Dogma Free Spirituality (Part One)
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.
“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth.”
~ Pema Chodron
Honestly, I feel like I could end the article right now with that quote as it sums up perfectly what I’d like to convey, but that wouldn’t allow me to pimp my own writing and we can’t have that now can we?!
In my previous article, I talked about the impact that the punk/hardcore music scene had on me, especially in developing my inquisitive nature and in teaching me not to accept everything at face value, which popular society and mass media obviously would prefer we do.
A friend of a friend of mine described the punk scene as, “A last ditch effort for authenticity in a world increasingly devoid of it.” And from my personal experience, I definitely agree.
During the early nineties I stood out like a sore thumb in high school.
I was a pierced skateboarder who wore punk t-shirts (many of which landed me in the principal’s office) in a town and a time where it was not socially acceptable (a lot really has changed over the last 20 years). I’ll admit that I was young and naïve and didn’t totally understand what I was rebelling against a lot of the time. It was still, however, an amazing lesson in learning not to care what others thought—albeit often on a materialistic level—but it ultimately carried over and played a huge role later on in my life while developing my own sense of spirituality.
My high school was small but like any traditional high school, athletics was the driving force behind popularity and acceptance and not just by your classmates, but the town in general. I’m not knocking those who played sports, I was on the soccer team from elementary school through seventh grade and played organized hockey for much of my youth as well. Where I lived, though, it defined you. So when I left soccer to pursue playing music, I got my first taste of not fitting into the status quo and just how uncomfortable that could make other people who lived their lives based around it.
The thing was, even though my outer self didn’t fit in, my heart and sense of right and wrong were increasingly growing and taking a stand where others, specifically the ones who were more favorably viewed by teachers and the town in general, wouldn’t.
For example, homophobia was rampant in my school but thanks to the inclusive nature I’d been learning through punk/hardcore ethics, I knew that wasn’t cool and I had no problem speaking up when others would say the word “faggot” as an insult and in the most hateful of ways. This definitely didn’t earn me any cool points, but I could have given a shit about that. I should also mention that, of course, I learned a sense of right and wrong from my parents that I took seriously, but punk taught me not to cave to peer pressure, like the majority of other students would.
I’m in no way trying to toot my own horn but rather convey through example how grateful I am to have learned to truly follow my own heart at that young age thanks to punk/hardcore.
So in tying that together with the spiritual aspect of this article, the truth I’m most grateful to have experienced on a personal level, one which others have balked at which meant very little to me, is that God, Universe, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, Spirit, Higher Self, ad infinitum, couldn’t give less of a shit about what we look like on the outside.
It doesn’t matter if we adopt a specific religion, spiritual path and vocabulary, have tattoos or piercings, wear a suit and tie, repent our sins, tithe or repeat specific mantras a certain amount of times.
It’s our heart and intention that matter the most. So if we’re coming from our hearts, yet not practicing a particular mantra or prayer perfectly, it doesn’t mean the merit isn’t being accumulated.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me state unequivocally that I do use mantra practices and meditate daily. I’m a part of a spiritual community and read the literature of the great wisdom traditions, so I have nothing against any of that at all. My point is that unless I’m coming from the heart while engaging in such devotional practices, then it’s empty. I’m doing nothing more than paying lip service.
The cool thing is, though, even that doesn’t really matter because we will ultimately remember our true self sooner or later, whether it’s in this lifetime or another. It’s inherent in us so how could we not? It’s a love that is never apart from us, we’ve just covered it up with so much stuff it’s often overlooked.
The other cool thing is that if none of those practices resonate with you right now, doing things like gardening, hiking, listening to music or dancing etc.—mindfully, with a sense of love, peace, joy and happiness—are just as valid of a “spiritual” practice as anything else. Chances are better than not that over time, immersing yourself wholeheartedly in those things will more than likely lead you to explore more traditional styles of practice, which, over time, will cultivate an even deeper experience of your self.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with two things. The first is a comment someone left on my previous article, which beautifully summed up my point in relation to her own experience. The second is a video from one of my favorite current emcees on the Rhymesayers Label named Blueprint. The song is not spiritual per se, but it has a strong message, which reflects honoring the truth of who we are. Oh, and it also has an insanely amazing beat as well. Just sayin’…
Here’s what I love about this article: Everything! And here’s why: Because it makes everything okay… Not just okay, but somehow beautiful and wonderful and perfect and cool even. It’s suddenly okay that I’m still stuck in my ego mind, that I use four 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 okay to just say: I suck at spirituality!!! Thank you Chris, because what you have conveyed is acceptance. True acceptance and that is the door. ~ Athina
They tried to hit me with the same thing you probably would have fell for, “Make it more commercial Print, you probably would sell more.” But I’m eating now, so I’m like, “What the hell for?” Telling me to change only makes me rebel more.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger