Rainn Wilson’s Tips for a Better Life: Get Spiritual
Rainn Wilson is an Emmy-nominated and SAG award–winning actor, bestselling author, and producer. His newest book, Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution, makes the case for harnessing the power and learnings of spiritual traditions to transform — and heal — the world. Here we’ve rounded up his top 5 lessons on finding your spiritual path.
Make sure to listen to the full interview with Rainn.
1. Separate religion from spirituality.
“I think that people are resistant to [being told we’re all on a spiritual path] because religion has done so much damage in the world, and most people have some religious trauma in their life…So for a lot of people, spirituality is synonymous with religion, and they don’t want anything to do with it.
But our hearts, our souls, our consciousness, our transcendence, our love, our beauty that we cultivate, the glorious divine, spiritual, creative, wonderful qualities that we all have like love, and compassion, and kindness, and honesty, and joy, these are all part of our spiritual beingness that will continue after our meat suits fall aside into incredibly glorious planes of existence.”
2. Remember that it’s not all about you.
“Spirituality in the United States right now, and this really actually pisses me off, it is incredibly solipsistic. Spirituality is often used in a consumerist capitalist way, “I’m going to pay X amount for this app, or this yoga class, it’s going to make me feel more peaceful. My anxiety will be more in control through my day.” And then great. So I’ve paid X amount of money and I have received X amount of thing in return for my money, and then my day is a little bit better. And that’s it.
But the spiritual path, the spiritual journey, and you look at any of the great teachers, you look at the Buddha, for instance, the Buddha wasn’t all about just overcome suffering, so that you can just live a happier life. It’s overcome suffering so that you can relieve suffering in others.
3. Service and sacrifice are spiritual sustenance.
“The spiritual path is one of service, and of community. That’s part of our purpose in life, is to help humanity grow, mature, grow more wise, and move forward. And there’s tons of different ways to do that. It doesn’t mean you have to go work at the United Nations, or start a nonprofit, or something. You can do it in your community at a lower level. It can be at your church, it can be in your block, it can be in your friend group. But we have a spiritual responsibility to give back, to use our God-given talents and qualities to help other people, to help move them forward to sacrifice.
And that’s a key word, sacrifice. Our time, our comfort, our money, even our prestige, and our social status, sacrifice these things for others to uplift, and help others move forward. And guess what? When you do that, you get even deeper serenity, calm, meaning, peace, love, and joy in your life. So win-win all around, but all too often in the woo-woo spiritual crowd, it’s just about limiting my anxiety, and then it stops there.”
4. Practice meditation, praying, or both.
“I said in the book and I really think this is true: half the country prays and half the country meditates. If you’re in the blue states, you meditate. And if you’re in the red states, you pray, and you don’t meditate. But there’s something about coupling those two together that I think is really important.
Anne Lamott has that brilliant book called Help, Thanks, Wow, and those are the three kinds of prayers she describes. Help, like, “Help me.” That’s when you’re on your knees in a crisis. Thanks is just gratitude. And Wow is just wonder and curiosity. And if you can just [give] to the universe, or to nature, or to your ancestors, or to the spirits, or whatever it is, just some moments of thanks, and wow, coupled with [a] meditative practice, [where] the meditation is listening and the praying is beseeching, connecting. Picture your heart as a satellite dish, and it’s receiving the radio waves from the galaxy, but it’s also beaming out radio waves into the galaxy. Even if it’s just 10 minutes of that in a day is the heart of my daily practice.”
5. Stay grounded in your you-ness.
“Isn’t [spirituality] a journey towards authenticity? Finding your authentic voice. One of the greatest failures I had is one of my greatest successes. I got cast in a lead role in a Broadway play. I was really struggling as an actor, and I got so nervous, overwhelmed about being this right conservatory actor, and I needed to be handsome, and charming, and I needed to do this and that. Needless to say, long story short, I sucked, I was terrible.
And when I finished that play, and I did get terrible reviews, and people didn’t like it…I got out, I’m like, “Never again. I’m never doing that again. I’m never going to try and please other people, try and be someone that I’m not. I need to embrace who I am, I’m quirky, and I’m weird, and I’m ungainly.” So, “Who is that Rainn Wilson-ishness? And I just embraced it after that point. And I don’t believe that I would’ve gotten the role of Dwight in The Office had I not bombed on Broadway, and sucked, and felt pressured to be something that I wasn’t. But I’m so grateful for that, because it just allowed me to be myself.”