The Indie Spiritualist: a no bullshit exploration of spirituality
by Chris Grosso (Atria Books/Beyond Words, 2014; 272 pages)
reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch
Chris Grosso says he is more than a little turned off by the lightweight, reality-skimming, and commercial nature of what passes for spirituality these days. That and anything smacking of religious dogma. A punk/heavy metal musician by trade, he'll readily tell you that an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo can transport him to samadhi (consciousness of utter oneness with the object of devotion) where yoga postures leave him wondering what all the fuss is about.
Grosso's book relates his personal story of drug addiction, cutting, suicide attempts and eventual spiritual healing. He aims to inspire individuality of mind and non-comformity in his readers--to thine own self be true, y'all--while, with no sign of irony, teaching the doctrine of non-duality, that unity of all beings underlies all appearances to the contrary. About that last bit, I chose to ignore his remarks about Adolf Hitler and Justin Bieber--yes, in the same breath and more than once--and simply move on. Some abstract metaphysical concepts just go over better without being fleshed out.
Grosso, with the admirable honesty of an addict working his recovery, makes frequent mention of insecurity about his abilities as a writer. Each reader will likely respond to his presentation in different and personal ways. The upside: a straightforward, conversational tone that some readers will identify with and find accessible and convincing. The book, as its subtitle warns you, is also spiced with profanity for which Grosso makes no apology. His writing reflects his milieu; younger readers, in particular, can relate to that and to his unorthodox cultural references. The downside: a lack of any distinctive style to the writing and--again, ironically--a reliance on familiar ideas and the counsel of well-known guides and gurus. The Indie Spiritualist too often reads like an earnest, extended 12 Step share with a few promising but ultimately "you-had-to-be-there" anecdotes.
The Buddhist Noah Levine's Dharma Punx, published in 2004, related a nearly identical, gritty arc of life and unconventional awakening as well as similar musical preference, piercings and tattoos. This no longer seems jarring. Levine--who contributed the foreword to The Indie Spiritualist--got there first and with flair.
After a half-century of similar Eastern-inspired teachings in the West, we surely know the drill: The spiritual journey leads through mindful, if painful, experience to compassion and kindness towards self and others. As part of this influential lineage, Grosso claims the right to have his say, and perhaps this manual will prove to be right for you or someone you know.
The Indie Spiritualist: a no bullshit exploration of spirituality goes on sale on March 4. Get more information about it here.