What We're Getting Wrong About Modern Spirituality, From A Spiritual Activist
New-age ideas of what it means to be spiritual and live well have taken the zeitgeist by storm, but the ways in which they've manifested are far from perfect. Here, we chat with spiritual activist Juliet Diaz about what it truly means to come back to your own inner divinity, and how we can make spirituality and well-being more inclusive for all.
What is your mission, and how are you working toward it at the moment?
I am a spiritual activist, and I can't avoid the very real connection between spirituality, world issues, and politics. I feel, deep in my soul, that we can change the world for the better if we work on our self-development—mind, body, and soul. Having a practice that helps your spiritual growth and healing will also help us all show up and evolve as human and spiritual beings—beings that want a more just, more peaceful, and safer world for us all.
I help people break through the vicious cycles of harmful spiritual practices and beliefs, like "light and love only" and toxic positivity, for example, especially for those victimized, offering a new take on personal development based in the resounding plea of our ancestors to live our divined lives, the ones they could not have for themselves.
When we can finally decolonize our spiritual beliefs, divinity can be a super force in our lives, making us whole, stronger, wiser—and setting us on a path of transcendent activism.
Can you talk more about toxic positivity, spiritual bypassing & decolonizing spirituality?
Yeah, I used to do the things we're all told to do when living a spiritual life: "Do the work" and "stay positive." And so we do the work, day in and day out. We buy all the crystals, light the incense and the candles, pray to Gods and Goddesses, ask and plead for better days, a better self, a better life.
Or if you are into manifesting—which I am—we push the negative thoughts out, ignore them, and pretend there aren't any dark creatures in our minds to bring our frequencies down because, God forbid, if we feel an ounce of anything that's not positive, we won't manifest what we desire. That is some whitewashed, full-of-privilege way of practicing the divine.
If this is how spirituality is supposed to be lived, then we immediately contradict the belief that we are one. And we are leaving out those people who can't afford to buy all the tools, pay for expensive memberships, be in high spirits daily, practice the same way, or believe in the same things. We are leaving out people who have real-life issues to deal with, people who can't escape to an island every month like we see these "spiritual leaders" do on social media. The message is toxic, especially to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.
There is a disconnect between the world the spiritual community paints and the world in which we live.
This false notion makes those with challenging past wounds or current issues feel less than. These people end up feeling like they aren't meant for greatness, and that they aren't worthy or sacred or important to the web we all weave in this existence.
There is a disconnect between the world the spiritual community paints and the world in which we live. If you ask me, it's become a franchise of cultural appropriation and half-assing your healing all in the name of "good vibes only."
And spiritual bypassing limits our personal development and healing and can interrupt our spiritual growth. Bypassing is a way of hiding behind spiritual beliefs and practices that keep us from acknowledging what we are feeling, which only disconnects us from our divine selves.
What challenges have you come up against in your work?
The depth in which some people are stuck in this whole toxic "love and light only" belief has really separated them from their true authentic selves, which is their divine Spirit. This has caused separation from community, distorting real life and believing they are not part of actual real-world issues and problems.
If they truly believed they are enlightened beings now, how is it they are the ones to turn their backs on others because it's not high-vibe enough for them? This does not create a world in harmony with others. Instead, it glosses over problems and issues, leaving them to fester and build without any actual resolution.
This hasn't been a huge challenge because most of us living real lives are becoming more aware of the charades and beliefs and practices that continue to harm us instead of support us.
What inspires you most about the work you're doing?
Helping people, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, reclaim their power, magic, mind, body, and spirit. It's an act of spiritual revolution and isn't really an inspiration but more of a purpose.
I have full trust in Spirit—and Spirit lives within us all. Witnessing the depths in which people have been able to heal and unchain themselves from a capitalistic society has been a blessing.
How do we overcome spiritual bypassing and appropriation?
A lot of modern wellness and spirituality has worked to distort our truths, profiting from our need for healing while appropriating spiritual and Indigenous cultures, medicine, and wisdom. The wellness industry includes some of the biggest and most successful businesses—and yes, wellness is a business.
The thing is, instead of wasting our sacred energy being mad about this or trying to dismantle systems that have no interest in changing, we must turn our energies inward, unchaining ourselves from the very things and people who continue to tell us we aren't whole.
This is how we create real change within ourselves. With these changes, we are better able to show up for not only ourselves but also the world and especially the oppressed within it. We don't need to bypass the real truths of our trauma, our marginalization, or our histories—so many of which extend back thousands of years into hardship and slavery and struggle.
We are already enlightened beings, yet the world tells us to seek—seek enlightenment, seek beauty, seek wholeness, seek sacredness—when we are already all those things. The misunderstanding lies in the belief that we must attain something, when in truth, we must detach ourselves from the things that tell us we aren't whole.
What advice do you have for other women on the path of spiritual activism?
Your voice is important. It can potentially change and save the lives of many. Trust in yourself to bring your message out to the world and trust even more that it will reach those who need to hear it.
There will be a lot of pushback—not everyone will agree or understand, but that is not your responsibility to worry about. People need to make decisions for themselves, and when we acknowledge this, we spend less time trying to convince and more time making real change in the lives of people who are ready, and present, for what they have to say.
Also, make sure to give yourself as much self-care as possible. This is not an easy path to be on. Rest when needed, find pockets of joy as often as possible, and don't take the world on your shoulders—it is not meant to be carried by one person.
Who is one woman in your life who never fails to inspire you?
My mother. I am a first-generation daughter to immigrants. My mother put her life on the line while pregnant with me to leave our homeland, Cuba, out of faith for a better life. What she went through since arriving in this country has been absolutely heartbreaking.
The struggle that immigrants in this county have to endure is awful. I didn't understand this when I was younger because I, myself, was going through extreme abuse in all ways, and I separated myself from her. I wanted to leave so badly that I ended up homeless as a teen for a while until I found my footing.
My mother and I had real hardships and massive mountains in our paths. I was traumatized, scared, abused, and lost in life due to all the hardships we went through, and to be honest, I did not start to reconnect with her until I started on my own healing journey.
When I started to see how capitalist society and racist systems affected her well-being, I grew compassionate and understood that what we went through wasn't her fault.
Watching my mother allow herself to heal through connecting back with me has been inspirational. Each time we get together, it gets easier to tell her I love her. I now know she did the best she could with what she had while also going through mental health issues that no one cared about.
This is why spiritual activism means so much to me; it is more than liberating ourselves, it is also liberating our parents, grandparents, and ancestors.
Anything else you want to leave readers with?
I want to remind you that you are powerful and have an army of ancestors, spirits, and guides surrounding you with their embrace and cheering you on. Continue with your practice, continue unveiling yourself, and shine as brightly as you can.
You are not here to become; you already are. You came through the portal of the sacred womb as a healer—divine, sacred, and magical. You are a born storyteller; raise your voice and allow the ancestors to speak revolutions through you.
You are rooted in the songs of medicine flowing through the Earth and the celestial melodies humming in the skies. Your intuition is full of wisdom with lifetimes of experience, guiding and protecting you.
Don't allow anything or anyone to separate you from this truth, for by doing so, they are breaking the union that is meant to be with us all. United, together, we reclaim our collective power and remembrance.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.