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Leading the 'Metrospiritual' Life

Experts explain the latest trend in seeking peace and contentment.
WebMD Feature

Are you a Whole Foods groupie? A Jamba Juice junkie?

Are you hooked on Starbucks' chai tea or the green tea frappachino?

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Is your next vacation to the tony Ashram in the Santa Monica Mountains?

Does your dog practice doga (a.k.a. dog yoga)?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be a metrospiritual. But don't panic, it's not necessarily a bad thing. And you'll have company with other Americans who are embracing spirituality and seeking inner peace and harmony through yoga, organic foods, supplements, and other products and services rooted in ancient traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism -- and any other "ism" that stems from the Far East.

In a nutshell, metrospirituality is about being hip and holistic. It's about seeking inner peace and looking great while you do it. From Jamba Juice, Starbucks and Whole Fields to Origins and Aveda, this nouveau form of spirituality comes in easily digestible and buyable forms.

But buyer beware, says Robert Schneider, MD, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Vedic City, Iowa. Vedic City is an entire city built on principles of the ancient Vedic religion.

"Metrospirituality is all that glitters, but it doesn't glow," he says. "The media and advertising world are jumping into the spiritual world because they see the possibility of profit, but I would advise the consumer to discern all that glitters isn't going to give them the inner glow they seek," says Schneider.

Straying From Tradition?

Many of these new approaches to yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and other spiritual practices are a long way from the ancient, authentic versions. "That's bad because people are messing around with something that has been time tested and that interferes with effectiveness," he tells WebMD. "People who mess with herbs and take out certain ingredients and put in others mess with ancient recipes and package them in a way that is more nouveau, and that is suspect."

For example, "we don't know what everyone is offering under the name yoga," he says. "They could be ripping off the name, so make sure to look into the lineage of the teacher," he advises.

That's not to say the trend doesn't have some positive aspects, he says. "Organic whole foods are great, and I am glad to see that they are more popular," he tells WebMD.

"It's like the dot-com boom," he says. In the 1990s, "everything with dot-com was glittering and now that has filtered out to those with real quality, and I think the spirituality business may be going though the same cycle now," he says.

Spirituality is not for sale and people who think it is are a long way from achieving inner bliss, says Mitchell Gaynor, MD, an oncologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.

"Spirituality is all about giving," says Gaynor, the author of Nurture Nature, Nurture Health: Your Health and the Environment.

"The spirituality that is rooted in giving will bring peace and joy, but everything else will bring transient happiness," he says. " Happiness is getting something you want like a vacation, but it's very, very temporary; joy is about giving from your heart," he says.

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