I recently heard the term “supermarket spiritualism” to describe folks walking down the proverbial aisle picking and choosing bits and pieces from every spiritual practice imaginable. And then paying for it all at the checkout.
Emelia Symington Fedy, a Vancouver-based theatre artist, performer, writer and yoga teacher uses the term, “spiritual capitalism” in her lovingly honest and sharply funny online blog/advice column, Trying to be Good…entertainment for the places that hurt.
Fedy’s personal experiences with “spiritual capitalism” inspired Through the Gaze of the Navel by theatre group The Chop, coming to the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse, Wednesday September 17 – Saturday September 20.
Since she bought her first self-help book at age 12, Fedy has spent roughly $80,000 on her pursuit of obsessively finding “the answer”.
Lately, Fedy says, “I still enter the terrain of self-help but I’m discerning; I have an impulse to learn and there is an addictive quality to the search. It’s difficult to just sit without knowing the answers. I think we’re uncomfortable with sitting in the dark; we want someone to tell us it’s going to be okay.”
Through the Gaze of the Navel is a performance in the form of a yoga class taught by Fedy, who is certified to teach both Classical Astanga yoga and AcroYoga.
She says, “the show is a lot like how I teach normally, except more intense and with more jokes.
“Audiences often comment, ‘if this was a yoga class, I’d go everyday.’”
However, if you attend the show, participating in the class is not required.
“It’s a multi-layered event,” says Fedy, “and it’s interesting to watch from each sight: either chairs or yoga mats. You can do the breathing exercises right in your chair.”
The theme of the class performed in Through the Gaze of a Navel is darkness, also known as “the void”.
Fedy says, “Neo-spirituality emphasizes the light, it’s all about reaching for the light; but even in my regular yoga teaching I tend to focus on the questions.
“We’re often asked to leave our problems at the door of a yoga class, but is that really possible?”
This carefully scripted performance is darkly comic and slyly subversive, but it is also kind.
“Good satire is not making fun of anything,” says Fedy. “We’re not pointing and laughing, there’s no cruelty here, its not mean-spirited. Yoga teachers who attend the show tend to laugh the most.”
Laughing has been part of Through the Gaze of a Navel since the beginning. Fedy says she knew she and Anita Rochon, co-artistic director of The Chop, were “on the right track” when in the first rehearsal, they were “on the floor laughing.”
Fedy and Rochon have worked together for 10 years, and have made 12 theatre works together.
“It poured out,” says Fedy, “It usually takes us a year and a half to complete a piece from first rehearsal to premiere. Through the Gaze of a Navel took seven months; we started last December and premiered in May 2014.”
Two weeks before opening night, Rochon suggested that Fedy perform the material as though she were teaching a yoga class. Until then the performance was, “basically a stand and deliver solo comedy routine”. At first, Fedy felt there wouldn’t be enough time to fully realize the yoga class element.
But ever self-aware, Fedy also realizes, “part of our creative process is that Rochon asks me to do something, and I say “no”. In the end, the yoga class is a perfect container for the show and it allows everyone to get involved.”
And Fedy knows a thing or two about getting everyone involved.
“I’m a small town girl, and this is show is a family affair. My husband, Christy Watson, is a musician; he created and performs the music in the show. We’re bringing our kid up too; and I’m six months pregnant.”