Back in 2012, I was seeing a psychologist for yet more therapy because I was still in a funk, the latest in a string of funks over the previous five years. He had me do an “I am” exercise, and on one line I wrote, “I am SBNR.” A few years later, while digging through belongings moving out of a yurt and back into my car, I found that sheet, but I couldn’t understand what SBNR was. At the time, it was becoming more accepted for folks to meditate or adopt other contemplative practices, yet refuse to identify as religious. Thus the rise of the phrase spiritual but not religious, SBNR. I had bought in.
Pop culture, much as I love it and am a product of it, tends to ruin things. Hence the irony of modern material spiritualism, the selling and self-aggrandisement, en masse, of spiritual traditions from every corner of the world. Why the world, which most of us know to be round, has corners is neither here nor there. In addition to the now ubiquitous yoga classes, there are sri yantra tattoos and mugs that read “namastay home with my cat” and seminars on “manifesting your dreams” taught by wealthy, narcissistic people who apparently aren’t self-aware enough to note the inherent contradictions that go along with their “good vibes only” message. That is what happened when capitalism infused different disciplines of the mind and body.
At heart, I most identify with the seemingly similar, though vastly different, spiritual materialism. It should be said that this isn’t Chogyam Trungpa’s notion of spiritual materialism, which is closer to what I just laid out above. In essence, I adhere to the great powers and protocols that standardization and the scientific method have created. However, I remain highly skeptical that these modes of knowing can answer all the important questions, or, more importantly, even attempt to. There will always persist questions that are unscientific in their nature.
The mystery of breath, the mystery of beginnings—like the most obvious miracle science tends to forget about in the Big Bang—or the mystery of death all remain. Simple as it is, spirituality has always been about breath and connecting to it. Breathe. Know that you are breathing, or that you are being breathed. Understand that others, infinite others, are breathing along with you, and that you are breathing along with them, too. Life is bigger than just you and your ego. Life needs no frills, no special retreats with shamans or sham-mans, no extreme fasting or book writing binges to “share your story of transformation.”
We all breathe or are breathed, we all eat, we all poop, we all die. C'est la vie.