Spirituality isn’t black and white

As I grow older, the topic of spirituality, its misconceptions and the looming question of what it means to be “spiritual” holds a lot of wonder in my mind. For the longest time, I presumed it had to do with witches, cauldrons, black cats and crystal balls. I thought spirituality looked like the crazy lady in tie-dye who lived next door or someone who smoked just a little too much weed. 

While I watched Hocus Pocus for the 100th time this fall, I began to fantasize about what it would be like to be a member of that group, stirring up trouble in the woods, casting spells to get what I wanted and flying off on my broomstick. Leaving the chaos of the world behind sounded more than lovely. In high school, I found the same type of longing while watching American Horror Story, Sabrina and whatever two hour reality-altering pastime I could take part in. Is that what it looked like to be a member of a secret society? Was that only attainable if my name was “Stardust” and my mom had me in a desert, or I simply performed dark magic? 

I knew all those things were probably untrue, but I didn’t know what it actually looked like to be one in touch with the universe.

Around middle school I started adapting a more “hippie” lifestyle that only a mindless middle-schooler could have. It consisted of hemp necklaces, the grateful dead, wearing gemstones and whatever store-bought mentality I could throw on and call an outfit. As I grew older, I started wearing less of it, wondering why all of these lifestyle changes didn’t offer me the happiness and “clear” mindset I’d hoped it would. Why weren’t these items I saw in the movies, and all these personas I adopted, offering me tranquility? 

I became frustrated, sinking into a depressive state. I started losing hope in all these false promises and started to give into my greed. All the self-destructive tendencies I hid behind a tie-dye wardrobe started to seep through. 

While I moped around trying to figure out where I went wrong, I saw everything around me manifest its beauty without the help of material objects. People were nice because they wanted to be. The work being put into a project by my peers would turn into a good grade. Letting things take their own route, without trying to change it, provided the results I so desired. I started to learn that things only worked if you let them. Life wasn’t meant to be questioned or tampered with. The good you put out will come back to you in one form or another. 

The term spirituality, according to Google Dictionary, can be defined as, “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” Ironically enough, this definition tosses out the idea of capitalizing on the concept of “spirituality” altogether. This definition goes against everything I thought it was and everything I saw in the movies. It’s a concern for yourself and others to the utmost degree. It’s being aware of what you’re doing at all times and knowing your consequences. It’s thinking before speaking, and doing good things for the soul. 

Spirituality doesn’t manifest in black in white; it doesn’t have a clear distinct answer. It isn’t shoved into boxes and sold at stores. It isn’t promised no matter how many times you drop acid, venture out into the woods or do a good deed for self-reassurance that you are noble. 

Spirituality is fluid. It is already inside you—whether or not you choose to unlock that spirituality is up to you. 

If all this is true though, why are so called “spiritual items” even sold? Doesn’t it sound a bit hypocritical or counteractive to the idea of true spirituality? Why do people choose to buy these things to help guide them? I think that most people need a helping hand, or an event to occur in their lives that forces them to seek a deeper meaning in life and themselves. People need the push of a down-fall, a life-altering event or some other occurrence to guide them into a different light. 

Om storefront on Linn Street. Courtesy of Om’s Facebook Page

I became interested in these ideas toward the end of high school and eventually college. On a regular basis, I’d walk down Linn street peering at the store Om on my way to class. Or I’d decide to go in after spending too much on a meal at Baronicini’s or buying unnecessary clothes at White Rabbit.When I’d stop in Om I couldn’t help but admire the rainbow colors of all the clothes and jewelry inside along with the figurines. The owner, Jeet Saini is always there smiling and engaging with her customers. 

I needed to figure out how one remainCs spiritual with all the stressors of college. I also wanted to see how spirituality manifests itself in each person and if special tools were used. Do we all have the ability to remain grounded when there’s turmoil, or can one only do so if they read tarot cards or look into a crystal ball? When walking into the store for my interview, I had an uneasiness despite all the beautiful things around me. I was nervous to approach Saini, considering her head was deep into a book, but she instantly lit up after I said hello. I wanted to find out all she knew about being a “spiritual person,” why she opened this store in the first place and how one begins to find an awakening in themselves.

