Tell me about your spirituality… Huh?! What? Um, OK…
Being asked to speak at ManTalks about spirituality, I asked myself do I have any more to offer about this topic than anyone else?!
What is spirituality, what is consciousness, why are we here, why does all of this even exist? Where can we begin? How does one describe the indescribable? How do you attempt to use definitive and limiting language to explain or convey personal, subjective experiences?
To me, spirituality seems to be the conscious (or unconscious) relationship we have with the present moment. No matter what that seems to be for each of us, there is a truth we can all agree on; we are here, now. We do exist. So that’s something. That is something we can build upon. And whether we are aware of it or not, we are still having a spiritual experience.
What is consciousness?
Well… I don’t know. But it seems to include a number of things: how we perceive the world, our thoughts, being aware, our intentions and more. I tend to lean more towards the notion that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, not something confined strictly to our brains.
It seems that a correlation between consciousness and our material world does exist in some way, shape or form. You can rationalize this by the notion of intelligence. I see intelligence as something that can respond to the environment in some organized way. This can be taken all the way down to sub-atomic particles interacting with one another based off of their various physical properties of mass, charge or polarity, velocity or trajectory. At some level consciousness could be a part of all that exists. And as these patterns of nature layer upon layer build on one another, the reactivity between matter and the environment evolves and appears more complex. And this layering of complexity could link those subatomic particles all the way to Miley Cyrus twerking on a stage!
“Everything in its most basic form is not matter but energy.” – Unknown.
I have always tried to be as open as possible to ideas, philosophies and phenomenon. But ultimately what helped me formulate my personal relationship with the present moment (all that is), up until this current point, comes down to the exploring my curiosity.
Anything that takes you out of your daily patterns, rhythms, and behaviours can stretch your mind and touch your heart in unpredictable ways.
When I set out traveling, I did not have a conscious spiritual intention. But backpacking around the globe, be it solo or in small groups, shook me up so much that I couldn’t help but feel and experience the expansion of my consciousness.
When you travel, everything is new and different. The climate, the cities, the sights and sounds, the food and smells, the language and culture. You’ll get derailed from your usual automatized way of being externally and internally. It becomes easy to be present because you’re always able to observe the simple things of life that we often become numb to.
Plus you connect with others of our earth tribe, and that is always a rich connection to experience as well. It is for these reasons and more that traveling can become a spiritual experience, a prolonged period of deep connection to the earth, people, and the present moment.
Much like traveling can catalyze a greater state of presence and connection to whatever is, there are pantheons of other practices that can ultimately do the same thing.
The act of deautomatization and bringing one’s self into the present moment, deeply connecting to one’s self, and the rest of the universe, through the portals of ourselves (our minds, hearts, and bodies), is ultimately what a consistent practice can bring you.
Practicing yogic asanas (physical exercise) and meditations (Vipassana, pranayama, and floating) can send you deep into altered states of consciousness, not usually experienced in our contemporary westernized world fueled by caffeine and alcohol.
Our whole lives exist along a spectrum of consciousness. Our state of consciousness is always in flux. Simple things like low-blood sugar will affect our state. Likewise a full nights rest will also affect our state of consciousness. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, running 20 km, will also alter our state of consciousness. It is our personal labels that decide if something is a positive or negative state to us.
It is only through putting yourself into clear, yet definitively altered states of consciousness; that will cause you to have a greater perspective on things.
Author, philosopher, and psychonaut Terence McKenna says that only when you PERTURB consciousness enough in certain ways do we notice that it is even there at all. He equates it to humans swimming in a sea of consciousness, and it is not until you alter your state that you are able to perceive the water. He cleverly says that whoever discovered water surely wasn’t a fish. It is not until we can shift our state of consciousness enough to perceive it from a different space that we can better understand the nature of our consciousness.
When I commit to a regular practice of asana, seated meditation or floating (I am often doing a constant combination of all 3) it usually sends me into a hypersensitive state of calm and stillness. It helps to cut through the habitual patterns of thought that may or may not be serving me and shifts me into a state of groundedness and/or elevates me into a state of floatingness. I find that each practice begins to synergistically affect one another as well. The various practices can bring me into a similar space, but each coming from a unique direction that generates a unique experience and understanding.
￼It is these sorts of practices that allow me to become so calm and peaceful that I can comfortably release and surrender into my current totality of myself in the present moment. And even when I notice some resistance, usually generated by the ego (my identification with form), they have taught me to release as much as I can each time. I have found this ability to surrender to be extremely helpful when reacting to something that hasn’t gone to plan, something perceivably negative, which can always be reframed into a lesson or greater understanding. I try to make every negative turn into a teaching that will then serve me.
The lessons of surrender, releasing or letting go via the practices above have helped me to dive deep into my subconscious with acceptance, compassion and courage when I’ve explored the plant teachers of this earth.
Last year I came out of the closet, so to speak, about my personal use with these currently controversial and inappropriately illegal substances.
I don’t think that the use of substances like psilocybin mushrooms, Ayahuasca, or cannabis should be used in a recreational environment, but ideally regulated and safely used with the guidance of experienced elders or in a setting with a deeper intention.
Those who have been to the other side and back, and have a sound grasp of navigating, not only the deeper layers of themselves, but also into these deep, mystical realms that these plants seem to reveal when consumed, are ideally those who should introduce these vegetable allies to others.
The entire nature of our neurophysiological interaction with these plants is truly taking things to another level that I don’t recommend everyone to do. Just like I would not suggest a person with heart disease and high risk to a myocardial infarction take a hike up the Grouse Grind. But I do feel with the appropriate perquisites and intentions there are many who would experience massive personal benefits by using these Entheogens with respect, reverence, and guidance.
The term Entheogen is my preferred use instead of psychedelic or hallucinogen. It means generating the divine within. Personally, I can say that these substances have cultivated many profound personal insights, revelations, and understandings for me. They have revealed patterns of limiting beliefs that I was previously not aware of. They have opened my heart (the seed or gateway of our spirituality) in ways I did not know I could. And they have shown me by direct experience other planes of existence. I have encountered spirits and have come to my personal conclusions that this world is magic. I cannot say it any other way.
￼At the risk of sounding like a flake, I still say this; for the experiences I have had up until this point Magic is the best way I can describe it. The plants can talk, there are other Beings, and we have much to learn.
I look forward to any and all comments. Please don’t take my words on blind faith, put them to your tests. Develop your own models and relationships with your existence, your life experience in this infinite and beautiful universe. That is the only way.
In the words of Van Morrison: “No guru, no method, no teacher, just you and me and Mother Nature. In the garden, in the garden, wet with rain.”
Mike Zaremba is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who no longer works directly in this field, but rather is now the co-founder of Float House, Vancouver’s first commercial float centre in Vancouver in over 20 years. He and his brother, Andy, are now leaders within this rapidly growing industry with the ultimate goal of making floating into a mainstream practice and tool actively used by contemporary medicine. He’s an avid world traveller and is always looking to challenge himself by getting into those uncomfortable experiences in life. Mike is a Vancouverite transplant originally from Mississauga, ON and now calls North Vancouver home.
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