Spirituality? I Call Bullsh*t.

Via on Sep 28, 2012
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Photo: eflon

“The game is not about becoming somebody, it’s about becoming nobody.” ~ Ram Dass

I love diversity and I’m glad that I have friends who have virtually no interest in spirituality because as with anything else in life, they help me consider things from different angles than that of just a spiritual practitioner (though often unbeknownst to them).

I recently had a conversation with one of those friends while she was taking some bio pictures of me for my website (oh self-aggrandizement, you’re an alluring bitch). She playfully cracked on my interest in spirituality and joked about how I wasn’t smiling enough in the photos while saying, “what would all of the spiritual people think?”  I didn’t think much of it at the time but later on, I really began to ponder why I was particularly drawn to spirituality yet she wasn’t, and how that playful comment about what “spiritual people” would think, actually said a lot more than I initially realized.

My friend and I are both similar in many respects, we have a lot of tattoos, love underground culture, look for more than what life has to offer at face value and so forth, but when it comes to spirituality, she has little to no interest at all. And I have to say that after really thinking about a lot of what passes for spirituality these days, I can’t say that I blame her in the slightest.

Some years ago, I was at the breaking point in my life. Years of active drug and alcohol addiction left me at a place where I was going to either literally kill myself, or find a better way to live. It was a dark time for me, but one that proved to be the catalyst, which pushed me to find a more integrally healthy lifestyle. For people like my friend, however, people who aren’t at the edge of death, or insanity, or backed into a corner like I was, they often don’t feel compelled to seek out more from life. If they do however, and look for it in much of today’s contemporary spirituality, it’s often not long before they remember why they hadn’t looked there in the first place.

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Photo: Tom Newby Photography

Much of today’s spirituality has become a business, and business is good, but for the people I addressed in my last paragraph, people like my friend, and many others, who can see through bullshit a mile away, much of today’s “spirituality” just doesn’t appeal to them. I mean, some of the shit that passes for spirituality these days blows my mind, and the price tags attached to it, well, like I said, business is good.

So much of this spirituality is presented as pretty and cosmetic, and basically is to spirituality, what Jersey Shore is to reality. Even when unsavory things like our judging minds and low self-esteem are addressed, they’re often given fun, kitschy names or catch phrases to put a bright spin on them. I mean, if those fashionable spiritual teachers and their products are helping someone else to deepen their connection to their true inner nature in a sincere way, that’s awesome. But so much of it is watered down and only addresses the love and light aspects focusing on words like, “empowering” and “healing.” However, if people aren’t doing more than scratching the surface of the areas where the real healing and empowerment can come from when faced, how deep and long lasting will said empowering and healing actually be?

For me, I want to lay it all out there as real as I can, both the good and the bad. Life can be brutally ugly and grotesque and I don’t want to pretend like it’s not. F*ck, just look at the process of childbirth we go through to get here! As much as we like to ignore the things that scare us, like the fact that death is always creeping up on us, what good is embracing our denial of life’s ugliness actually doing? I mean, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but at this very moment, you and me, we’re dying.

Of course, it’s important to celebrate life and love, friends and family and I’m not trying to address this in a morbid way but rather, at the very least, so that we can acknowledge and recognize that for most of us, there’s some scary shit we’ve become complacent in ignoring. Once we muster up the courage to look our physical mortality in the face though, we open ourselves up to a deeper relationship with our true Self, the Self that cannot be harmed and never dies, the Self that we were before we took birth in these physical bodies and will continue to be after we lay them aside.

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Photo: GinkgoTelegraph

True spirituality embraces all of this, the beauty that is almost too much to bear, as well as the pain that leads some to the brink of suicide. It’s all grist for the mill. We practice our asanas and mantras, prayers and aspirations, and that’s great, but are they serving to strengthen our identification as a “spiritual” person who believes they are this material body, or to help us un-identify from that, and this illusion as a whole?

