Have you ever connected with someone who had strong preconceived notions about what your spiritual path should look like?

Apparently there’s a rulebook for being spiritual, and you have to satisfy certain criteria for how you’re supposed to think, feel, and behave in order to consider yourself a spiritual person. You got the memo summarizing those rules, right?

Being spiritual is a label and lens. But it’s not the same lens for everyone. We all assign different meanings to what it means to be spiritual or to walk a spiritual path. My meaning is undoubtedly different from yours.

These days I’m not a huge fan of the spiritual label / lens. I found it interesting in my 20s and 30s, partly as a reactionary alternative to being religious. Back then being spiritual meant being independent and also spending time exploring the nonphysical aspects of life. I could label meditation, reading eye-opening books, listening to speeches from dudes who don’t wear pants, and lucid dreaming as spiritual practices.

Today if I think about spirituality, I’d frame it as exploring my relationship with reality and with my character. It’s not something I can compartmentalize into a short list of practices. I regard what I do all day, every day, as part of my spiritual practice, including writing this blog post, especially when I’m making carefully considered choices about what to do.

My spiritual path is mine to determine, and there is no rulebook that I must follow. I’m not beholden to anyone’s expectations. I’m walking my own spiritual path, which isn’t for anyone else to walk or even to understand.

When people purport to tell me what it means to be spiritual and how my thoughts, feelings, or behaviors aren’t spiritual enough, I see that as immensely presumptuous. It’s an emotionally manipulative pattern, similar to the patterns I shared in the article on emotional consent last month.

While some who consider themselves spiritual may regard this year as being about lessons of tolerance and acceptance – and good for them if that’s what they’re exploring – my lessons for this year feel very different but no less spiritual.

I see this year as having more to do with boundaries, firmness, and calling out stupidity when it’s plain as day.

I see this year as posing some interesting alignment questions, especially with respect to truth alignment, social connections, and assignment of meaning.

I’ve also been thinking about why so many people are so ridiculously loyal and obedient. This makes me want to understand obedience better – more than just thinking about it from a D/s play angle. I see it as a puzzle that I don’t really understand. Why does it seem like so many humans are behaving like insects in an insect colony?

This year also points me in the direction of deeper character sculpting, which could be because developing the Stature course earlier in the year helped me get into this framing. I see some really lame character behavior in the world, and my reaction to that makes me think more consciously about how I’d like my own character to continue developing.

While many people seem to dislike this year, I personally find it fascinating. It’s been one of the best years of my life, despite not getting to travel as much and having fewer in-person social connections.

I see the events happening in the world as invitations. Reality invites me to choose my framing and my response. How will I interpret these events? What meaning will I assign to them? How will I evolve my character to adapt to changing circumstances? To me these are fascinating and worthy challenges. I could label them spiritual too.

I like what this year is doing to me. I feel confident, optimistic, and motivated. I have a lot of passionate energy flowing through me. I have an endless stream of inspired ideas. Even as it seems like we’ve entered the bizarro universe, my personal world has experienced some nice improvements.

I also feel more fighty in a way. I don’t feel that my spiritual path is to be all “let’s pray together and intend harmony” this year. I see how being too passive perpetuates more ridiculous behavior like racism. I do think there’s a place for that passively accepting kind of vibe, but I’ve explored that one a lot already, and now I feel called to explore in other directions. I also don’t see a conflict between accepting reality as it is and also investing in changing its course.

I don’t mind spending some time in the bizarro universe because the sheer lunacy of it makes me ponder: Who do I want to be in the bizarro universe? How shall I frame this experience? What kind of character sculpting can occur under these conditions? How is this a healthy and positive invitation for my good and the highest good of all?

It’s like if you’re Yossarian or one of his friends living through the reality of Catch 22. Do you let that crazy world with its crazy rules and crazy characters drive you crazy too? Or do you see the craziness as an empowering invitation to see what you’re made of?

From another perspective I’ve already been living in the bizarro universe for a long time – that’s often what it feels like to be vegan in a non-vegan world. How did I end up in the dimension where humans think it’s normal to drink milk from raped cows? Then they skin the cows and put the skin on their feet and waists like trophies.

Look at me! I’m wearing a raped cow! And I drink its milk, so its baby gets none! Maybe I eat its baby too! Me strong! Rawr!

Sometimes y’all adopt some truly nutter practices in this dimension.

What kind of personal development framing or investment makes this year a win for you? You could see it as your spiritual path to figure that out.