So here’s the thing: I didn’t go to school for any of this spirituality stuff. I’m not a yogi from the Himalayas, a preacher in a pulpit, or a “spiritual teacher” with dollar signs in my eyes. The truth is, early in life my curiosity got the better of me and led me down some roads that resulted in years of heavy drug and alcohol addiction. These dark places ultimately brought me to a very real life-or-death search for something more: finding deeper meaning in life and waking up to the spiritual essence that imbues it all—from monasteries to stadiums, meditation to stage dives, skateboarding to serving food in a soup kitchen, and everything in between.
Wait . . . so by “everything,” do I actually mean every single thing? Why, yes—yes, I do, and I call this “Everything Mind”. So, what is Everything Mind? Well, I think a better question would be, “What isn’t Everything Mind?” We could start by saying that Everything Mind considers every-thing in our lives as part of the spiritual path. Our triumphs and heartbreaks, joys and suffering, the light and the dark—all are equally suitable teachers and lessons. Zen Buddhist teacher and poet Thich Nhat Hanh is famously quoted as saying, “No mud, no lotus,” which means that our best selves grow out of our darkest places—our pain and suffering. Experiencing life from the place of Everything Mind allows us to lay aside our fears of right or wrong thoughts and emotions. Then, we can begin to compassionately, and even humorously (at times), work with and through all of them with open and courageous hearts and minds.
That’s just the beginning. As we start to understand and engage our lives in a spiritual way, we realize that all that we think we are—our stories, hopes, experiences, fears, loves, and terrors—are just components of Everything Mind. This Everything Mind, this perfectly precise and inclusive stillness, holds each brilliant moment of who we are and who everyone is. It’s like losing yourself so completely in your favorite song that everything else fades away, leaving you—intentionally or not—in a state of nonself. The song has penetrated your being so deeply that you forget about your material self—your thoughts, judgments, opinions, and labels—allowing that moment to simply be as it is. This is not a state of transcendence as avoidance. We don’t deny our physical self and all that comes along with it. It simply brings us to, more embodied state of all that we are, and it’s perfect, even when it feels like it’s not.
The good news is, to begin awakening to Everything Mind, you don’t have to be in a crisis of addiction (like I was), a religious scholar, or a renunciant. The tools for making positive changes and waking up to the deeper reality of life and of our human experience are, in this very moment, already inside of you. The celebrated, yet controversial, Buddhist teacher, poet, and artist Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said, “Everything is a footprint of Buddha, anything that goes on, whether we regard it as sublime or ridiculous. Everything we do—breathing, farting, getting mosquito bites, having fantastic ideas about reality, thinking clever thoughts, flushing the toilet—whatever occurs is a footprint.” Looking through a Christian lens, the theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, “To be spiritual is to be awake and alive.”
Now, it’s not like spirituality and its accompanying practices are going to magically fix everything. In some cases, it can make things seem worse and more chaotic before they get better. If we’re being totally real about our practice, spirituality will inevitably, at some point, shake and crumble the carefully crafted foundations of what we believe about ourselves, others, and life in general. This is because spirituality dismantles all the conditioning we’ve been subject to since birth, be it from our family, friends, teachers, or society as a whole. Raw spirituality, rather than adding more beliefs and ideas about who and what we think we are, peels them away, bringing us deeper within ourselves to the place where the realest of real truths resides.
When I speak of spirituality, I mean it as something that’s raw and direct. It’s not just about creeds or beliefs, but rather about being directly of the heart and the mind in a way that’s undeniable. That is why cultivating a spiritual lifestyle might be one of the most challenging undertakings you’ll ever face. Things such as learning to live mindfully with the acceptance of whatever life hands us, seeing (and honoring) the beauty, wonder, and interconnectedness of all things (and I mean all things—remember that mud and that lotus), and cultivating a greater sense of loving-kindness for ourselves as well as others definitely won’t always be the blissed-out love-and-light endeavor that many think spirituality is supposed to be.
So, why spirituality? Why not? Many of us have sought happiness in things like food, drugs, shopping, sex, and TV, only to realize that what they offer is nothing more than fleeting satisfaction. Hey, I love to zone out and watch Stranger Things as much as the next guy, but once that hour of nostalgic 80’s sci-fi/horror is over, it’s over, and then what? That new car, laptop, or guitar that makes us so happy when we buy it—the one that we’re extra careful not to get any scratches or scuff marks on—usually loses its appeal not too long after we’ve acquired it.
Once the nicks and dings begin to appear (and they always do), we’re on to the next thing. Of course, it’s fine to enjoy the material things in life, but it’s important to do so with the understanding that none of them will ever provide us with a lasting source of peace, happiness, or contentment. Learning to live in a way that’s more directly connected with yourself and your surroundings, with a heart that is open to all life—its pain and pleasures, ups and downs—as cultivated through various spiritual practices, is how we come to know real peace, happiness, and contentment.
After we spend some time working with spiritual practices and learning from those who’ve walked the path before us, it’s inevitable that we will begin to awaken in new ways. So, if you’re up for a wondrous, strange, beautiful, eye-popping, and mind-melting experience, one that is simultaneously nothing special at all, then I’d say you’re very much ready to open your Everything Mind.
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