How Not to Be Spiritual

Mark J. Janssen
4 min readAug 4, 2022

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How do you cut yourself off from spirituality?

Shut up.

Shut off.

Shut down.

Turn yourself off to everything positive inside of you and around you. Will your soul to die. Not that you would be the first person to ever do that. I have met people in all walks of life who are the real living dead. The spiritually dead.

Regardless of their exterior, it becomes clear on meeting them that there is something about them that is not quite right. They may laugh and smile and make jokes, but there is no real depth to them. They are incomplete. Their inner life and light has gone dark. They are empty vessels.

Not that truly spiritual people are always happy and bubbly. Their lives are not three ring circuses. They deal with real life problems. They don’t always enjoy the deep inner peace they may desire. That we suppose our gurus ought to have.

Well, here’s the word on that.

Any sort of spirituality teacher can help us, lead us along and show us how to live more fulfilling lives. They can’t do it for us. They can direct us along a spiritual path. It doesn’t work if they try to be spiritual dictators. Whatever kind of guru we’re looking for, whether in spirituality or business or sports or wherever in life, the most they can do for us is show us how they got to where they are. How other people did it. How others achieved goals similar to the unique goal you seek.

Our first decision is clear. We have to decide whether we want to live in some sort of self-inflicted purgatory or dig deep for our inner spiritual self.

Miserable people love their purgatories. That is their choice. It’s where they choose to live their lives. I make it a point not to live my life anywhere in their vicinity. Who wants somebody pouring vinegar on the chocolate sundae of your life?

Pass.

We can live our lives on the hot mess express or we can do the work to be at peace. We can choose to live our lives on purpose.

Something that is difficult for many of us is to be concise and clear. Being concise in thought, word and action — being brief and to the point — cuts out anything extraneous. It facilitates sticking with our goals. Keeping to the point.

Our aim is to be concise and clear in our thoughts and behavior.

We are better able to focus. To see our true endpoint. We are honest with ourselves. When we are honest with ourselves, we are better able to be honest with others about our intents.

We are able to behave with dignity. That’s not an idea that is in common currency as it one was. For those of us who pay attention, we see how rare it is for people to treat themselves with the respect for themselves and others that leads to dignity.

Grace bestows dignity upon us. Grace is something we receive. It isn’t earned. There is no way to build up brownie points so that Odin or Thor or some other mythological bolt thrower hits us with it.

Again, it’s part of having the openness and willingness to be spiritual.

Before we are free to do anything for anyone else, we have to set ourselves free from our negative emotions. We must allow ourselves to see through the external expressions of anger to the crippling disorder it is. Both internally and externally. It takes courage from all of us to see that it stunts our spiritual and emotional equilibrium. We can’t begin to grow if we are constantly off-kilter.

Negative emotions, thoughts and actions bind us. They tie us up. We are emotionally and spiritually — sometimes also physically — paralyzed. Our freedom to be our true selves isn’t stolen from us.

We threw it away.

In the blistering heat of summer, it can be pretty difficult to care one way or another about spirituality. It’s far easier to close our eyes and let ourselves melt in the heat.

Don’t think.

Don’t act.

Don’t do.

Let somebody else be the eager beaver who goes out and gets involved in life. It takes less energy to sit in a chair, close our eyes and ignore life passing us by.

Sitting in a chair paying attention to creation takes a lot of work. There’s more to it than watching a television science show or reading a book.

Exercising the right to be spiritual includes prayer. While it’s expected that one would kneel during prayer, there’s no reason it can’t be done sitting.

I have seen meditation, that other mighty tool, performed standing, running, bicycling, swimming and other ways. I have tried methods from Buddhist chanting to Trappist centering prayer. Spirituality teachers recommend sitting meditation as best for getting the most out of it. I have performed silent sitting meditation for fifty years.

A few years into it I found that I almost always fell asleep while meditating. That’s still true. I told some monks about my perceived problem.

So what? they asked. There’s nothing wrong with that. It means you have such a strong connection with God that you are able to nod off while meditating. That’s good.

They and many men and women since have shown me we sometimes perform very spiritual acts when we judge ourselves unspiritual.

You just never know how God will judge you.

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Mark J. Janssen

Mark Janssen is a spiritual warrior, mystic and author. His writes a weekly blog. His memoir “Reach for the Stars” is available online and in bookstores.

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