Riding the Metrospiritual Wave

The growing ranks of the hip and holistic are seeking their inner bliss with serious style.

BY: Ariana Speyer

 

wyneth Paltrow is one. So are Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio. Chances are your

bikram yoga

teacher has the major characteristics and so does the guy who makes your fruit smoothie at

Jamba Juice

. Donna Karan is totally in on it. The salesperson who helps you find the right Botanical Kinetics moisturizer at Aveda is probably one, along with your eco-tourism guide at Costa Rican surf camp. Richard Gere may be the proto-one and Uma Thurman was pretty much born into it. What is influencing Hollywood stars and Wal-Mart shoppers, fashionistas and Filene's basement-dwellers alike? It's called metrospirituality, and chances are you already know or even lead the life of a metrospiritual.

Do you go out of your way to buy organic food? Have you thought about the

wu wei

in your home? Have you tried yoga, belly-dancing, or surfing recently? Are you attracted to traditional crafts from other cultures or have you started knitting? Do you own a

Prius

or have you thought about buying a hybrid car? Are you a tea connoisseur or an organic wine- and beer-drinker? Is there a certain aromatherapy scent that brings you comfort, especially in candle form? If most of your answers are yes, then count yourself among the growing numbers of metrospirituals-the kinder, gentler post-Yuppies who want to treat the earth and native cultures with respect, connect with their inner source and inspiration, test their bodies and expand their minds with ancient physical practices-and do it all with serious style.



Jim Twitchell, a professor of English at the University of Florida and author of many books about consumer culture, including

"Adcult USA:

The Triumph of Advertising in America" (1995), attributes the demand for luxury goods to a need for salvation or epiphany through consuming. Throughout history, Twitchell argues, "The primary deliverer of sensations was the church. That's where you went to have an epiphany. . The sensations of luxury mirror the sensations of epiphany-the ability to give the consumer the sensation that I've come to the end of the line, I'm saved, I'm there, I don't have to wrestle any more." The metrospiritual takes luxury-buying to a new level--reaching outward for connection to the planet and to each other.



According to Sharon Lee of youth-trend forecasting firm

Look-Look

, "There's lots of desire to be spiritual and have more meaning than a commercial, purely secular lifestyle provides. And there's a smorgasbord of product offerings that have gradations of spirituality woven into them." The words you see and hear again and again on the many products that help define and support the metrospiritual lifestyle-like

Fresh's

Crème Ancienne which is made by hand at a monastery in the Czech Republic--are "calm," "enrich," "renew," "inspire," "experience," "connect," "heal," "ancient" and "conscious," for starters.

Spirituality with Style

Gwyneth Paltrow
is a metrospiritual

Metrospirituality is the mainstreaming of Taoist, Buddhist (thanks to Richard Gere and Uma's dad, Buddhism scholar and practitioner Robert Thurman), and Hindu values, among others, into an easily digestible, buyable form. Take

Hampton Chutney Company

, for instance. This highly popular New York-area food empire makes traditional Indian dosas and uttapams-the kind of thing you might make and eat at an Indian ashram-which is exactly where the owners, Gary and Isabel MacGurn, met in 1990. They now have three thriving outposts at very tony addresses-one in Long Island's Hamptons, one in New York City's Soho, and one on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. At the Soho store, pictures of yogis decorate the walls and devotional Indian chants pour soothingly out of the stereo.



And what are you actually getting if you have the patience to wait on the slowly snaking line? Semi-fast food that is nutritious and delicious (the Number Six, for example, is masala-spiced potatoes with spinach, jack cheese, and tomato), served in an atmosphere heavy on the good yogic vibes. You're getting food with a stamp of individualism and thought, an exotic staple made American and virtuous in some ineffable way.



Virtue is a key feature of the metrospiritual lifestyle, and those in the fold expect it not only of themselves but also from the companies to which they give their business. Of course, as Sharon Lee points out, "Lots of companies are doing a superficial job and lots of companies are doing a really meaningful job" of being responsible global citizens. At

Origins

, part of the written mission is to "do whatever we can to protect the earth and its resources." On

Aveda's

website, the idea is to "strive to set an example for environmental leadership and responsibility."



Metrospiritual companies that practice what they preach believe that popular, profitable products and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive propositions.

Whole Foods

, an emblematically metrospiritual company, is in the midst of a massive expansion of its $3.9 billion business. Not surprisingly, the Whole Foods web site echoes the now-familiar mantra, "We believe in a virtuous circle entwining the food chain, human beings and Mother Earth: each is reliant upon the others through a beautiful and delicate symbiosis."



The metrospiritual "holy trinity"
Read more on page 2 >>


_Related Features
  • Quiz: Are You a Metrospiritual?
  • Chart: What's In, What's Out
  • Continued on page 2: »

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