Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening, and the Mind-Blowing Truth of It All
by Chris Grosso
Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2015
Reviewed by Linda Douty
This book is quite a stretch for those of us who are unfamiliar with the world of addiction, punk rock music, tattoos, uncensored language, and nonconformity. The writing is raw, uncouth, and nakedly honest. That said, I found that in reading it, I was often moved from the profane to the profound.
Many might even label it “new-age nonsense,” which it is not. In fact, Everything Mind defies labels. About the time the reader judges it as hopelessly irreverent, it explodes with sacred awe. Judge it as cynical, and on the next page, it teems with hope. Judge it as anti-Christian, and then the author professes his love for Jesus!
Grosso’s self-deprecating style is evident from the get-go: “So here’s the thing. I didn’t go to school for any of this spiritual stuff. I’m not a yogi … a preacher in a pulpit, or a ‘spiritual teacher’ with dollar signs in my eyes. … what this book is about: finding deeper meaning in life and waking up to the spiritual essence that imbues it all—from monasteries to stadiums, meditation to stage dives, skateboarding to serving food in a soup kitchen, and everything in between” (1). He affirms the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind at the core of everything. “This mind is the matrix of all matter” (4). “There is a driving force toward the collective betterment of humanity no matter what we care to call it” (213).
Grosso attempts to describe Everything Mind (even while admitting it is beyond description) as “an identity not just with a small, separate, finite self or mind, but also with a radically whole, infinite, all-embracing, and all-encompassing self or mind known as Buddha Mind, Christ Consciousness, Purusha, or Big Mind … which identifies with everything—the entire manifest and unmanifest universe, the Ground of All Being, Godhead … Brahman” (xi).
Grosso’s narrative chronicles his own personal crises and heartbreaking stories, as well as mysterious concepts such as inner body awareness and interbeing. He vividly describes one experience of interbeing awareness as he admires a musician’s bass instrument. “I began thinking about how (Motorhead musician Lemmy’s) bass … was first a part of a tree. As I thought about that tree, my thoughts then turned to the sun, and how without its nurturing rays, the tree wouldn’t have been able to grow in the first place. … there [also] had to be oxygen, and rain, and soil. Going a step further, I contemplated the fine artisans at Rickenbacker who made the bass … the workers themselves, and how it was thanks only to their parents that they were born in the first place…. I saw everything that had to inter-be for the Rickenbacker to have made its way into Lemmy’s hands” (125).
Grosso draws heavily from Buddhist and Hindu thought as well as the writings of U.S. psychology writer Ken Wilber, German theologian Meister Eckhart, Dutch priest Henri Nouwen, British philosopher Alan Watts, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, German Canadian spiritual writer Eckhart Tolle, U.S. spiritual teacher Ram Dass, and in his final chapter, the teachings of Jesus. Grosso declares: “As much as I absolutely love and honor the great wisdom traditions of the East, I’ve always felt drawn toward Christ’s presence the most” (200).
Several chapters are devoted to specific contemplative practices to foster the awareness of Everything Mind, including meditation techniques, breathing exercises, and centering prayer, as developed by Father Thomas Keating.
Though repetitive and sometimes off-putting in its coarse language and cynical jibes, the book faithfully returns to the profound concepts inherent in all perennial wisdom: the connection of all things in God and God in all things.
To be sure, Grosso’s way of expressing himself is not for everyone. But for those who yearn to push the edges of mystical thought, and for spiritual directors who accompany directees who are in the midst of this experience, Everything Mind will be a valuable resource and companion.
Linda Douty is a spiritual director and retreat leader living in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. She is the author of several books including, Rhythms of Growth: 365 Meditations to Nurture the Soul, Praying in the Messiness of Life: 7 Ways to Renew Your Relationship with God and How Did I Get to Be 70 When I’m 35 Inside?: Spiritual Surprises of Later Life.