I recently picked up a copy of Rainn Wilson’s Soul Boom (Hachette, 2023). It promised a broad discussion of the need for spirituality in today’s world, which I believe is important. Delivered with the edgy pitch of a stand-up comic and using only male pronouns for God, however, the book mostly missed the mark for me.
There were a few gems. Wilson points out, for example, that no matter what we call it or whether we even recognize it, everyone is on a spiritual path. It’s what makes us humans.
And he offers an exercise (p. 8-9) which I found inspiring. Give it a try:
Take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Then…..
“Imagine yourself in 2023 America (or wherever you may be) as a contemporary monk. A wise disciple of both an ancient philosophy and a martial art practice with roots thousands of years old. You are lean and adept in you body. Calm of mind and open of heart. You step out the door of your house/apartment/building and go to your car/subway/bus. You have your keys, your wallet, your phone, your coffee sippy mug. You are on a journey. A journey of the day that lies in front of your and the greater journey of your search for meaning and purpose.
You’re off to seek to make a living for your family or become educated in school, perhaps. Maybe you’re going to go shopping for the household or to a job interview.
What will you encounter in our modern world? Countless frenzied people rushing about their lives? Staring onto their phones in their cars, on sidewalks, on buses, on elevators, and at desks? Ingesting an ever-refreshing fountain of news, emails, images, memes, videos, and updates from family and friends? Updates that, while they refresh on your phone, never really seem to refresh your mind, heart, and soul.
And if you let those distractions go, what else will you encounter in the outside world? Not a drunk, angry cowboy, but perhaps some forces equally as exotic. Someone being rude or judgmental, perhaps. Self-centeredness, probably. Anxiety. Rage. Things not going as planned. People behaving badly. Some type of suffering. Rejection. Or, perhaps, disappointment (one of the most difficult and complex feelings for me personally to encounter).
And how will you meet these challenges? Will you be buffeted around like a leaf in a storm? Or will you accept them as part of life? As the Buddha (supposedly) said, “Pain is certain. Suffering is optional.”
Will you allow the un-evolved cretins around you to affect your serenity and determine what course of action you take? Or will you deftly, metaphorically slip by them, seeking not contention but to “win by not fighting”? Will you wisely, placidly, draw on your deep well of inner wisdom and navigate these issues like a willow tree in the wind?”
I’ve been doing this exercise several times a day now. Not just sitting and imagining it, but experiencing it while I’m actively out in the world. I find that it realigns my perspective and my energy. It prompts me to pay attention to who is looking out at and engaging with the world––my ego or my spirit?