“These days, I’m less spiritual than I have been in years.” This is what I heard my friend say to me as we walked through the woods a few weeks ago.
What she meant was pretty simple. She was no longer going to yoga every day, hanging a little less often with “yoga friends”, and drinking a little more wine.
I was enjoying our conversation, but my friend’s statement distracted me for a moment or two. The idea that any of us can be more or “less spiritual” from one day to the next triggered something in me.
I wanted to stop and say, “Aw, I think your spiritual practices and lifestyle have diminished, not your spirituality. You are spiritual no matter what.”
Our spiritual practices and our inherent spiritual nature are very different.
Tricky for modern Western yogis to entirely embrace, that whoever we are as individuals, we are not our practices or our lifestyle.
We know this in theory, we know it deep down, but much of the time we talk and act otherwise.
Our work, ideas, routines, hobbies, diet all contribute to who we are and become, but they are NOT US, nor are they OUR SPIRITUALITY.
We come into this world with positives and negatives– including our genetic makeup and other circumstances we’re born into. But in terms of spirituality, we are born pure– or as I like to put it, we are born SPIRITUALLY NEUTRAL.
Surely Spirituality (capital “S”) has no KNOWABLE design, strategy or form in and of itself– though all three of these things are applied so that we can teach and practice.We are spiritual beings whether OR NOT we practice spiritual forms.
This is part of what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche meant in his warnings about SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM. From his book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism…
“We think that we are special, heroic, that we are turning away from temptation. We become vegetarians and we become this and that. There are so many things to become. We think our path is spiritual because it is literally against the flow of what we used to be, but it is merely the way of false heroism, and the only one who is heroic in this way is ego.”
Our spirituality lies within our roots, individually and collectively– even universally. Spirituality is eternal.
However, sometimes I long for a new word to replace “spirituality”– a word used so often its meaning is mush.
But, for lack of a better word, Spirituality = our will to live + our tendency to love.
Why is this so important to remember? Just imagine for a moment that our spiritual practices were what makes us spiritual. This would mean that, without these practices, we would be born broken, destined to a life looking outside our own broken heart for a way to fix ourselves.
Do you look at a baby and see corruption, loss and shame? No. You see clear, open, trusting eyes that melt your heart– even if they’re covered in slobber and smell like poop.
The Sanskrit expression “Tat tvam asi” meaning “you are that” also helps our thinking brains embrace our spiritual birthright. “You are that” means that whatever you seek, want, strive to be, you are “already THAT” in potential.
At our very worst– in our most corrupt, lost, shameful moments, the ones we shudder to imagine– we are still spiritual beings.
My friend is still a spiritual being even with red wine stains on her teeth– though Kombucha might be a better spiritual choice.
A healthy reality check: Time, place, and the best conditions of our lives are still a side note.
Krishnamurti put it this way, “it’s the truth that frees us, not our efforts for freedom. ”