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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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