There are a few commonalities to many spirituality books that drive me crazy.
1. The author is full of him or herself and every other chapter is a self-congratulatory pat on the back.
2. The book is rife with jargon and spirituality buzzwords, instead of actual substance.
3. The content is mainly self-referential, and just encourages the reader to dig deeper into the author’s books and merchandise instead of encouraging a personal path.
This book is none of those things.
When I met Chris Grosso in person for the first time, he was sweaty and worn out from running, but gave me a big hug anyway. This is that. Chris opens the door on all of the dark and dusty corners of his battle with addiction, feelings of inadequacy, and search for truth—and embraces it all without heaping a bunch of pretentious bullshit on top.
It’s a fine balance between titillation and not being transparent when it comes to discussing addictive behavior. When we think of books like A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (which in the end was largely fictional) the focus of the author’s addiction is to shock us, to entertain. In Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality, Chris’s portrayal of the darkest times of his life serve to say, “Look, I was here, and I found a way out.” The fact that he opted to deem it an “exploration of spirituality” is both refreshing and accurate. This is not a sales pitch from someone who’s figured it all out; this is stopping to ask a friend for directions, when he’s a little more familiar with the terrain. Instead of being platitudes and reiteration of Chris’s personal path, this is a guidebook for those who are seeking their own.
The beauty of this—to me—is that the reader isn’t directed to a program, or a specific religion or doctrine—or even to Chris himself as a “guru”—but to seeking a path. Instead of dogma, we find a map that say, “if you are seeking, here are some great places to start.” With everything from music and movie suggestions, to QR codes for free downloads of Chris’s music, to easily accessible meditation practices, to book recommendations that range from Hunter S. Thompson to Thich Nhat Hanh, this is a book for anyone who’s ever wondered if they’ve fucked their life up too much to have a “spiritual path,” (which is to say…all of us).
“Then there’s the fear of facing ourselves for who we truly are: the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly…and that too is an awful fucking fear. But until we’re willing to take a good hard look at both of the selves we believe to be—the person we present to the world and the person we hide at all costs, who’s rooted in fear—well, we’ll stay stuck exactly where we are. You were born to be real, not to be perfect.”
~ from Chapter 8: Calling Bullshit on Ourselves.
The pervasive message throughout the book is one of compassion for ourselves and others, not as a place we ever get to, but as a core daily practice that is central to finding peace. While Chris pulls from many traditions—as well as many sources most religious communities might not see as teachers—the undercurrent is one that echoes this quote from the Sufi poet, Hafiz:
“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
I often joke that although I am an avid book lover, I don’t have copies of many of the books that mean the most to me. This will be one of those books. If you are unabashedly spiritual and looking for a great read, if you are looking for something more, but disenchanted with organized religion—or if you are lonely or in darkness, and wondering how anybody makes it out of that and into the light—this is for you. Dogma and bullshit free, Indie Spiritualist.
Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality is releasing on March 4th 2014 through Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, and is available on Amazon.com
To connect with Chris and keep posted on his events and workshops, check out his Facebook page.
Kate Bartolotta is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. Her book, Heart Medicine, is available on Amazon.com. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal and The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Connect with Kate on Twitter, Facebook and Google +.