Cutting The Shi*t: Musings On Dogma Free Spirituality.

Via on Aug 28, 2012

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Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

~ Buddha

Wolverines! Yes, that’s right, I recently watched the 80s cult classic, Red Dawn courtesy of Netflix instant streaming. I love you Netflix.

Anyways, it’s been over 10 years since I first saw the film and I was feeling a bit nostalgic so decided to take a trip down memory lane. While I still enjoyed the movie my second time through for said nostalgia and its complete cheese factor, I couldn’t help but watch it through a different set of eyes this time.

Without getting too serious, I did find contemplating how the characters carelessly killed one another for no other reason than geographical and political differences. While Red Dawn’s premise of Cuba and The Soviet Union invading Calumet, Colorado is fictional, it was yet another reminder of how the whole concept of war and murdering one another to settle differences completely blows my mind.

So what does all this have to do with “Dogma Free Spirituality?”

During my brief 34 years in this body, I’ve come to experience no greater truth than that of the cliché expression, we’re spiritual beings having a human existence. The thing is though, that’s been the most sincere and honest experience of this “reality” that’s ever resonated with me.

So here we are, these Divine beings. Many of us are lost in the illusion of separation and therefore primarily concerned with me, mine and ours in relation to family, community and country. Once we feel threatened in any of those areas, due to our false sense of separation, all bets are off. And while Red Dawn is a dramatic stretch of the imagination, it does a fine job of exemplifying this.

On the other hand, however, it’s also been my experience that spiritual and religious institutions—places built on the premise of love—often do more harm than good, creating division of a different kind through dogmatic beliefs and practices, rather than unity. So where does that leave us if even the places that are supposed to teach love, compassion and unity often have the reverse affect?

The following is a condensed introduction to a series of articles that will follow, each expanding on the summarized topics below.

It is my intention in this introduction to give you an overview of the tenants of “Dogma Free Spirituality” as I’ve come to experience, embrace and share them. This is my humble attempt towards a more compassionate and inclusive approach to spiritual living rather than one of judgment and separation.

Let me be clear however, I claim no ultimate truth or authority in my words, but rather offer a way looking at things differently. I’m still learning and growing every day myself and fully recognize that. I find however, that sharing and learning from one another’s ideas and experiences, in a friendly and nurturing way, helps facilitate that growth exponentially. Above all else, that is my sincerest intention.

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Come As You Are

It wasn’t until I found the punk/hardcore music scene around 14 years old in the early ’90s that I ever really felt as though I was a part of something (family aside). Getting involved in the punk/hardcore movement was life changing for me because it was a community of people searching for something more. There were bands discussing all sorts of relevant topics from politics to personal ethics, spirituality and all the “isms” you can think of. So having those roots prior to becoming interested in spirituality was important as it helped facilitate finding my own voice and truth, regardless of the thoughts and opinions of others. And yes, it was cool to read Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx and realize I wasn’t the only one who had that experience.

Shifting Paradigms

The true nature of God, Universe, Spirit or the Divine—as I’ve come to understand and experience it—is 100 percent equally in yogis and sages as it is in criminals and murderers. The only difference is that with the yogis and sages, there’s nothing else. Unfortunately, many organized religions and spiritual practices claim ultimate authority over God’s word and abuse that.

Luckily, thanks to my punk/hardcore roots, I had no problem recognizing that it was never, ever okay for them talk down to me for being who I am, while hiding behind the pretense of God. Spirituality is not all about church, incense, crystals, malas and words like “namaste.” Sure, that can all be part of it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but most importantly, it’s all about what tenants of spirituality resonate within us, regardless of what it looks like on the outside and others may think or say.

Question Everything

Question everything essentially builds off shifting paradigms. When I say “question everything”, I mean it a positive connotation suggesting we check in with ourselves and see if we’re honoring our deepest truths or are stuck in old, conditioned belief systems. The old paradigm that connecting with Divinity can only be done though formal religion, going to church or temple, or though rigid and arduous spiritual practices is now being shattered, and thank God for that (pun intended).

It’s important for me to clearly note here that if specific religious or spiritual practices do resonate with you, as many do with me, that’s wonderful. Go forth and spirit your life silly! It’s also my experience however, that spirituality is not strictly limited to those traditional paths. Things like nature, dancing, music, hiking, exercise, meditation and writing are just a few of the many things that are equally applicable on our spiritual journeys and that can definitely lead us to connect with our spiritual selves at a deeper level. Something as simple as one conscious breath has the potential to teach us as much as all of the great wisdom traditions and their literature combined.

Photo by Brian Bisaillon

Loving-Kindness

From my own personal experience, the most important thing I’ve learned to do, hands down, is become more loving and compassionate towards myself. At first, this may sound selfish, but honestly, it’s probably the greatest gift we can give not only ourselves, but the Universe as a whole. When we’re able to have a more loving relationship with ourselves, we don’t have to seek for that love and validation in someone else. When we do so, we’re ultimately setting up everyone involved for failure because no one can be perfect and satisfy all of our needs, all of the time. When we learn to be more loving and compassionate towards ourselves in an honest way, we can then bring more love and compassion into our other relationships, which in turn, will allow them to grow in new ways never before possible.

