Many people in this modern age, who are pursuing a spiritual path, when asked how it all began, will cite a moment of clarity. And a desire, a wish to discover “more” to life. Often this desire is soon followed up with the discovery of a book. Sometimes it is a book that has come down through the ages, and is accepted as Scripture. Sometimes it is a book of talks or even chants by a modern spiritual teacher. Sometimes it is from a guy just telling you about his life and what truths he has been able to piece together from it all.
I have read what quite possibly could be such a book. But it is a unique (and surely unexpected, for many) look into spiritual living, as evidenced by its title, “Indie Spiritualist: a no bullshit exploration of spirituality”. In it, Chris Grosso gives a “lain-bare” account of his teenage descent into drug use and alcoholism, and his attempts to find clarity, his stumbles and relapses, and his recovery, and discovery of Buddhism. Though very non-sectarian in his approach, even so, through Buddhism, and playing guitar in Hindu kirtan satsangs, Grosso found within himself a path that is intensely personal, yet profoundly universal. It is universal in that everyone of us has one. Our own story. Our own heart as the light on our own unique paths. The guru within.
Grosso’s approach is dogma-free and eschews plenty of the standard “ground rules” for spirituality, which I found refreshing. First off, words are just words. No moral judgment can be made based on one’s use of profanity, for example. Sometimes strong language is necessary. Other times, one simply chooses to use it. No harm is done, nor intended. Secondly, spirit can be experienced from myriad sources. Namely, as Grosso demonstrates, one can find spiritual experience in hardcore rock music, in sci-fi and horror films, and in cult classic novels.
In short, everything is spirit and as such it is for us to glean from all experience what ever it is that we will. There is a tremendous sense of pure gratitude which one gains from this book. Gratitude to those who happen to be in our lives. Gratitude toward the artists and minds who color the backdrop of our lives. Gratitude toward the sun for happening to shine upon us through everything.
Grosso’s story is much like that of Noah Levine, author of “Dharma Punx”. Each were profoundly moved and influenced by punk and skateboarding. Both struggled with drugs and alcohol from an early age. Both were greatly influenced by Buddhism. Both decided to do something beyond themselves with what they learned. Grosso perhaps does not identify himself so inextricably with punk as Levine did, which is one of the things I personally found attractive about Grosso’s story. But he does use being a fan in a mass of humanity at punk concerts, and a few anecdotes about skating, to illustrate points about what it means to be an Indie Spiritualist. Grosso has his style and background which are integral to his story, yet he shows us that which anyone can identify with. And not just those who have struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Grosso has much to say about overcoming any type of adversity, or just plain seeing life from the bright side but with a healthy dose of stark realism.
His word that no matter how far you feel you have strayed, or fallen, or whatever you want to call it, that you can rise again, is golden. With his parting words, “This. Shit. Is. Doable,” Grosso somehow drives home the point that nobody can help you if you don’t want to help yourself, but at the same time assures the reader that we are all in this together. In this way, the concept of Indie Spiritualism, while it strips away the dogmatism of “religion”, creates a community of another kind for which there is no prerequisite in any way. Grosso shows us how the very fact that you are here breathing and reading these words is good enough. You being you is a spiritual exercise of the highest degree. He does not claim to have the meaning of life, but gives us a damn fine example of how to gather meaning from all of our own personal stories.
Jai Hari Aum