Millennials and the metaphysical: Why young people are turning to a more holistic way of living

By Allison Borrell, Studio M staff //

On May 19-20, Nashville will welcome hundreds of attendees to the Galactic Expo, a spiritual exhibition featuring over 130 readers, healers, vendors and teachers of the metaphysical.

Events like the Galactic Expo have fueled young people’s interest in exploring alternative, metaphysical practices that involve astrology, meditation, tarot card reading and crystal and energy healing.

Decor and women’s apparel vendor WorldTrendz from Strongsville, Ohio, at the 2016 Galactic Expo (Photo courtesy of Cosmic Connections)

According to a 2009 Pew Research Center study on Americans’ belief systems, 26 percent of adults say they believe in elements of New Age spirituality, and 25 percent say they believe in astrology.

Arrington, Tennessee, resident Katherine King, 62, is the owner of Cosmic Connections and the founder of the Galactic Expo. Throughout her 15 years of running a metaphysical store and yearly exhibition, King has seen an increasing number of millennials seeking information about alternative lifestyles.

“Our demographics used to be 35 and up,” says King. “Then they started getting younger and younger.”

King attributes much of the change in her customer demographics to her store being so close to Belmont University.

“They first started coming in with the books and music sign that we had out front,” says King. “The music students were some of the first ones. They would come in, and they would find books on singing bowls and tuning and music therapy and how the vibration of different instruments would affect the body.”

King adds: “They would tell friends. They would buy incense, then they would look at books … and then they would start asking questions.”

Despite this recent wave, metaphysical practices have, of course, been around for years.

“There’s nothing new about this,” says King. “You can go back and trace authors doing this in the ‘30s.”

King has seen the metaphysical make its way into the mainstream for decades through the teachings of various speakers like Esther and Jerry Hicks, Norman Vincent Peale and Napoleon Hill.

“There are a lot of people that have been huge in bringing metaphysical to the forefront,” says King. “It’s been around for a long time, and it’s been around in a lot of different forms that aren’t so scary to people.”

For Murfreesboro resident and former Stonekeepers employee Kaitlyn Appalsammy, the metaphysical world has been about seeking an alternative approach to her mental health. Appalsammy, 21, began working with crystals and metaphysical practices when she was 16.

“I have really bad anxiety and depression, so a lot of that was really hard for me to deal with,” says Appalsammy. “I was like, ‘I’m tired of taking medicine, I’m tired of having to leave school every day because of this.’”

After her initial exposure to crystal healing, Appalsammy began to learn more about meditation, breathwork and herbal healing. Appalsammy believes millennials’ desire to take control of their health has led them to practicing a more holistic lifestyle.

“Everyone wants to find an alternative way of owning their mental health or physical health,” says Appalsammy. “You’re connecting with your spirit and your energy, and that’s what the whole spiritual and metaphysical world is about. … It’s about people wanting to own themselves and take care of themselves and focus on what they need to grow.”

Nashville local Corey Long, 29, first became interested in New Age and metaphysical practices through his childhood interest in astrology.

“Astrology was really the first step into the New Age for me, because my mom was always into it,” says Long.

Long says his spiritual path has led him to a practice based mostly in a Wiccan belief system. He incorporates introspective rituals involving meditating, reading tarot cards and using sage to cleanse himself and his home of negative energies.

“I have a room in my house that has all my materials, my books (that) I go to have a quiet moment,” he says. “It’s important for me to find those times to reflect and to ask and to have a physical way of representing a mental thought with a ritual.”

Long says that he and his wife, along with their friends, also take part in certain monthly and yearly rituals.

“Monthly, we definitely recognize and celebrate the lunar cycle,” says Long. “Every year we have a big summer solstice party to celebrate the longest day of the year and the summer, which is a great season for most people. It’s a lot of fun to be outside and to celebrate nature and everything that it has to offer us.”

Long says he has found a thriving community of like-minded people in Nashville, and he attributes that to the growing number of metaphysical stores in the area.

“There are more (shops) that are opening to be able to offer more products, information and materials to support the work that I want to do,” says Long. “Becoming more interested makes me go into those shops where there are like-minded people who soundly believe in the more metaphysical, ‘New Age-y’ way of thinking.”

Long sees Nashville’s metaphysical community continuing to flourish, especially with the growing Instagram presence of shops like Aromagregory and Nashville Crystal Store as well as the Galactic Expo’s expanding reach across Nashville.

“I think I’ve found a community,” says Long. “We have a long way to go with it, but I think it’s there if you choose to seek it out.”

Allison Borrell is a junior majoring in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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