How to not feel dirty all over after looking at the fake spirituality of the boho goddesses of Bali

Goddessism is big among our millennial ladies. This article isn’t about the fact that social media and real life are different. It is about the cheapening of real philosophy that happens on social media and goes unnoticed by too many people.

As you will know, I am not big into positive thinking, at least the inspirational Insta-motivation variety. I have yet another issue with Instagram. It is the one social network that makes me feel kind of icky, and for ages I couldn’t understand why. We all know that social media is a highlight reel, a filtered version of another’s life, etc – but Instagram accentuates this empty feeling. I think it’s because it lacks the option of having any depth.

You can link to a thoughtful article on most networks, but you deliberately need to judge everything by its cover on Instagram.

One could argue it is some kind of inferiority that I am feeling. And it is. It’s a fear that I could never be as perfect as the people in the pictures. Indeed, I couldn’t be. They couldn’t be either. In fact, the subspecies I will discuss below follows a very clear prescribed regimen specifying their clothes, food, wisdom, aspirations, art, fitness, other half and much more. But the point is the horrible fake “spirituality” of these accounts.

coping with fake mindfulness of instagram
Are the comments written by real people or bots? Fakeness traded between fakeness merchants

Instagram is so full of beautiful, minimalist, natural, spiritual, compassionate, eco-friendly yoga-practicing perfect people, women, to be specific.

They look out over the ocean and look so dreamy with the sunset backdrop. The pictures are full with gentle sunlight, smiles and smoothies made of the most righteous greens and the caption inevitably features love of the world, the followers or something trendy. Obviously, these “tropical feels” exist on other media, but Instagram seems to have thousands of accounts with virtually the same vibe. The content clearly has a lot of work dedicated to it, but I struggle to see why people enjoy it. Perhaps, some find that it is genuine?

Whenever I encountered these insta-perfect people in real life, they tend to be highly cynical and critical of others, curse like sailors, yell at their children in a way that makes me worry about the integrity of the windows, drink (not just the smoothies), are insecure about their appearance and just generally be far removed from the fairy tale vibe of their Instagram account.

Many of them go from one beautiful location to another; the further removed from the West, the better –  or at least create the impression that they do. More often than not, the photos are made over a few weeks (of what I assume is pretty hard work of shooting) and then released over the following months.

fake mindfulness of instagram positive thinking
Wisdom meets commerce

Their work is always something special, magical and sacred. There is much about happiness, love of simple things, spirituality, being natural, a wanderer, a wild child, a vagabond, giving hugs and so on.

By playing bingo with the above you can create a nice tagline for the top of the page: “Don’t let your dreams just be dreams” obtained Lisa Smith of @lisadanielle_ It seems that the expertise behind these statements is rather limited and largely repeated by/from other Instagram users in a nice Pacific ocean echo chamber. I doubt that the subscribers care very much. They look for pictures of a life

…from another place, tropical and blue,

We have never been to.

This is from Sylvia Plath’s “Finisterre”. I love the emotion behind these words: they got etched into my mind straight after the first reading. I doubt she would have liked Instagram very much.

fake mindfulness of instagram bali goddesses
Why wouldn’t you be wild and free?

These women tend to paint, create jewellery, produce their own make up lines or run seminars. The more competent ones paint and the really great ones photograph: weddings, editorials and so on. I shudder at their daily routine of waking up and knowing that they need to go out of their way to take shots of things that will appear good to thousands of people. Perhaps, they shudder at the thought of writing an essay, especially one that is clear to the point which can only be obtained by being honest. Not honest like an eco-friendly coffee brand is honest; honest like a best friend is honest. The high quality pictures make it into the Instagram feed; the less artsy are only dignified with a place in the Stories.

contrived mindfulness of instagram
“Be yourself, you’re beautiful”, but make sure you are young, actually beautiful and totally carefree

Their appearance is uniformly the sort that can only be obtained by strenuous HIIT and no carbs. Don’t forget the tan.

The goal is to look like the perfectly accepted idea of female beauty, but with a spiritual twist.

A half-naked woman in her late twenties with a body fat of about 18% with a dreamy smile will caption her photo with something like “Remember, everyone is beautiful. Accept your self fully. Love is everything.”

fake pretentious contrived instagram accounts
Soulful gratitude, it’s not for show

The more thorough Instagramers will have a story of how they used to hate their body/themselves/their failures, but came to be in a healthy relationship with themselves and now it is their life’s mission to bring this harmony into the world.

They frequently have a soul mate whom they tag in their Instagram and express their gratitude at least twice a week. Don’t be alarmed if some of these bits of wisdom have a tag like for some minimalist watch maker or a boho clothes vendor, usually with an eco-twist:

coping with the Instagram goddesses of Bali
Lost fishing nets with a purpose

The perpetual summer bodies don’t come easy, I am sure, but the Insta goddesses never bother to make a big deal out of it. However, a nice yoga pose with a “thoughtful” quote is a must. Mindfulness goes without saying. Are there still people who don’t practice mindfulness? Myself, I doubt that between reaching out to bikini manufacturers and running contests for a handmade fairtrade eco-friendly blanket and shooting non-contrived photos of their rigorous relaxation routines they have much “time” for real mindfulness.

Clothes-wise, less is more – because why should we hide? That’s just wouldn’t be that spiritual or close to nature. The boho-twise requires the addition of a hat and numerous bracelets to the bikini bottoms. The top is covered by the long beach-wave hair.

What do goddesses eat? It’s all vegan, raw, super-foody and green. Banish gluten, lactose and all other negativity. The tone of their remarks is so matter of fact, like they’ve never seen a BLT in their lives.

dealing with the fakeness of instagram
Apparently this is a smoothie. You learn something new everyday.

