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Spirituality, Part Two

A collection of reader's thoughts about Spirituality. Check out Part One Here
Spirituality, Part Two
By Hudson Gardner • Issue #51 • View online
A collection of reader’s thoughts about Spirituality.
Check out Part One Here

Tres Piedras
Tres Piedras
Questions & Answers
More than a definition, or what it means to me spirituality, I would like to share some thoughts that might be related to this topic. Usually religion and spirituality can be understood as a bunch of answers, in one case the answers are given in a closed and already fabricated pack or bundle ( by someone or by the natural evolution of a culture) and in another case those answers are the result of an individual search or path. I think the common point between those two concepts is the deep need in all human beings to have answers to their own questions, people are desperate for answers and that’s the force that guides human thoughts to the religious or spiritual path ( paths that more or less intensely we all follow somehow and are a part of ourselves ).
I just would like to share that after thinking lots about how do I live spirituality, how do I search for answers and which answers do I accept, I think that the best answer possible to any question that has no easy and scientific answer is to keep questioning, trying different questions, answer questions with more questions, never stop questioning about it, never take anything for granted, keep those questions alive, taste the mystery, accept it, deal with the impossibility to know some things until the last day of our lives. Maybe you will find new territories for your spirit or mind in those questions, new mysteries, some questions might become answer to previous questions naturally, but the most important I think it is to stop thinking that the aim of that search is to arrive to a static knowledge, some wisdom contained into a box of answers, but to keep a search that will never end and never rest in the way we grow and walk in that path.
This can be a very idyllic, Utopian or poetic approach, I have been thinking a lot since I read your newsletter this week and I think that is the approach on spirituality that defines the most my thinking nowadays, and what I liked to share with you, it is nice to share visions and thoughts and learn from every one of them, like I learn when I read and think about the thoughts you share..
— X
Life Needs No Frills
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.
— G
Spirituality Is The Search For Self
Religion is a system that creates frameworks, structures and boundaries around moral ethics and behavior. For young souls, this is imperative as they learn how to navigate themselves here in the physical. When we identify as religious, we tend to live in the realm of “sympathy.”
Spirituality is the search for Self. Religion is a spring board (for better or worse–often for ‘worse’ (or the dual nature)) for mature souls see the inherent corruption and power- plays within religious structures. It’s as if the universe is daring those courageous enough to think “outside the box” for themselves. When we identify as being on the spiritual path, we tend to live more in the realm of “empathy.”
Mysticism, however, is when a person discovers their true Divine Nature. They have either instantly, or through dedicated practice, realized how to use the mind and ego as the tools they were intended for (not as something that is in charge) here on earth. They are deeply and solely connected to their Source, they are in total flow and the universe responds in kind (as it does for all of us, but these folks realize it and make it work for them as intended, or consciously). When we’ve reached the mystic point, we don’t necessarily identify as anything other than Spirit, but we are living in the realm of total “compassion.”
As you ascend (or contemplate, or practice, or meditate), it can be helpful to remember the feelings (sympathy, empathy, compassion) as points of reference on your personal journey. They each have a very different “weight” to them and can help you understand your progress. 
Creation Story
creation story
One day I woke up
and the world was there.
— L
What Are We Responsible For?
I hope this message finds you well. One can never truly infer how another person is doing solely from instagram, but I have to think that no matter what the circumstances you are living in and facing that you are able to find stillness, peace, and beauty. Something tells me that about you based on your online presence. Your photos and words are always well received and I look forward to getting your thoughtful newsletters. The most recent one on spirituality vs. religion hit particularly close to home. 
As I said to you I’ve recently spent a great deal of time considering religion, spirituality and morality in general. There is free streaming of an online class that really had a lot of concepts that were amazing to consider with all of the information I have now. Regarding your question about spirituality vs. religion: I had to give it some thought because spirituality is a word that’s thrown around a lot right now. “Spiritual crisis,” “not religious but spiritual.” These are phrases that you are bound to come up in any conversation with some depth. I’ve even uttered those phrases. But what did i even mean when I said the word spiritual? Then on a recent long run it came to me: religion is primarily concerned with the rituals and doctrines of a particular belief system. Spirituality is primarily concerned with meaning. That is why religious people can not be spiritual, and spiritual people can not be religious, or you can be both. This begs the question: what is it that allows us to find a sense of meaning? 
That is a much more difficult question to answer. Searching for an answer to that question led me to some places that I haven’t been for a long time. Like a long forgotten peak that you once climbed that you went to climb again and it was so much more beautiful and challenging than you ever remembered. Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, The Buddha, and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl all asserted that life is suffering. This is a dictum that carries immense weight in my life and likely most people that have experienced any sort of hardship. Almost everyone can relate to this. But it was Nietzsche who said that “If you have a why, that you can bear almost any how.” With that information we are really in the think of it. 
To orient yourself towards a spiritual path (meaning), you must have a why (compelling reason). This leads us to the place that Robert Pirsig was in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance - An inquiry into values.” We aim at what we value, and our why is derived from what we value. This particular place is hard to sit for me. Because I feel like this is where we are actually lost culturally. The issue is that with the oppressive doctrines and rules of religions led most people to abandon them, but with that we have lost our moral aim. What exactly are we aiming at now? Talk to most people our age and the social justice warrior comes out and we begin to hear about immigrants rights, trans-gender rights, and the oppression that white people are imposing on the world. These things are deeply important ideas and concepts. There is no debate that current systems of power contain within them exploitation and inequalities. 
Even still - I feel that something is missing. Rights don’t give our life meaning, responsibility does. So what are we responsible for? Thats a question I still haven’t answered. What’s even more interesting is that when we spoke on the phone the thing that I still think about from that conversation is when we were discussing calling people out on things. You mentioned a boss that you had to call out on some things. I often feel like this is a dangerous and slippery slope to walk, and have traditionally followed how buddhist teachers approached this and walked my path and tried not to concern myself with the behavior and words of others. But now…. I truly see the value in what you said. When you care about someone you are responsible for saying something when that person is out of line. If it is not your place than whose is it? The nazis rose to power because people weren’t speaking up, complacency allowed them to not say anything till power reached a tipping point where there was no turning back. I think that is the danger in not speaking up and why what you were doing was important. Having a moral aim in this life to make your life and those around you better is how you live a meaningful and deeply spiritual life. That’s all we can really hope for. 
— M
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