Are You Spiritual, Not Religious? You’re Not Alone

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 What does it mean to be spiritual? What makes someone religious? Is there a difference between the two? How can someone be spiritual, not religious? If you don’t talk to the universe from time to time, don’t read this. Just skip on by and enjoy you day. You may find yourself, however, looking up and giving a nod to the gods for a thank you. If so, you have shit in common with a lot more people than you think. Read on…

Through The Looking Glass Lies Great Possibility

    You may notice how many yoga studios have popped up over the past 15 years. How about the amount of people going vegan? The word mindfulness seems to be gaining some traction. People are now interested in what once was spiritual taboo to talk about like meditating or yoga. The little corner of the book store where titles such as The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Code of the Extraordinary Mind can be found isn’t so little anymore. New titles and topics are coming out at a feverish pace and there’s not much difference between spiritual literature, personal development books, psychology, or self help books. Doom and gloom articles about the political left and right and environmental catastrophe seem to be nu chic nowadays. Alas, there are nuggets of a brighter future around if you have a nose for where to find them.

Is The World Going Spiritual, Not Religious?

   The book The Secret sold millions of copies while Wayne Dyer was known globally as the Father of Motivation. Vishen Lakhiani has created Mindvalley.com with notable speakers and Dr. Bruce Lipton’s Biology of Belief has groundbreaking ideas on how your state of mind works on the physical level. The mind can change the physical structure of us and, more importantly, when you change your thoughts, change your life. Deepak Chopra is a name pretty much every Joe Blow has heard. Oprah’s hit series SuperSoul Sunday has its focus on just these types of spiritual people and for good reason…this is what the people want. Podcasts and audiobooks offer the sharing of knowledge with unprecedented ease and span. These folks are the new rock stars, and the population can’t get enough of it. These are your spiritual, not religious professors and they’re kickin’ ass and taking names.

Where do you stand...

   33% of Americans say they are spiritual, not religious according to a poll done in 2009 by Newsweek which was up from 24% in their 2005 article and estimates from the UK come in at around 20%. Spiritual, not religious types (SNRs) haven’t been given a fair shake and are treated as the outcasts of society. Oddly, now they are no longer the fringe elements they once were. One could be stoned to death for such public ideas at one time. Let’s remedy that. 

Early days...

     It was many years ago (early 90’s) when I first read The Celestine Prophecy. A senior in high school and a member of the Book of the Month Club (kind of like clicking Subscribe on your favorite blog page nowadays), I was always open to new thoughts and ideas that just weren’t the norm. I always had a sense that way too many things in school, my town, my family, society as a whole, are done and repeated just because that’s the way it’s done. Culture, history, societal norms, peer pressure…these all tend to resist change, and if you’re going to embark on any changes, be prepared to be a square peg in a round hole. For me, the worst answer I’ve ever gotten to a Why question was “Just because”. Well…this itchy feeling to answer the neverending why, along with the spanky new book that just came in the mail, were about to be the first dominos flicked in what would be a lifelong skydive into continued bewilderment. 

Des ja vous all over again.

   Author James Redfield wrote about a paradigm shift that was going to happen to human consciousness in that book. The shift would occur once a large enough percent of the population would feel disconnected with life and each other. Redfield called this the critical mass and it has been embedded in society for a while. Once this critical mass feels the need for more answers, they would seek something greater than themselves for connection. There would also be a noticeable increase in “coincidences” we are experiencing. One thing I’ve found is when you begin to acknowledge their happenings, coincidences begin to happen more frequently. I’ll never know if this is just me paying more attention or they are happening more. I’ll continue to give a nod to the gods when the powers that be find time to make an obvious dabble in the happenings in and around my life. 

Enter The Spiritual Not Religious "Types"

Fast forward 25 years, with the internet no longer the new kid on the block and so entrenched into what we do on a daily basis, we don’t really remember a time when it wasn’t there. For people to have the ability to access information at the rate and ease we now do, the paradigm shift has occurred right under our noses. Embedded in between the funny cat videos and lists of new ways to use chickpeas, the world has changed. Poof ! The old ways are…well…old. The internet has allowed some new trends on old ideas to come forward more easily and gain a following base.