So for example, a goddess could start every morning with 20 sun salutations and a green smoothie. They charge her up with the sort of energy the no coffee could ever do (throw back to her life before she entered the true world of Bali). It is usually followed by the description of the unfolding life force of nature filling her within and she literally can’t imagine having it any other way.

how to stop feeling bad after instagram
Give and you shall receive

I have no reason to stick it to Lauren Bullen of @gypsea_lust in particular. They are legion. They come from all countries and write in all languages (though they all spend time in Bali). You know a few people like this. So alike, that you weren’t sure I wasn’t writing about them until you checked the username. They run Instagram-supported businesses, that’s fine, but it is the fact that they are selling something that isn’t real that bothers me.

It seems obvious that people would be able to tell that this is an account made for marketing. But because of this spiritual vibe, insidiously, this affects the moral compass for many otherwise bright people I know.

My millennial peers are often unable to see the difference between shallow marketing and deeper philosophy. Has it always been this way I wonder?

This kind of stuff makes me want to clear my head. So if, like me, you come across this phenomenon, don’t be down. Breath.

P.S. Sorry for the radio silence. I’m moving. It’s a journey. Many journeys back and forth between two houses, in fact. Lots of challenges of all sorts and remembering to breath has been my number one rule. I will write about the whole experience once the dust resettles on my suitcases.

Credit: inspired by Varvara Gorbash

Addicted to headphones

As soothers are to toddlers, headphones are to anyone who has given up their soother. As someone who’s trying to incorporate as much mindfulness as possible into my life, I was wondering why listening to music is so addictive. Anytime I leave the house I get a little rush – mmm, headphone time! The gym is great for listening to music too. Weights seem lighter and the treadmill moves in slow motion to David Guetta.


Having learnt about the rush on dopamine that’s associated with anticipation and how it makes our daydreams addictive, I’ve become intrigues as to what behaviours of mine are affected by this. I think my craving for the bass to drop is the same.

It all began when I started exercising. As well as being phenomenally good for me, it has turned into an exercise in escapism. When I hear my favourite tracks, my mind always wonders to the good times I had with my friends and all those associated daydreams. Essentially, listening to music has become an augmented day dream for me.

It seemed near impossible to leave my phone behind as I went for my evening walk. It genuinely felt like saying goodbye at the airport as your best friend is leaving for Australia (that would be a remote location relative to me!) I did. And it was a very nice walk. I noticed the shops that I passed by, I noticed some cool constellation – still no idea what it is – and I even helped someone with directions. Most of all, however, I was able to think more clearly. 

My yearning for the headphones is a case of classical conditioning. Once the music is on, my thoughts are off to a nice place – away from here. They go in a circle and never reach anything. This time – walking without headphones was different – I was more aware of what was around me – and in my own head. I came home and wrote some interesting notes down about a question that had been bothering me before hand. All of these occurred while I was walking – in relative silence.

I would argue that it is good to give up the headphones once in a while. Maybe even most of the time. Listening to music is different for different people, but for me it is a way to run away from my current state into a safe place. It’s necessary sometimes, but most of us probably overdo it.

Why daydreaming is so addictive

I only became interested in mindfulness as it enhances my ability to get insight into reality. It wasn’t to treat a condition such as depression. It wasn’t because I belong to a subculture where mindfulness is considered cool. It was the realisation that constantly being carried away in thought is a way to ignore reality.

why am i addicted to daydreaming

It is a well known fact that dopamine (one of the many normal brain chemicals that makes us happy) gets released as soon as we anticipate something good, not when something good actually happens. It really is about the journey, not the destination. The more unpredictable the reward – the more dopamine is released in anticipating it. Robert Sapolsky in Stanford did a lot of interesting commentary on that. Apparently, when you’ve practiced a certain pathway/belief enough, it doesn’t matter how far away into the future the reward is. It doesn’t have to be immediate. He explains how this is the basis of gambling and, half-jokingly, says it may even play a role in how we think about religion!

At one point today, I noticed how I reached for the phone to check Instagram wondering if my friend posted more pictures of her exciting trip through Asia. I felt the rush when I picked up the phone, not when I saw the picture. Mindfulness at work. The other crazy thing I realise about my behaviour is that… the reward isn’t really all that rewarding. I mean, ok, I get to see a picture and vaguely feel connected to my friend.

So what about this theory? Getting carried away in thought – daydreaming – is similar to anticipating something. Whether we are obsessing about a person we have crush on, or worrying about the future – it is a form of anticipating something. Our brains clearly learnt that in the past there was a reward associated with this anticipation – we got to kiss our crush or avoid some fail through worrying about it enough at some point in the past. Furthermore, the reward isn’t predictable – you win some and you lose some. Not every crush is going to result in a wonderful experience and not every bout of worrying is going to result in avoiding peril. It is possible that our favourite day dreams cause a release of dopamine.

Mindfulness prevents getting carried away in thought, thus, I hypothesise that it prevents anticipation – and the accompanying dopamine rush. This is why it feels like more work than sliding into a day dream.

When I put it like that, it makes me realise just how addictive day dreaming is. I mean I kind of knew it already, but this little theory of mine helps me think about how I want to control it – not be controlled by it. Is mindfulness the cure? It is literally the opposite to day dreaming, but I don’t think in and of itself it will help with this particular addiction.

Assuming that everything is a habit – cue, action, reward – mindfulness can be slotted in instead of the day dream. In other words, whatever causes you to day dream (boredom?) has to be caught early, responded to with practicing mindfulness instead of day dreaming – and a chocolate bar, or whatever floats your boat, as a reward to stabilise the habit.

What patterns can you think of where anticipation is everything and the reward is meaningless? Would it be good for you to replace them?