I was reading Chris Grosso’s new book The Indie Spiritualist, and while this deep, meaningful, funny, engaging, reverently irreverent book about spirituality has much to love, I found myself particularly drawn to a section where he expresses his uneasiness with how “trendy” spirituality has become. I find myself equally uneasy with the way spirituality has been co-opted in certain circles as yet another way to be “cool.”
I’m certainly not suggesting you can’t be spiritual and trendy. No God I love would dictate whether or not someone should shave her head and wear black robes or dress in the latest runway fashions. Any spiritual guidebook I would ever follow would remind you to follow your heart, align with your authenticity, and be the most self-actualized version of your true self, which is your own unique manifestation of God consciousness in human form. But it’s important to examine our motivations. What leads us to behave in certain ways? Are these behaviors genuinely deepening our spiritual practices, or are they yet another way we try to fit in because we don’t feel good enough as we are?
Being Spiritually Cool
Consider yoga, for example. When American yoga practitioners were surveyed about why they participated in yoga, the most common response was “to get a yoga butt.” And of course, that’s not what the yogic path is about at all. It’s about enlightenment.
It has also become cool to listen to kirtan music, decorate your house with singing bowls and Buddha statues, and dress in $300 yoga outfits.
In his book, Chris quotes a New York Times article about how fashionable meditation has become:
“For a new generation of ‘spiritual seekers,’ a daily meditation practice has become the emotional equivalent of green juice: a well-being essential. Russell Brand has described it as ‘like a shower for your brain,’ while the Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr has said it helps her stay in goddess-like shape, inside and out. And when ‘transcendental’ and ‘trendy’ appear in the same sentence, one question inevitably comes to mind (no matter how hard you are trying to empty the contents of your cranium): What to wear?”
What to WEAR? Who CARES what we wear when we are engaging in our spiritual practices? And since when did the goal of meditation become a Victoria’s Secret body? While I like fashion as much as any hip woman, it all starts to sound suspiciously like a lot of ego. I can just see Jesus tipping over those tables in the spiritual marketplace again.
Being Spiritually Uncool
Speaking of Jesus, if the influence of Eastern religion has led to a rash of spiritual trendiness, I would argue that other spiritual influences have become downright uncool. This weekend, I was admittedly reluctant to attend a full day spiritual healing workshop that felt shockingly like a Baptist revival or a Pentecostal church (not usually my cup of tea.) I was this close to walking out because it was triggering all of my childhood stories about how I felt pressured to “take Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and let the Holy Spirit into my life.” I saw the rebellious child in me bubble up and resist being “saved” or “healed” by the Holy Spirit. Yet I have no problem sitting for hours waiting for a hug from Amma, and I’m planning to go see John of God next year.
Perhaps because the Christian faith has merged with the far right in American politics, Christianity has gotten a bad rap among the yoga-practicing, meditating, kirtan chanting, Amma hugging New Age spiritual crowd. Even though Jesus is my favorite of all deities, I know I’ve stopped identifying myself as Christian because I don’t want to be associated with the anti-gay sentiments, anti-abortion hatred, and self-righteous, judgmental hypocrisies that tend to be associated with some Christian churches. And yet, nobody exemplifies the capacity to project God consciousness in human form more than Jesus, who I love.
So even though I was triggered by some of the practices and language of this workshop I attended this weekend, I stuck it out, and I wound up having a profound, transformative experience of being hit with a bolt of light and love when Padre Paul gazed into my eyes and touched my forehead with his fingertips. I was humbled by my own small-minded judgments and surrendered to the realization that there are many faces of God, and when we limit ourselves to a narrow comfort zone, we miss out on the blessing of the Divine in all of His/Her forms, whether we are experiencing the Divine within ourselves or in the form of Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Jehovah, or the Goddesses.
The Spiritualized Ego
What really resonated with me about the conversations put forth in The Indie Spiritualist is the notion that when spirituality becomes a way to feed the ego, we’ve lost touch with what the quest for enlightenment is really about, which is about living a soul-centered life and dissolving the death grip of the ego’s hold on us. As Adyashanti says in The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk On The Nature Of Enlightenment, “Make no mistake about it- enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the façade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”
Waking up isn’t about the spiritualized ego that takes the early phases of waking up and uses them to judge others or to elevate one’s image. It’s more about welcoming it all and taking a place of witness from within, so you notice your motivations and have compassion for yourself and others. Are you dressing in expensive yoga clothes because you’re hoping to win more love and belonging from others- or do you just love the way they feel? Are you talking about meditation when you meet new people because you think it’s cool- or because it’s genuinely changed your life and you hope it will help others? Are you keeping your mind open to all the faces of God and allowing others to find the Divine in their own way- or are you judging anyone who isn’t spiritual like you? Has your spiritual path become something else your ego uses to define you and judge yourself as either superior than or inferior to others? The answers to these questions aren’t meant to trigger self-criticism or self-cherishing, just self-awareness.
The Indie Spiritualist
I guess that’s what I love about The Indie Spiritualist. While it’s definitely skewed more towards the rock-and-roll loving, yoga- practicing, kirtan chanting, past life-believing New Age crowd than your average Christian, I came away from reading this book feeling like I’m free to get my spiritual nourishment from whatever fills my well, regardless of what’s spiritually cool. And that feels like spiritual freedom.
Perhaps you love Jesus irreverently, deeply, and with an open, ego-free heart like my girl Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery does. Or perhaps you’re called to shave your head and wear robes in a Buddhist monastery. Or maybe the path of yoga resonates with your soul. Maybe, like me, you pick and choose your own sort of grab bag religion.
Your spiritual path is yours and yours alone. Nobody can map it out for you. While you may find spiritual teachers or spiritual communities that feed your soul, you’re likely to notice that something you’re taught doesn’t feel quite like YOU. What if you’re allowed to disagree with what you’re taught? What if you’re a Christian who believes in past lives or a Buddhist who loves Jesus or a Hindu who goes to a Catholic church and takes communion? What if the forests, oceans, and mountains are your church, as they are mine? What if you get to make the rules and nobody has any right to judge the path of your spiritual journey? What if it doesn’t matter what you wear or whether or not you cuss or how spiritually conforming or cool you are? What if all you have to do is let your soul take the lead and open your heart?
Are You An Indie Spiritualist?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please tell us what you think in the comments.
Indie as always,
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