I’m not perfect, I’m so f*cking far from it it’s ridiculous, and I want to be absolutely clear on that. I fail at much of what I’ve written about in this article myself. I lapse into metal labels of myself, and others, all the time and get caught up in material shit. Case in point, right before I began writing this article I was packing my drums up because I’m scheduled to play Kirtan up at Kripalu later on, which is a very well known Yoga retreat center here in the Northeast. So when I finished with that and went to put my shoes on, I grabbed my Saucony’s, but noticed a pair of my Vans sitting right next to them.

The quandary was that the Saucony’s are made from suede, while the Vans are made from canvas. So I stopped for a minute and thought about how I was going to be performing in front of a bunch of yoga practitioners, and well, hmm, what would they think if I was wearing suede shoes? So yeah, that’s the level I was recently coming from, but I’ll just keep on keepin’ on and do my best to bring awareness and compassion to the ridiculousness that is Chris Grosso, and to not take it all so goddamn seriously.

p.s. I wore the Saucony’s. Namaste Motherf*ckers.

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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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 debut 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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25 Responses to “Spirituality? I Call Bullsh*t.”

  1. Keep it coming Mr. Grosso, we need frank discussion in everyday language about spirituality, great thoughts!

  2. Eric says:

    Chris, great article!! you and I have a lot in common. I'm also a musician and non-practicing drunkaholic (check the EJ hyperlink on my name). I couldn't really practice Buddhism until I got sober, and I couldn't really stay sober until I took my Buddhist practice seriously.

    but "spirituality" takes on many forms in my life today, as many as I will/can allow in each moment. I often say, "Namesste: the mess in me bows to and honors the mess in you". if someone takes umbrage to that, I know that they take themselves a bit too seriously. it's okay to laugh at ourselves–definitely–because we are all far from perfect andj yet perfect in our own way. as Lama Surya Das said, "Being there while getting there."
    ::blessings::
    Eric

  3. Chris Grosso says:

    "Namesste: the mess in me bows to and honors the mess in you". That may be the funniest thing I've read all week Eric. And yes, sounds like we are cut from the same cloth my friend! I totally understand what you're saying about being unable to practice based on sobriety, or lack thereof all too well! And great quote from Surya Das too. He's rad. Going to check out your link shortly. Thanks so much for reaching out and saying hi!!!

    Bows,
    Chris

  4. Chris S says:

    But maybe there's really something deeply subversive going on here. Business is undoubtedly subverting spirituality to its own ends, but I think its equally true that spirituality is subverting business values and the "profit at any cost" mentality that dominates our culture now. Maybe this is the most efficient way for spiritual values to infiltrate the dominant mindset. Sure, its starting out from a pretty superficial place. However, with time and exposure to billions of minds, each one digesting and living these "new" truths in their own way, some superficially, some more deeply, our appreciation and understanding of these truths as a society and culture will become more and more normal, mainstream and commonsensical.

    Thanks, Chris, for the thoughtful article.

    • Chris Grosso says:

      Chris, totally agreed and very well said. Ultimately, whatever gets someone through the door and interested by all means is great. The problem I've seen with a lot of people I know is that so much of what is popularized as spiritual these days just totally turns them off. But hey, they can find it elsewhere too. It's just that obviously with guidance from predecessors who know the terrain, it can make the journey smoother. In the end, we'll all get there. I mean, it's who we truly are at our core so there's no way that we can't. Thanks for your words. I appreciate them!

  5. John Roy says:

    Nice little essay on spiritual materialism.

  6. bevcooke says:

    True spirituality doesn't a) charge a hefty price in dollars and cents; b) doesn't ignore the darker parts of life (that's partly what it's for – is to grapple with the darker sides and admit the light into your darker self) and c) doesn't paper over negative stuff with fun,bright and distracting fake happy names. True spirituality is finding the will of God and submitting yourself to it – and I'm not pushing a particular religious agenda here – but if you really want spirituality, you have to look outside yourself to an authority beyond human weakness, otherwise you're simply worshipping yourself. Pick a religion, find it's mystic side and pursue that -whether it's Orthodox Christianity (which is my faith), Bah'ai, Buddhism, Roman Catholicism or one of the Hindu expressions of faith. Oh, and it's a long hard road – you don't get there in two or three months, so if you're looking for quick answers, go to the big business spiritual gurus – they'll sell you the goods.

