• Don Martin

Ask Ali, March 2015

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Dear Ali,

I hope this question doesn’t seem incredibly lame or stupid, but what even is spirituality?

- Charlie R.S.

Hey Charlie,

First I am going to provide you with a dictionary definition of spirituality. Then I am going to provide a definition I myself have formed through years of living in spiritual communities and undergoing spiritual moments of profound insight. If what I am writing sounds cliché and a bit arrogant, go along with it for a minute. I am trying to make a point.

Spirituality is technically defined as a process of personal transformation, either in accordance with traditional religious ideals or psychological growth independent of any specific religious context.

With that said, how could I ever judge your question to be lame or stupid? It would not be of my highest spiritual intent to condemn your inquiry. Would I even be spiritual if I rolled my eyes at your curiosity? My point through such questions and statements is as follows: when we segregate any part of life from sacred life, especially in the name of spirituality, we create exactly what we are trying to release, the idea of separation. There is no evil in the world, just misunderstandings fueled by the delusion of separation. If the kindest aliens in the universe desired to form a peaceful coalition with all of humanity tomorrow morning, there is high chance we would call them terrorists and shoot down their spacecrafts by tomorrow night because they travel in triangular ships and we are just not used to that. We fear what we are not accustomed to, so a theory of pure evil hardens in our minds. Instead of looking through the veil of separation, we choose to look directly at it, misinterpreting differences for danger. The veil of separation represents anything one may see as unfamiliar or out of the ordinary.

Say you are in a check out line at the grocery store and the lady standing in front of you begins to verbally attack the employee at the register. At first, you probably will not know why this lady is angry because you (like me) were busy debating in your head whether or not to buy the candy conveniently placed next to the check out line. So, in this moment of uncertainty you can jump into judgment and assume this lady is crazy or you can choose to look through the veil of separation which requires having compassion for her, even in the midst of her impassioned rage. To judge her to be crazy is to slip into the illusion of separation.

I am inclined to point out the difference between judgment and observation. Just because you do not wish to judge someone does not mean you need to ignore their unhealthy habits. The difference, to me, between judgment and observation lies in the amount of energy invested in condemnation. When you degrade someone for their actions you are, quite often, unconsciously putting yourself on a pedestal. That is to say, you cannot degrade someone without giving into the idea of severance.

The one definition I have taken away from spirituality is, quite simply, the practice of remembering we are all connected. “We” includes animals, plants, humans – any energetic force to be found under the sun. Even that one neighbor who thinks every Saturday at 8:00am is an ideal time to mow the lawn. The neighbor may exude uncompassionate behavioral habits, but his pure essence does not stem from his habits. His habits are formed in relevance to a disconnect with his pure essence. We must integrate, not separate.

Charlie, you asked me a simple question and I believe I answered it and then added my own take on the hierarchy forming in the minds of many new age spiritualists. “I am spiritual. They are not. Therefore I am right.” When society, as a whole, has a lot to improve upon, it is very easy to seek a way out through ‘enlightenment.’ I am sure you have heard the saying, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Here is one of my favorite spin-offs of that saying: “If a guru becomes enlightened in a forest, and no one is there to witness his awakening, has he really awakened?” Is it not the point of awakening to share your new-found bliss with the rest of the world? It is my hope that us ‘spiritualists’ remember we are not really ‘spiritualists.’ Even the purest of labels can create the thickest of barriers when such label is twisted in the minds favor.

Have a spiritual day.

-Mary Allison

Mary Allison is practicing spiritual vulnerability in a culture that craves invincibility amidst a fragile world. You can find more of her teachings here:


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