aren’t Native American have taken and used for their own good.”

How, then, can one practice spirituality respectfully? It is important to educate oneself, which is exactly what Selah Keegin (11) did. Keegin has shown interest in many spiritual practices and elements, such as crystals and tarot, since freshman year. One of the most important things is ethically sourcing one’s materials. 

“In the past, white people banned Native Americans from using sage and traditional medicine because it clashed with their Christian beliefs,” Keegin said. “Now, it’s seen as a trendy thing to cleanse your house with. I have listened to many Native Americans, and it’s not bad to use sage, it just has to do with where you buy it from and how you use it. Buy it from Native American sellers or grow your own.”

Many people get their information from social media platforms such as TikTok or Tumblr. However, to avoid misinformation, Keegin suggests sourcing research on sites like Reddit or Amino. Additionally, Keegin hosts a Discord server where White Station students can educate each other on respectful spiritual practices.

“I hope that you’re maybe more interested in spirituality now,” Keegin said. “Personally, I have a discord server with many people that are well-versed in spirituality, and if you really are interested, please don’t hesitate to come join.”