    • Chris Grosso says:

      I like what you have to say Bev. It is important to find something greater than ourselves to guide us but I don't agree it always has to be outside ourselves. The truth lies within each and every one of us and can be found in something as simple as taking one conscious breath. That's been my experience at least, but too each their own. Whatever works for another is fine by me as long as it isn't hurting anyone. :)

  7. guest says:

    well said. What struck me, though, (perhaps because it is my life and material possessions and "hefty prices" are not supportable) is how illness moves people to deal with spirituality. For you it was addiction, which may fall into the "illness" category.

    But life (Spirit) often does put people into the place they need to learn what they are not seeking. Lyme disease has shoved me into contemplating ideas and embracing practices because I've had to ignore much else that was once in my life.

    The disease overtook my abilities to do much else. I'm far from alone in seeing this happen.

    • Chris Grosso says:

      Absolutely about the illness aspect, like in your case with Lyme disease, so very true. And also agreed that Spirit will use other means outside of just illness etc to nudge people in its direction, and that's wonderful. People certainly don't need to hit rock bottom or be in dire life circumstances in order to make a deeper connection with it and that's so great! Just seems like that happens a bit less frequently. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Dylan says:

    yeah, bro. Namaste Mothafucka <—i came to a similar conclusion while walking in some big hills in Nepal.
    Good on yah for posting about the shoes.

  9. Roger Wolsey says:

    Good stuff. As a Christian, I'm a follower of Jesus — who I believe be the way, the truth, and the life. Following this path I believe leads to life abundant. And yet, that way of Jesus is "the way of the cross." We can only thrive in life if we own up to our shadows and our mortality. A value in organized religions — at least at their best — is the essential components within them that keep things grounded, humble, and real.

    Here's a powerful example of a Sikh woman showing just this in action: see: http://jezebel.com/5946643/reddit-users-attempt-t

    • Chris Grosso says:

      Thanks for your insightful comment Roger. It's also very nice to hear from a Christian who is open to others views. It seems like that is becoming more and more the case these days and that's wonderful. Christ is also whom I hold dearest in my heart and on my path but I've had trouble reconciling the relationship between much of Organized Christianity in relation to Jesus' illumined teachings, but I recognize that as my own stuff and it's not a fair and thorough representation of Christianity, or Christians such as yourself as a whole.

      And I actually saw that post regarding the Sikh woman earlier today. Wow. I appreciate you sharing!

      • Roger Wolsey says:

        Chris, thank you for sharing more about yourself. I had a hunch that your piece may well be inspired, at least in part, by Jesus and Christian teachings/values. : ) Yeah, organized religion can be dysfunctional, but some forms of it are actually pretty healthy and life-giving. You might enjoy my book Kissing Fish. Here's a blog that share's a bit about it. peace. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-roger-wolsey/pr

        • Chris Grosso says:

          I love that article Roger, thanks so much for sharing! Your words resonated deeply with me for sure and your book sounds great. There's a really great group of folks called The Christian Left out of Seattle (I think) who are doing wonderful work in changing the old, dated paradigm of a cold and judging Christianity and that's so wonderful to see. My heart skipped a beat when I saw them post a quote from Buddha on their Facebook page a few months ago! How refreshing. Truth is truth, period, and for me, love is truth, the same love from Christ Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, the Tao and so forth… it just so happens that Christ is the material representation of that love which resonates with me a little more than the other illumined teachers, though I love them all and am grateful for their guidance and wisdom!

  10. Lori Ann Lothian says:

    Nice on chris.

  11. Edward Staskus says:

    I would like to point out that childbirth is not "brutally ugly and grotesque". If it were, we as a species would have died out millions of years ago.

    • Chris Grosso says:

      I said life can be ugly and grotesque, not specifically childbirth, though childbirth in and of itself is a very messy process. There's no way around that. And I'm not sure even if it was ugly and grotesque how we as a species would have died out millions of years ago because of that. Just left a bit confused by your comment and also wanted to make sure you were clear on my statement.

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