Jacob Nordby claims to break out in soul hives when someone calls him a spiritual guy these days, and wonders if wearing that label could be a trap.
I used to like to say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”.
Lately, I have become itchy with that label. It seems to separate spiritual people from the rest of humanity in some way.
Also, it sets up a whole group of people who call themselves spiritual teachers and, I hate to say this, many of them are clever charlatans.
With that statement I just landed on a whole lot of people’s shitlist. After all, selling spirituality has become big business and a bunch of folks are not going to be delighted that I am pulling back the curtain and revealing the great and powerful Oz in this way. Spirituality has turned into an industry bringing in over $9 billion per year—and that is probably a conservative estimate.
But it isn’t just the hucksters and salespeople who give me a case of soul hives. I sometimes break out in a rash these days in many gatherings of sincere, good people who have enrolled in the religion called Spirituality.
When I finally mustered the courage to leave the harsh Christian religion of my own youth, I eventually found refuge in what appeared to be the wide-open and loving community loosely known as Spiritual.
At first I felt safe, welcomed and free for the first time in my life. Most in spiritual circles have an almost fierce insistence on non-judgment—which was something I had never experienced before. I thought I had died and gone to Nirvana. What started to surprise me was the following:
- Some days I felt as though I had dropped acid and wandered into a Spirituality Carnival. Over here, someone was selling “Crystals that will purify your soul and connect you to the energies of exalted masters from other dimensions”. Over there, a sideshow barker was calling out, “Step right up, step right up! For only $4.99 per minute, the amazing Psychic will talk to your departed grandmother and also tell you how to manifest your perfect soulmate.” Down the row a bit some other people were selling Aura Underwear and Shamanic Popsicles. I love the mystical and mysterious, but I found that I was expected to swallow stories of alien origins, absolutely believe in re-incarnation without batting an eye and pretty much accept every wild version of reality that came down the line from anyone claiming the title of Spiritual Teacher. And there were so many of them.
- The spirituality gang had its own language, dress code and tone of voice. Sure there were plenty of variations, but some broad themes emerged and I started to wonder if I could measure up in certain circles if I just showed up as myself, dressed any old way and spoke in common vernacular.
- The concepts of spirituality—oneness, non-judgment, the illusory nature of time and this world to name a few—were being used as cop-outs to avoid feeling the intensity of life as a human being.
In fact, many of the ego play-things spirituality was supposed to erase like anger, jealousy, greed and superiority (and even having an ego itself) simply showed up hidden behind Love & Light Namaste-masks.
In the quest to move away from the heavy old beliefs of religion, Spirituality has morphed into whole new dogma sets which, like the followers of many other religions have discovered, don’t work well in every day life. Rather than embrace every gorgeous, fractured bit of ourselves, we would rather chant concepts at each other. We quote out-of-context excerpts from teachers like Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Krishnamurti, Buddha and Eckhart Tolle in a sort of Enlightenment Jousting to prove that we know more than other people. We use sayings about innocence to shame our fellow travelers and fail to notice the irony of it all.
But you should know that this rant of mine doesn’t mean I deny the Soul—that divine spark which mysteriously shines through the eyes of us all. I don’t hesitate to tell you that I experience real magic and delight in exploring the fascinating realms of mind, matter and spirit.
And what is Spirituality, after all if it isn’t the pursuit of something real; the experience of what lies beyond the body and mind but can be integrated and embodied?
I have come to differentiate not at all between what is spiritual and the rest of life. There is only Life, all of it is good and the more I am aware of this in every moment, the more my spirit comes alive.
Frankly, I don’t care what religion any of us chooses. The roots of the word itself come from the Latin: Re (again) + Ligare (to bind). Religion, understood this way, is to bind again what is visible and invisible. That’s quite a different proposition than lining up to learn catechisms and conform to someone else’s notions, isn’t it?
And let’s face it…
Life is an endless attempt to word the unwordable, to make what cannot be touched walk on the ground, to embody what can never be fit inside a single lifetime.
We see reflections of ourselves in sunrises, hear our perfection in thunderstorms and babies’ laughter–touch, taste and feel–and then try to somehow remember all of that while taking out the trash, paying bills and a million other ways we have invented to forget.
We weave together within ourselves mud and spirit, shadow and light, animal and angel.
No wonder humans feel crazy most of the time.But you aren’t crazy. You are doing a heroic thing by being here as yourself in the world.
Do you suppose we can get real and honest enough to accept our own true birthright without creating yet another artificial label to stick on our chests? I would love it if you would join the conversation by posting your comments below this article.
Photo Credit: Flickr Commons/Erik Fitzpatrick
Author’s Note: I honor the gifts of everyone–authors, speakers, teachers and healers, etc. My life has changed in profound ways during shamanic retreats, while reading books and listening to talks. This article in no way diminishes the work of genuine people sharing themselves with the world. Information or experiences that help humans become more empowered is priceless, but anything which keeps people in endless reliance on some guru is just more of the same stuff we don’t want.
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