She opened the store back in 2003 in the hope to keep up with her Indian roots. The store serves as a way to showcase Indian culture while also being a gift store full of little trinkets, jewelry and decorations. She claimed the store helps her stay connected to what truly matters in life: being true to yourself. It isn’t necessarily wrapped up into the products that she sells, but it most certainly may open the door for you. 

“I’ve had returning customers saying that my essential oils have helped them become more relaxed,” said Saini. “Considering this is a college town, many of you guys are very stressed and if what I sell can help with that, I am always pleased.”

Courtesy of Om’s Facebook Page

She went on to tell me that items such as these may not be the answer for you. The answer is different for everyone, and it has more to do with what you allow in. You can allow something to make you feel more at peace just by letting it and keeping a positive mindset. 

I raised questions about her products potentially being “hodge podge” or capitalized on. It’s often rumored that spiritual healers scam the impressionable, and for those reasons many are skeptical. She repeated it’s not for everyone and that maybe something like a guitar or a different activity helps you reach the same state.

I supposed the store’s name, Om, had meaning to it as well. When speaking the word aloud, I imagine myself in yoga class, echoing the word in unison while in tree pose. The word “om” in Google Dictionary is defined as a “mystic word” and considered one of the most sacred mantras in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Saini gave her own definition of the word, calling it the “sound of the universe.” Every word has this sound. Shalom has this sound, hello has this sound. She proclaimed that it’s the universe’s first sound. We all started from one vibration of the earth. 

“You can really say any word you want several times, dragging it out, and it silences your mind,” said Jeet. 


She claims that naming the store Om really brought a spiritual aspect to it and showcased the importance of always keeping a calm mind, It was an intentional decision for Jeet Saini, hoping it would reign true when customers entered her store. 

While deep in conversation, she brought up the point that there’s too many things in this world that we can’t see without our eyes. There’s plenty of energy in the world that exists in different forms. She then proceeded to skew the conversation by diving deep into the concept of electricity and energy. She claimed that electricity and the energy within crystals are the same, because you can’t see how both things ignite power, but somehow it still happens.

Saini was confident that what you put out into the world, including your own energy, comes back to you. That’s the key to understanding spirituality. It requires a self-awareness and being mindful of what the right thing to do for you is. 

Saini went on to talk about the environment and how important it was to be mindful of what you’re doing to the earth. The two go hand in hand; being able to recognize what you’re doing has effects that may not matter to you, but it matters to something bigger than yourself. She connected spirituality back to being true to oneself, so you can exist with the forces you can’t control. 

The central message I received from my conversation with Jeet was that you can’t just become a so-called “spiritual person” if you don’t really want to be one. You have to be in touch with yourself and the world around you in a way that makes you think twice about your actions and how they affect others. 

Toward the end of the conversation, I left Om feeling a bit lighter with Saini’s words of wisdom. Spirituality is a concept you can adapt into your own life, because it is always within you and around you. You can only truly get in touch with it though, once you start to get back to basics. 

She left me with some words of advice telling me that I should just remain calm even when things aren’t going my way—even when I make mistakes and even when I’m below rock bottom. I need to key into what really matters, which is clarifying my mind with whatever I see best fit. Maybe her products would help me get there, and maybe they wouldn’t. Spirituality most certainly isn’t a made-up misconception.

Before walking out the door, Saini made a peculiar comment.

“I heard your stomach rumbling, so please take an apple on the way out. You have to nourish yourself in good thought and the essentials, even food,” said Saini. 

There was one apple left, and maybe that was fate on its own. I took it and went on my way. I know she probably knew it was the last one, but for one last time I’d like to think it was some sort of magic.

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