Unity Consciousness, Non-Duality & Experience

For me, this is the trickiest part of the path, yet the most important. The description “non-duality” by definition alone creates duality. Herein lies the importance and my emphasis on experience over knowledge. Let me clear though that knowledge is wonderful! I love reading books and learning. I mean, I have the words “Book Worm” tattooed across my knuckles for Christ’s sake. Knowledge is wonderful for introducing new ideas to meditate on. However, you can do your best to describe what a peach tastes like to someone else all day long, but until they actually taste it, they’ll never know for themselves.

Now specifically regarding non-duality, over the last century, many Western scientists have come to agree with what the ancient yogis of India taught 2,500 years ago, which was that the Universe is a single substance. This substance has been given many names including Awareness, Brahman, Spirit, Consciousness, Advaita and God, but it’s namesake is of little importance. What truly matters is that it helps us to understand that awareness such as unity consciousness and practices like loving-kindness are of paramount value. They help us in understanding and experiencing that when we harm another—whether mentally, emotionally or physically—we quite literally also harm ourselves.

Over my next few articles, I’ll go into greater detail on each of these subjects and look forward to the constructive sharing of ideas and experiences with those interested in participating. Much love and respect.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Chris Grosso

Chris Grosso is an independent culturist, freelance writer, spiritual aspirant, recovering addict, and musician. He serves as spiritual director of the interfaith center The Sanctuary at Shepardfields and created the popular hub for all things alternative, independent, and spiritual with TheIndieSpiritualist.com. Chris continues the exploration with his bestselling book titled Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster). A self-taught musician, Chris has been writing, recording, and touring since the mid-1990s. Follow Chris on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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43 Responses to “Cutting The Shi*t: Musings On Dogma Free Spirituality.”

  1. tamera says:

    " it’s all about what tenants of spirituality resonate within us, regardless of what it looks like on the outside and others may think or say."
    I wholeheartedly agree! For me, it's been all of the above (nature, dancing, meditation, etc… )
    Great article!

  2. Allison says:

    "the most important thing I’ve learned to do, hands down, is become more loving and compassionate towards myself."

    Well written and wise article I hope many will read. There are so many beautiful paths to LOVE…to DIVINE. When we love ourselves, we are able to recognize the truth that resonates from within us– know what agrees with us.

    Your thoughts my dear…agree with me from within. I send you LOVE and KINDNESS and EXPANSION.

  3. Chris says:

    Tamera- I’m glad my words resonated with you and I appreciate you leaving me some feedback. Much love.

  4. TPLTR says:

    Awesome article Chris! Very inspiring. I can't wait to read more!

  5. Kaye says:

    Chris, you’ve been such an inspiration for me and this is a beautifully, lovingly crafted article. I feel that you’ve touched on a very critical point that spirituality is both vital in life and that individuals can reclaim it, free of misuse and irrelevance.

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks Sean! Like how I squeezed an Inside Out video in there? ;)

  7. Chris says:

    Thanks Kaye. You words and sentiment are always appreciated! Much love.

  8. Debra says:

    Chris, I really enjoyed reading your post and agree 100%! Very well written and I look forward to your next article I whole-heartedly agree with practicing loving kindness, after all, love is all we take to heaven with us!

  9. Chris says:

    Thanks so much Debra. I really appreciate it! Loving Kindness is huge and has been so transformational in my life!

  10. Griffin says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and am looking forward to the next article.

  11. Chris says:

    Right on. Thanks much Griffin!

  12. Thermalrider says:

    In a world of so many differing opinions your point of view is intriguing. I look forward to reading future musings that you have to offer. Namaste.

  13. Martine says:

    Great article Chris! Question more to see what resonates with you and love and be kind to yourself while trusting that you know which is the right path for you. Thank you for this message, perfect timing.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Martine. I'm all about quieting down and listening to what's going on inside and where that guides us. I truly believe doing that, there's no way you can go wrong.

  14. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: Enlightened, I'm Not Spiritual, Culture & Health & Wellness.
    ~Mamaste

  15. Monica says:

    "Go forth and spirit your life silly!" Shall do Chris. I completely agree with most of your points and find the more I allow/look for Spirit in my everyday activity the more spiritual I feel. Who needs a church when they can find God in the garden? I look forward to your future posts on these topics.

    • Chris says:

      Right on Monica. I'm glad you said agree with "most" of my points because that actually hits on a huge part of what I's trying to convey which is follow what resonates with you!!! As for God in the garden, oh yes, He/She/It manifests in some of the most amazing ways there! Thanks for your comment!

  16. Lotus28 says:

    Man, this article is the bomb. I have been practicing for a long time and with time, I realised that all the bells and whistles associated with practicing a spiritual tradition (clothes, incense, statues, chants, guru chasing, centres, etc) did not make me a better person. I gradually and naturally felt compelled to scale all of the external stuff back and at first, I was uncomfortable with this. I would find myself asking: was I still being a good practitioner? (whatever that means). I essentially got back to the root, which is meditation and introspection. It is so nice to hear of other people having similar experiences. Bring on the other articles please!

