Book Review: Indie Spritualist by Chris Grosso
Indie Spiritualist is the first book from Chris Grosso, a multi-faith, multi-disciplinary chap who runs a website of the same name. I say multi-faith in that much of Chris’ belief system has been formed by many different religious and spiritual traditions as he has taken the approach of seeing what fits or doesn’t fit for him. I say mult-disciplinary in that Chris can be described in many ways – musician, writer, tattooed dude, skateboarder, recovering addict, super-fan of all kinds of musical styles, husband, father, brother … and on and on. The guy is diverse. These interests all form the crux of the book which is a compilation of short stories relating his journey both as a recovering addict, as well as someone who has worked with intense suffering only to then embark on a path of self-inquiry and spiritual inquisitiveness to discover a more meaningful life.
The book recounts Chris’ journey – all of the pain, suffering, low times and serious issues with addiction. His journey was a cycle of detention, detox, rehab, release, suffering and repeat on a path littered with some scary, dark places. He hit rock bottom and yet was able to discover and tap into the wisdom to know that a new way was necessary in order for his survival.
Don’t be fooled. ‘Indie Spritualist’ isn’t all doom and gloom though. There is a brightness and a humour within the pages which comes from Chris’ personality and his unique and somewhat self-effacing voice. He is a humble fellow and conveys his personal joys with the same attention to detail and integrity as those of his lowest and most embarrassing experiences. It is an unflinching look at both the beauty and the grotesque and is a brave work in this respect.
The book speaks to those who aren’t really into the new-agey approach which made it right up my alley. It is an accessible spiritual book for both youth and those who are young at heart. Be warned, there’s quite a bit of reference made to bands, authors and films and not to suggest that this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s truly going to resonate for those who are familiar with alternative culture in some way. If you don’t know who Slayer, Jason Voorhees, Bukowski or 108 are, you might not be quick on the uptake for getting a few of the references.
‘Indie Spiritualist’ is about recovery. self inquiry and how to live an authentic life. Chris’ approach is to encourage readers to find their own path and roll their own spirituality, rather than adopt something that doesn’t speak to them. No bullshit. No dogma. He shares many of the teachings that resonate with him as well as recounts experiences and mentors that helped him on his spiritual path.
Of all of the chapters, the one where he speaks to his heart connection with Ram Dass is the one that stands out to me as the most profound and where Chris’ connection with a spiritual teacher shines through. I would have enjoyed a larger section of the book being devoted to the teachers and books that influenced Chris in one area rather than appearing in unrelated short stories, but that’s just me and my anal-retentive style manifesting itself. Also, as a Buddhist, I would have liked to have seen a dictionary of terms given that there was a bit of lingo that was outside of my personal framework. Perhaps the intention is to inspire the reader to go and do some spiritual seeking and research, but for those who are already dedicated to a particular tradition, it would have been useful to have some of these definitions available. Again, that may be my anal-retentitiveness speaking as well as a bit of laziness (we all have our weaknesses right?).
An interesting feature of the book is the inclusion of links to Chris’ original music, several You Tube clips and a great list of suggestions on books, movies, music and practices that he’s into. I really liked this multi-media approach and found that it added much to the experience and helped to discover more about Chris Grosso – both past and present. (This aspect of the book negates my previous mention of wanting a glossary of spiritual terms as the multi-media bits really spoke to a universal language).
‘Indie Spiritualist’ is an important addition to the modern-day spiritual bookshelf in that it provides a glimpse into the journey of someone who isn’t just practicing from one spiritual tradition, such as Noah Levine and Brad Warner (fellow Buddhists), but the journey of Chris Grosso, who is unabashedly a multi-faith practitioner sampling and cultivating wisdom from many spiritual traditions. It’s not preachy, but rather demonstrates how he has found his own path and he encourages readers to try the same approach for themselves. He has a warmth and a passion for sharing his story and this comes through within Indie Spiritualist. His goal of helping individuals accept and love themselves as well as to break free from suffering is essential in our world and I’d encourage you to either read the book or gift it to someone who is currently seeking a new way of breaking free from addiction, despair or of embarking on their own path of self-discovery.
So much of his story resonated with my personal journey and just as Chris mentions in the book how much he enjoys meeting and hearing about those spiritual practitioners who may not fit the mold of the ‘peace, love, long-haired hippy spiritual practitioners’ but rather are into loud music, black band t shirts and skateboarding, I felt the same kinship in reading his book. Chris is very humble and self-effacing but he should be very proud of this book. I look forward to reading more from him both on his website and hopefully in future books.
*Also, I had no idea that Krishna Das was in Blue Oyster Cult. I have to thank this book for this illuminating fact!