What does spirituality mean to you? In this excerpt from Chris Grosso's new book Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening, and the Mind-Blowing Truth of It Allhe explores the what and why of the spiritual path.
The beautiful thing is that if you ask ten different people what spirituality means to them, you’re likely to get ten different answers, which makes it clear that spirituality truly is a highly individualized process and experience. Nobody owns it—not Buddhists or Hindus, Christians or Muslims, atheists or Jews. The abridged definition I most often use is simply: waking up. Spirituality is an interior journey, one that takes us beneath the surface of who and what we think we are and guides each of us home to our truest Self.
Spirituality emerges and grows from our individual experience of Spirit. I encourage you to become your own spiritual scientist. Be curious and, with an open heart and mind, explore what does—and does not—resonate for you on the spiritual path.
Hey, I love to zone out and watch The Walking Dead as much as the next guy, but once that hour of zombierific goodness is over, it’s over, and then what?
There are, of course, some pitfalls that can come with this path of direct connection. Here are two things to be aware of: when turning to your heart’s guidance, watch out for any hidden, self-serving, or distorting motives; and don’t allow your spiritual path to become one that is focused only on yourself and does not serve others in some way.
Exploration leads to practice—like spending more time in meditation, contemplation, or prayer, and a little (or a lot) less time on social media, or bringing more mindfulness to the activities we’re passionate (and not so passionate) about. That’s how we expand our perspectives. In doing so, we’re also cultivating our inner knowing, wisdom, and intuition in a way that’s directly experienced rather than hypothesized. It’s in this authentic place that we uncover our truth—whatever that is for you—which is what matters most. I can never know what is happening inside of you—your thoughts, emotions, hopes, dreams, fears—so how could I, or anyone else, ever know what is and isn’t spiritual for you, and vice versa? It’s impossible. There is always room for growth in our spiritual development, so do your best to stay open and fluid rather than closed and concrete as you progress on your path. Perhaps most traditionally “spiritual” things won’t resonate for you, and that’s fine. Spirituality is not found only in designated places at designated times. Spirituality is and means whatever it is and means for you—but keep in mind that even spirituality itself is just a word.
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It’s not like spirituality is going to magically fix everything. In some cases it can make things seem worse and more chaotic before they get better. If we’re being totally real about our practice, spirituality will inevitably, at some point, shake and crumble the carefully crafted foundations of what we believe about ourselves, others, and life in general. This is because spirituality dismantles all the conditioning we’ve been subject to since birth, be it from our family, friends, teachers, or society as a whole. Raw spirituality, rather than adding more beliefs and ideas about who and what we think we are, peels them away, bringing us deeper within ourselves to the place where the realest of real truths resides.
Things such as learning to live mindfully with the acceptance of whatever life hands us, seeing (and honoring) the beauty, wonder, and interconnectedness of all things (and I mean all things—remember that mud and that lotus), and cultivating a greater sense of loving-kindness for ourselves as well as others definitely won’t always be the blissed-out love-and-light endeavor that many think spirituality is supposed to be.
Why Not Spirituality?
So, why spirituality? Why not? Many of us have sought happiness in things like food, drugs, shopping, sex, and TV, only to realize that what they offer is nothing more than fleeting satisfaction. Hey, I love to zone out and watch The Walking Dead as much as the next guy, but once that hour of zombierific goodness is over, it’s over, and then what? That new car, laptop, or guitar that makes us so happy when we buy it—the one that we’re extra careful not to get any scratches or scuff marks on—usually loses its appeal not too long after we’ve acquired it. Once the nicks and dings begin to appear (and they always do), we’re on to the next thing.
Of course it’s fine to enjoy the material things in life, but it’s important to do so with the understanding that none of them will ever provide us with a lasting source of peace, happiness, or contentment. Learning to live mindfully with a heart that is open to all life—its pain and pleasures, ups and downs—as cultivated through various spiritual practices, is how we come to know real peace, happiness, and contentment.
In the foreword to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s classic book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, his son and Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche wrote, “Spiritual awakening is not a happy-go-lucky endeavor. The path of truth is profound—and so are the obstacles and possibilities for self-deception.” So again, spirituality is not a quick fix that magically makes life amazing. However, it can teach us to make ourselves available to life, accepting whatever we face with an open heart and working through it with skillful means.
After we spend some time working with spiritual practices and learning from those who’ve walked the path before us, it’s inevitable that we will begin to awaken in new ways. So if you’re up for a wondrous, strange, beautiful, eye-popping, and mind-melting experience, one that is simultaneously nothing special at all, then I’d say you’re very much ready to open your Everything Mind.
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Adapted from Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening, and the Mind-Blowing Truth of It All by Chris Grosso. Copyright © 2015 by Chris Grosso. To be published by Sounds True in October 2015.
About the Author
Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality, (Atria Books/Beyond Words, 2014). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Mantra Yoga & Health Magazine, and The Huffington Post, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, and more. A self-taught musician, Chris has been writing, recording, and touring since the mid-90s. Visit theindiespiritualist.com.