BY: ROB HOFFMAN
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I’ve never been one to buy my spirituality at crystal shops. I doubt anyone ever has. I might retract this if someone could point me to a set of abs acquired from the health and fitness isle of their local supermarket. But until then, let’s also assume the bejewelled hands of Blossom the crystal-clerk were hired for one exchange only, and if she’s lucky, it’ll involve health and dental benefits.
Though she may not know it, Blossom is more or less the reason that the word ‘spirituality’ feels dirty in my mouth, and awkward on the keyboard even as I type. She is the reason I cringe at the word ‘chakra’ and feel lame to admit that I meditate, though both are unfounded. Being a spiritual person has nothing to do with Blossom, or the stereotype she represents, but rather concerns a decision of how to live. And though spirituality is inherently diverse, I feel that if there is claim to the energy in the rocks of the land, it would have to be realized through an exchange with the land. For me, this has always been the easiest way.
In the time one spends in nature, and particularly on long hikes through the more unforgiving of terrain, tapping the vein of one’s spirit often comes at the cost of one’s body. Be it the knees, the back or even the mind, it doesn’t matter specifically, it is only important that, when it comes to spirituality, there is weight to haul. The forest, because of its isolation, has always offered an even distribution between body and mind.
The solitude of the forest, under the weight of one’s backpack, offers little room in the mind for the smog that manifests in the urban landscape, where there is a relentless neediness and competition for your attention. In contrast, this deafening silence makes it difficult to escape from your own thoughts, and this is the point. A state of focus where the weight of your stride adds purpose to your thought; the depth of your thought relieves the weight of your stride.
In my own life, these conditions have always set the foundation for a spiritual moment. And though some may say that spirituality is less of a moment and more of a condition, I’ve come to think that, if spirituality is a condition, it is one that constantly rises and wanes like an electrocardiogram. For a runner, the heart beats more rapidly and therefore more often, and this will contribute to the overall health of the heart. In this way, if you live in a manner that is conducive to spirituality, which is to say living with purpose, you will more frequently experience the manifestations of spirituality. In my experiences, these manifestations most typically occur on the top of a mountain; in the upper spine of the forest; watching the light settle like snow across the trees at the end of a hard day. This is my way, but it is certainly not the only way.
Some would be less inclined to seek a spiritual moment in the forest, but would prefer the classroom. This is the person who has lodged themselves deep into student debt, and do not care to justify it with their career prospects, of which they may have none. When one speaks of the intrinsic value of education, I believe they are speaking largely, if inadvertently, of spirituality.
In many ways, spirituality is the state of focus achieved by a painter, or a race-car driver, which psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has widely syndicated as “flow,” described as “a state of effortless concentration so deep that they lose their sense of time, of themselves, of their problems.” A carpenter, for example, may subscribe to the precise measurements, focus and steady rhythm of their saw pushing into a wooden board to create the desired edge.
Though money has its place in the pursuit of spirituality—in my case, in the purchase of hiking boots—it would be difficult to argue the possibility of direct spiritual commerce, of which Blossom has devoted herself. The connection is not in the activity or the place either, but rather in the method of hard work and more importantly the reason for executing it. It does not quite matter how one chooses to pursue spirituality, only that it is earned, and never bought.