The day I see all of nature get down and worship some deity, I will too. When I see nature perform rituals and ceremonies and place extreme emphasis on symbolism, stones, beads, robes, or possessions, I will too.
But, nature doesn't do any of that. To claim you are spiritual, it seems, only means that you are just a sucker into some new form of mental criteria, systems, and culture. You treasure things such as beads, stones, crystals, statues, symbols, books, and clothing, and somehow the use or participation in various processes or methods makes you a "spiritual being" more aligned with Source, God, or whatever you’d prefer to call your idea of Deity, than you would be if you weren't doing those things.
Is this what we believe?
The belief that your beads, crystals, yoga mat, candles, posters, and excessive use of meme's online make you more spiritual is all in your mind. And it's a lie.
Spirituality is based on, and funded by, a faulty mindset and belief system that creates, enables, and supports a suffering based way of thinking. It starts from the basis that you believe you are flawed from the beginning and need to be fixed, or 'awakened', in order to be happy, fulfilled and at peace. Often times, people are led down a path of consumerism with the idea and intentions that these items will assist in the creation and preservation of the desired result, which of course, is the holy grail of sale's gimmicks: enlightenment.
So, you spend money on a statue, and maybe later down the road you end up buying more - because the statue wasn't enough, and wasn't giving you the result you wanted (instant enlightenment and salvation from your problems). Now you have beads, robes, bells, statues, and all other kinds of stuff that's supposed to aide in your journey towards inner peace. You and your friends compare the things you have and through jealousy, continue to acquire more spiritual stuff. You even sign every message and email with "Namaste" and use the prayer emoji obsessively. You're so close to enlightenment you can hear people calling you a Buddha now.
But yet, you're still unhappy.
Why is that?
You're doing what you're supposed to be doing to be spiritual, right? You have the statues, you have the yoga mat, you go to the hot yoga class twice a week, you have the fancy yoga clothes, and you stare at your affirmation board every time you leave your apartment. You charge your crystals while you meditate and burn sage and candles in a ceremonial way. You even drink tea from an old looking tea cup that you imagined the Buddha would drink from!
At first you felt on top of the world and as though you finally found what you've been looking for your entire life. But slowly that loneliness and sadness creeps back in. But.... why!? You're spiritual now! You have all the 'stuff' and your Instagram numbers are higher than ever! You're a spiritual meme king/queen! You're on the side of "truth" now!
So, why are you still so unhappy?
Why do you feel even worse now?
Not only do you have those same feelings again that you've been trying to ignore and cover up for so long, but you're more broke now. Maybe beating on that $1,400 singing bowl will help make you feel better and more spiritual again?
Spirituality, you thought, was your ticket towards inner freedom, peace, safety, and the achievement of reaching a new level of consciousness - or basically, a 'one-up' on the universe. You thought you found a way to beat the system and get what you wanted for yourself.
Then suffering about suffering starts to happen.
At the moment when it all comes crashing down is when your real practice begins.
“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
― Alan W. Watts
With all your focus on becoming 'spiritual', what does that mean, actually? What is 'spiritual'? What's the difference between 'spiritual' and 'non-spiritual'? Is there anything that is non-spiritual?
Is a person that doesn't have anything to do with ceremonies or rituals non-spiritual? Are they not part of the divine or still within the realm of the divine? Are the people that start a meditation practice, use beads for mantras, or stones and crystals for healing or 'centering' the only ones that are part of Source or part of a direct connection? Or even then, is it about them being more aware of a connection? Does awareness of a connection make the connection any more valid or real?
There once was a time when I thought all of those statues and jewelry and symbols were highly important, and, were the only way to become more aware of the connection to source, god, deity, or whatever you want to call it. I used the cliche response that anyone would give, that they are just a tool to help remind me to be aware, present, and conscious, but yet in truth I was more focused on the acquisition and prideful display of these items than the actual work.
Overall, I traded in my old system of belief for a new one and got suckered into the idea that this new way was better than the old one. And not only did I believe it was better, I believed it was far better. I prided myself on my story of "awakening" and my new life and approach to life, reality and God. I thought I had figured things out and had arrived at some secret that was there all along, right below all of our noses. But, when I think about it, that's the exact same thing the other people think within their religious and cultural groups. They feel that they have the simple answers, the right way and the right path. They feel they know what's best.
I soon realized the truth: I hadn't come across anything new or better. It was the same thing that I was desperate to run away from and abandon, just with a different mask, soaked with a different style of mannerism, behavior, and patterns of thought. And of course, new merchandise to buy and showcase around as a personal belief-system announcement system.