    • Chris says:

      Thanks for the comment and I'm really glad my words resonated with you! I've totally gone through the motions and relate to everything you said. I guess what it really comes down to is that if all that stuff, the clothes, statues, chants etc do resonate with you, that's totally cool, some of it definitely does with me, but it's not the main focus of my practice. I don't make idols out of it. I'm not taking any of it with me when this body ceases to exist, so with that in mind, I focus on what I will be leaving this temporal human experience with and work on that. But that's what resonates with me and y experience, doesn't mean it has to with anyone else. Whatever floats your boat :)

  17. Vood says:

    Your your voice Chris – your wisdom and down to earth sensibilities really cut through much jaw-boning about spirituality, you're a real asset to the discussion about evolving spirituality beyond religion.

  18. Woot! Such a great read. I highly enjoyed it! I love the Question Everything bit and the Come As You Are. Here’s to dogma-free spirituality. You rock! xoxo

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Lisa! I think your message of Positive Rebellion totally resonates with this and can't wait to do some cross-promotional work. Much love my sister!

  19. Wendy Kennedy says:

    Loved this article right from the first quote! It totally agrees with my own reason and common sense:) I look forward to reading future articles!

  20. Nate Nadeau says:

    Only half way into reading it and already crying. These are beautifully honest words that allowed me to internally revisit the channels in which I experience the divine. Thank you

  21. John Roy says:

    Some very useful points here. I'm reminded of an old mentor of mine who described the punk scene affectionately as a last ditch effort for authenticity in a world increasingly devoid of it. For me I think it means going against the grain at times, looking to see deeply what others aren't seeing out of habit or convention, because the contrasts aren't apparent enough. As we stand our ground, wisdom coalesces around us, our intrinsic awareness awakens, piercing the cloaks of unconsciousness allowing new information to enter the system. Part of that wisdom is sticking to one boat once you find one that floats. Perhaps sometimes that one boat is post-modern and many boats at once. Looking forward reading more.

    • Chris says:

      You have an amazing way with words John! Your comment: "I'm reminded of an old mentor of mine who described the punk scene affectionately as a last ditch effort for authenticity in a world increasingly devoid of it." totally sums it up! Thanks!

  22. Ramani says:

    Very American approach to spirituality. Good luck.

  23. Athina says:

    Here’s what I love about this article: Everything! And here’s why: Because it makes everything ok… Not just ok, but somehow beautiful and wonderful and perfect and cool even. It’s suddenly ok that I’m still stuck in my ego mind, that I use 4 letter words, that I’m so tired of being weird and isolated, that I have spent my entire life trying to get there and yet most times I suck at spirituality, that I feel like it’s now ok to just say: I suck at spirituality!!!

    Thank you Chris, because what you have conveyed is acceptance. True acceptance.

    And that is the door.

    • Chris says:

      I think you just summed it all up better than I ever could Athina. That is absolutely what I'm trying to convey. Like Pema Chodron says, "Start from where you are" or Ram Dass, "It's all grist for the mill." Basically, lets stop taking ourselves so goddamned seriously and cultivate more patience, compassion and understanding, and not just for ourselves, but others as well. Thanks again!

  24. [...] that our forefathers were fallible men. They were not gods. Not everything they have written is scripture. Yet they were wise enough to write a Constitution that can be changed—a document that could [...]

  25. Alanna Kaivalya AlannaK says:

    It's about time!! This is something I"ve been pining about for a while. Can't wait to read your next posts!

  26. [...] I’d like to begin by providing the link to my previous article which serves as an introduction to both this, and some of my other forthcoming articles directly relating to “Dogma Free Spirituality.” I recommend checking that out first if you haven’t already, as it lays out the bigger picture. You can read it here. [...]

  27. Larry says:

    I have to join the chorus of compliments about this Introduction to Dogma Free Spirituality. It sums up things that I didn't think could be. For me, that includes my religious background and spiritual searching that began when I was a Congregational kid in a Jewish middle school: I had to ask myself, "If religion is supposed to be good and equal and accepting, why are they better than me because they are jewish?" The confusion over unity and division really began there and still leads me to many WTF? moments today!

  28. Matthew J. Ricketts says:

    I think a major key to all this is in people’ s collective ability to let go of literal interpretations of “god’s” word – whatever scripture or “sacred” book you are reading from. We must all evolve to a point where we can agree that there are many amazing and beautiful sets of myths, faces of god and goddess, and eloquently written words that still offer some comfort to we humans harkening back to more uncertain times. While we can still call upon these things for comfort, but with an underlying realization that we are energy and we are part of a single energetic whole, which has taken form for some reason that we may be too small individually to see. We may, however, glimpse this greater purpose when we look within ourselves… would love to hear and respond to all comments on this topic!

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