Not everyone is open...

   In the Huff Post article titled “Spiritual, not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me”, Reverend Lillian Daniel explains how the new ideas of having felt God in a sunset or a walk on the beach can be not as fulfilling as a church organized event where we can interact and “people can call you on stuff” (stuff that doesn’t quite align, I would assume).  This is where I feel precisely the SNR types find most disagreeable. Separating something as personal as communing with a higher power from activities that are most supported by the local 4H Club seems like a win. Bake sales in and of themselves as a fundraiser for the local homeless shelter need no affiliation. A doctrine that is imposed into culture rather than developed within it find solace in such activities.

   Rev. Daniel mentions “Being privately spiritual, but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself.” For someone on the outside of SNR seeing it as just having deep thoughts and taking nature walks makes sense to me. That’s how it would seem from an onlooker unless you’ve taken the leap and done some of the yoga, meditation, and chanting yourself. Of course, someone who has probably never truly had a sincere, deep meditation where there is nothing left other than you superimposed over your ego would see it as just deep thoughts without substance.  Add to that the fact that you’re a member of the clergy who’s doing the looking in, and it would only thicken the fog on the window.

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It's a personal spiritual journey...

     On establishing a personal unity with God, Paramahansa Yogananda scribes in Autobiography of a Yogi “Man has forgotten this stark simplicity, now befogged by a million issues. Refusing a monotheisitic love to the Creator, nations try to disguise their infidelity by punctilious respect before the outward shrines of charity. These humanitarian gestures are virtuous, because for a moment they divert man’s attention from himself; but they do not free him from his prime responsibility in life, referred to by Jesus as the “first commandment.” The uplifting obligation to love God is assumed with man’s earliest breath of an air freely bestowed by his only Benefactor.” In a nutshell, the path to God has many stepping stones and routes to take. Don’t get to a stone and think it’s the end of the path.

Be the change...

 Dr Wayne Dyer put it best… don’t be Christian, be Christ-like.. Don’t be Buddhist, but be Buddha-like. It undermines the message being taught by the spiritual teachers of the past if we worship them. Religion got us to where we stand now, be it good or bad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with religion. We have come to a point in time where something different is meeting the needs of the people. How can it be wrong when someone can look at different aspects of all religions and try out some new ideas to build into their own practice? How can it be wrong if they get some positive connection to the higher power because of it? In this case, the pick and choose menu serves much better than the take what ya get cause it’s all we offer menu.

Make it a spiritual combo...

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 Picking and chosing ideas from many religions is the actual foundation of all that SNR embodies. This happens to be its main criticism as well. Spirituality frees the mind to explore, where religion dictates what is to be believed. Religion thrives on groupthink while spirituality embraces the individual. Nobody can look inside you and know what’s there other than you. Use it if it works for you, but if not, set it down. One can be a believer in Christ while doing yoga and wearing a mala bracelet with 108 beads. Consider an artist with a favorite paintbrush. She makes magic on canvas with this brush, but never really got the hang of using that other brush. Would anyone say she is less of an artist?  Is her work be critiqued more narrowly because the tools everyone else uses aren’t hers of choice? 

The choice is yours...

   The world that lies ahead of us is ours for the creating. We need to realize that just going through the motions of life mindlessly staring at a screen is not going to lead to smart, informed choices. We can move forward in a conscious, eyes open direction if what we see around us reflects our inner beliefs. As a culture, will be doomed to make the same mistakes by blindly following the ways of the past. Using the past as the reference it is meant to be is its true value. It will create the foundational groundwork in our future that shows we learned what works. Or, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. 

Next Steps for Spiritual Not Religious

   The world that lies ahead of us is ours for the creating. We need to realize that just going through the motions of life mindlessly staring at a screen is not going to lead to smart, informed choices. We can move forward in a conscious, eyes open direction if what we see around us reflects our inner beliefs. As a culture, will be doomed to make the same mistakes by blindly following the ways of the past. Using the past as the reference it is meant to be is its true value. It will create the foundational groundwork in our future that shows we learned what works. Or, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. 

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