It was just a different game. A sheep in a different wolves clothing, or whatever the stupid sayings are.
Oh, boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Now, I can look back and see it all so very clearly, and I guess I'm proud and happy about that, too. Humbled, maybe. I can smile at my progression and see my silly behavior in the past, but overall see how it led me to be where I am step by step. Moment by moment.
None of my beads, robes, cushions, candles, crystals, singing bowls, posters, statues, or jewelry made that happen. If anything, they kept getting in the way and making things take longer. It wasn't until I finally set everything aside and began to face everything straight on did things finally start to happen. None of those material things could have done that in any way. It was me, facing truth straight on, and allowing myself to accept things as they were and as they are.
I have no interest anymore in decorating my house with statues of deities, figures, or anything of the like. I have no interest in stones, or robes, or getting new types of candles or certain types of this-or-that spiritual thingy. I wear beads on my wrists but only as a way to carry a meditation tool with me that I use everyday. I am fully aware that they are completely unnecessary. It's all unnecessary, really. Does that make it wrong? No. Of course not. Nothing about it all is wrong except for the thoughts about it's existence of being right or wrong. And guess what? You're not wrong if you are still into the statues and crystals and candles and affirmation charts, etc.
When it comes down to it, if all of those things help make you think you are being a better person and living a better life and being closer to God, then fine, go for it. Decorate your house with Buddha statues or plaques of Jesus nailed to the cross - whatever floats your boat. Get tattoos of the Om symbol, wear beads and jewelry meant to embrace the spiritual symbols and realms, and be proud.
Just remember that it's all in your mind and your ideas have become your true God.
Being dependent on a feeling for being 'spiritual' based on your possessions, rituals and mannerisms leaves you void of the overall truth that you are, intrinsically, spiritual. In fact, the idea of spiritualism doesn't exist really, because there is nothing else besides it.
All there is, is that which is. Everything else is your thoughts about it.
In that sense, you are not only just a spiritual being, you ARE the entire meaning and definition of spirit, spiritual, and spiritualism. All of nature is. All of life is. Everything. We all are. There is nothing that is not.
Your mind is the only thing that makes you think you're not 'spiritual' and somehow distant from 'God' or your true self. And then, conveniently, the solution for this mindset is available to you in various forms - all for a price, of course. This creates a feeling for you that the issues and problems of the past, or your identity, are not your fault or responsibility, because you were 'lost' before, or something of the sort. But now that you've purchased some statues, candles, a new yoga mat, some posters, tons of books, and maybe even a spiritual tattoo, now you're ready to take responsibility and finally begin to shape your life.
Playing the game of solving the problems of the mind, using the mind, for the mind, is exhausting.
Go on and do what you feel you must do to feel spiritual and connected. But just remember that it's you that is setting it all up as a lie in the first place. You must have the belief that you are not that already, and somehow obtain it through your beads, crystals, sayings, books, or rituals in order to convince yourself of what was yours and there already.
The Buddha apparently once said something like, "I'm just the finger pointing to the moon. Don't confuse me for the moon."
Let go of your obsession with 'things' that are meant to be 'spiritual' and instead, get to the real point of what those things are meant to bring your awareness towards. Don't get caught up with the Buddha when he clearly said over and over to not look at him, but focus on what he was teaching and where he was guiding you. Look at truth directly. Take a deep look into who you think you are and go from there. Don't spend hundreds of dollars on crystals and statues and robes and special mats and pretty bells and all other sorts of stuff that's for sale in order to make you think you are being spiritual and 'connected' while you avoid jumping head first into truth itself.
Your spirituality is just another trap - another illusion. It's something to keep you avoiding and delaying truth.
Get out of your mind and back into your heart and then sit on your cushion until you figure out who it is that's complaining about your life so much and seeking spirituality in the first place.
Again, no expense required.
You don't even have to buy any Zen Punk gear. I promise!
Everything we do is about how we think it will make us feel. Everything is about seeking a specific feeling that we want to experience in our reality. Our actions are based on obtaining feelings for ourselves. If you want to live your life in a way that leaves you with a specific feeling of being more spiritual and connected to the earth, source, god or whatever, then go ahead and collect crystals, sign up for expensive yoga classes and burn in-scents and candles until you get lung cancer - if that's your definition of spirituality. Live your life the way you want to. Chase after your feelings and enjoy the results of what you get through those pursuits.
Just know and always remember that no matter what you say or think about yourself, life and reality overall, you are already that which you seek.
You are all of it.
You are that.
And you've been it all along.
This post originally ran on the Zen Punk Project blog, at zenpunkproject.com.