Has wellness reached peak Goop?

Did you catch this profile on Gwyneth Paltrow and the cult of Goop recently? It’s worth a read. Although, I do find these kind of articles moments in low-hanging fruit piñata-ing. I mean Gywn provides sooo much easy ammunition. I’d love to see someone actually get to the hoary nub of what the woman is about and the deeper psychology of her appeal, rather than read comparathons between Gywn’s perfection and the frumpiness of the journalist assigned to the particular profile.

That said, this article touched on something helpful. This:

The minute the phrase “having it all” lost favor among women, wellness came in to pick up the pieces. It was a way to reorient ourselves — we were not in service to anyone else, and we were worthy subjects of our own care. It wasn’t about achieving; it was about putting ourselves at the top of a list that we hadn’t even previously been on. Wellness was maybe a result of too much having it all, too much pursuit, too many boxes that we’d seen our exhausted mothers fall into bed without checking off. Wellness arrived because it was gravely needed.

I would add to this though, or, rather, spin the whole thing on its head:

[clickToTweet tweet=”Wellness isn’t the salve to “too much pursuit”, “too many boxes”, it’s another manifestation of it” quote=”Wellness is not the salve to “too much pursuit” or “too many boxes”, it’s another manifestation of it”].

We thought it would save us. I can see why we felt that way. But it wound up just adding to our suffering.

Wellness has become a pursuit, another item to be ticked off, a concept to perfect, something we cling to as though we are “entitled” to it, something we feel we can buy in a box, rather than practice or work on.

Recently a friend in Byron asked for my “sociological take” on the influx of wholesome instagram mums that had imploded in the small Northern NSW town. I’d noticed what she was talking about. Some of the old-school locals call them “the linens” for their penchant for dressing themselves and their kids in (sponsored) rustic dungarees and pin-tucked shirts and floppy felt hats. “They dress their kids like Aamish people”, is how one local put it to me. Then they display said kids in sepia-toned, highly styled pictures (picnics on beaches, craft days on patchwork blankets, shopping at the farmer’s market). The vibe is mega-wholesome Wellness.

What’s my take? Well, most of these Instagrammers are ex-big city A-types who’ve moved to the regions to get away from the madness and live a different, less A-type, life.

But you see, that’s super hard to do if we live in a world where there is no getting away, where there is actually no alternative framework or dialogue to step on over to. The only framework we have is “consume”. So wherever we go – to Byron, to Bali, to Hawaii – there we are, smack-bang in more consuming, more reaching out for fixes and answers. A-types move to Byron (and I say this from experience) and slip straight into A-type, achieving, monetizing, “veneer-eal” ways, albeit with a expensive hessian vibe. I’ve spoken to a few of my Byron mates about this – all of it makes them deeply uncomfortable (and many admit they, too, are caught up in the lure of the phenomenon to varying degrees).

The journalist in the original New York Times article acknowledges this particular kind of suffering (that of trying to escape something by grasping for more of the same):

We are doomed to aspire for the rest of our lives. Aspiration is suffering. Wellness is suffering. As soon as you level up, you greet how infinite the possibilities are, and it all becomes too awful to live without.

But what is the salve? To be honest (and I say this from experience), it’s hard to find one on our own. To do so asks too much of our limited consciousnesses. We need a new moral code that can guide us, as I’ve written about before. But there isn’t one that has stepped in to compete with rationalist, individualist consumerism. None that are convincing. None that can stand up to consumerism.

So, to my mind (and I’ve thought about it a lot) we have to slowly find our new leaders, our new tribes. This new way of living, or moral code, will have to emerge, organically. We are craving it, right? We need to consciously lean in to people and experiences that align with nature and what we know at our core to be the truth. And slowly we can hope that better, less didactic, less Cartesian, less polarizing, less selfish life morays will come about.

So, my friends, this is where Wellness steps back in. We best equip ourselves to spot the truth and to be able to align ourselves with it when we are well. That is, when we are clear in the head (not hungover, nor toxed up on shit food, and when we’ve slept), and open and in touch in the body (yoga, pilates, smiling, etc etc).

When we take this approach to (small ‘w’) wellness, it can stop being yet another form of suffering, and instead enable us… more nobly. It’s really just a matter of what purpose we give it – narrow and selfish, or meta. Wellness becomes a tool, a practice (not a pursuit unto itself) that serves to establish firm roots from which we can then make true, better aligned choices.

[clickToTweet tweet=”As they say in the Ayurvedic tradition: water the root to enjoy the fruit.” quote=”As they say in the Ayurvedic tradition: water the root to enjoy the fruit.”]

I banged out this rant because I’m working on these kind of nuances in my life myself right now. I’m getting rooted. I’m getting myself truly well so I can make important shifts. When I’m well I am able to pivot from a place of alignment. When I am not well, everything – how I cope with politics, how I deal with human issues – skews straight off into old, suffering, comparathon, “clutching outwards” ways.

What are your thoughts on “Wellness” right now?

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