We hear it all the time: “I am spiritual, but I am not religious.”
Recent human history has probably borne witness to more “spiritual conversions” than any other era. But what does that mean — to be spiritual? Growing up in India, it meant you were open to all religions. For example, I was raised as a Hindu, but I attended a Catholic school. We discussed Jesus and Krishna under one roof. That, to me, was being spiritual.
When I moved to New York 10 years ago, I observed that being spiritual meant practicing yoga, reading self-help books, and talking about being spiritual. Today, living in Los Angeles, being spiritual appears to include everything I discovered 10 years ago – plus dressing like a “spiritual person” and sharing the crap out of it on social media. Choosing to become vegan — and then bashing non-vegans — is also a part of our New Age spiritual wave.
I was raised as a Hindu, but I attended a Catholic school. We discussed Jesus and Krishna under one roof. That, to me, was being spiritual.
Plenty of spiritual aspirants leave the religions of their parents only to substitute one dogma for another. Instead of being told that premarital sex is a sin, perhaps they're told that eating sugar or not recycling is a sin. Again, we are missing the points of a spiritual path: truth, love, freedom, and real happiness.
When we are seeking, we become vulnerable to a cult mentality — one in which no one questions what they are told. That leads us to act blindly, without consideration of how certain mandates fit our independent consciences and values. In the absence of true, authentic spiritual guidance, through this blind adherence we perpetuate suffering in ourselves and in the world around us.
Chanting Sanskrit mantras, cursing freely, getting symbolic tattoos, and becoming vegan are not real signs of spirituality. Yet this is what most New Age spiritualists do.
I don’t think that everyone who becomes spiritual today is doing so blindly. There are humans all over the world who are being authentic in their journeys. But the majority of what I witness is a very distorted picture of spirituality.
I'm certainly not perfect, but I'm fortunate enough to learn from authentic spiritual masters. I am invited to discuss and debate with them, and my acceptance of a principle is always my own decision. The one thing all of us agree on is this: Spirituality is simply about being authentic.
If you are truly a spiritual person, then just allow yourself to be you. Of course, this “spiritual you” should be caring, kind, and compassionate; that’s what makes us human. But you don't have to try too hard to find your spiritual self – you were born spiritual. It is already in you. You just have to break free from your conditioning to discover that truth within yourself.
These are 8 of the traits I've found to be common to authentic spiritual seekers:
- They don't judge.
- They love unconditionally.
- They practice spirituality without bragging about it.
- They are great healers.
- They rebel conscientiously.
- They express their desires.
- They practice detachment.
- They seek.
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Learn more about authentic spirituality in the author's book, Break The Norms.
Chandresh Bhardwaj is the 7th generation spiritual teacher and meditation guide who hails from a lineage of traditional Indian gurus. Chandresh started Break The Norms Movement with the intention to awaken human awareness from its conditioned self. He is the author of Break the Norms.