Spiritual, Not Religious? You’re not Alone

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If you don’t talk to the universe from time to time, don’t read this. Just skip on by and enjoy you day. However, if you do find yourself looking up (at nothing in particular, and at everything all at the same time), and giving a nod to the gods for a thank you, then it seems you have shit in common with a lot more people than you think. Read on…

You may have noticed 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 appear to now be interested in what once was taboo to even talk about, let alone dabble in, like meditating or getting their akashic records read. 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 really not much difference between spirituality 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, but there are nuggets of a brighter future around if you have a nose for them. The book The Secret sold millions of copies. Wayne Dyer was known globally as the Father of Motivation. Vishen Lakhiani has created Mindvalley, a groundbreaking college atmosphere month long retreat based on learning these ideas with a seminar learning-based website that’s second to none, and more. Dr. Bruce Lipton’s Biology of Belief has thought provoking ideas on just how your state of mind works on the physical level like stress creating an ulcer. The mind altering the physical.  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 people. And for good reason…this is what the people want. Podcasts and audiobooks are allowing 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.

According to a poll done in 2009 by Newsweek, 33% of Americans say they are spiritual, not religious. That was up from 24% in their 2005 article.  Estimates from the UK come in at around 20%. Spiritual, not religious types (SNRs), as so many are now identifying as, haven’t been given a fair shake and are treated as the outcasts of society. But they are actually no longer the fringe elements they once were say, back when one may have been stoned to death for being thought of as a witch. Let’s remedy that. 

 

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. 

 

James Redfield wrote about a paradigm shift that was going to happen to human consciousness in that book. This shift would occur once a large enough percent of the population, a critical mass, would all feel similarly disconnected with life and each other. This time of uncertainty and unease has been embedded in society for a while, from long before the rise of the tv dinner…but that’s another discussion. Once this critical mass felt the need for more answers then were available, they would begin to seek something greater than themselves for connection and direction (you talking to the universe on a starry night). There would also be a noticeable increase in “coincidences” we are experiencing. I can’t say if mine increased, but one thing I’ve found is that when you begin to acknowledge their happenings, they begin to happen more frequently and obviously. If this is just me paying more attention, or they are really happening more, well it’s kinda like the chicken and the egg. Either way, I’ll continue to give a nod to the gods when the the powers that be find the time to make an obvious dabble in the happenings in and around my life. 

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.

 

In the Huff Post article titled “Spiritual, not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me”, Reverend Lillian Daniel explains to us 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 fall in line with the doctrine, 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. Age old indoctrinated philosophies that are more imposed into the culture rather than developed within it, on the other hand, find solace in such activities to bring them unquestioned acceptance. 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.”  Devil’s advocate here, (pun intended for color), for someone on the outside of SNR to look in and see it as just having deep thoughts and taking nature walks makes sense to me. 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. Unless you’ve taken the leap and done some of the yoga, meditation, chanting, ect. yourself, then that’s how it would seem from an onlooker. 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.

 

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.

My take on the whole thing is, as Dr Wayne Dyer has put it on occasion, don’t be Christian, be Christ-like.. Don’t be Buddhist, but be Buddha-like. To worship the teachers of the past, as the religions scholars seem to do aptly, totally neglects to look at the message being taught. Now, don’t get me wrong…religion has gotten us to where we stand now, be it good or bad, it’s had more positives than negatives. There’s nothing really inherently wrong about religion, it’s just come to a point in time where something different is meeting the needs of the people more personally. When someone can look at different aspects of all religions and try out some new ideas to build into their own practice and they get some positive connection to the higher power because of it, how could that be wrong in any country? In this case, the pick and choose menu serves much better than the take what ya get cause it’s all we offer menu. One big finger that gets pointed at SNR types is the fact that they can just pick and choose whatever pieces of varied religions and practices suit them best. Ironically, the criticism in this is actually the founding of all that SNR embodies. Where religion dictates what is to be believed, spirituality frees the mind to explore. Where religion thrives on groupthink, spirituality embraces the individual. Nobody can look inside you and know what’s there other than you. If it works for you, use it. If not, set it down. One can certainly be a believer in Christ who does transcendental yoga while wearing a mala bracelet with 108 beads. Like an artist with a certain paintbrush, sdhe can make magic on canvas with this brush, but never really got the hang of using that one. Would anyone say she is less of an artist or her work is to be critiqued more narrowly because the tools everyone else uses aren’t hers of choice?

The new world that lays at our feet 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 when the opportunity arises. If we take more of a look around and examine if what we see around us reflects our inner beliefs, we can then move forward in a conscious, eyes open kinda direction. Blindly following the ways of the past will undoubtedly doom us to make the same mistakes again. Learning from the past and using it as the reference it is meant to be will create the foundational groundwork in our future that shows we learned what works, and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. When Thomas Edison was critiqued about failing again and again before he successfully lit up a light bulb, he replied, “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.” Religion hasn’t failed. It has succeeded to raise generation after generation of families to embark us upon this current generation. In some ways, this is ground zero of the new world that will come, and if you sit and think deeply about it (maybe even meditate on it, if you will), it’s absolutely exciting to be a part of and watch it all unfold. Nothing of this magnitude has happened to the human spirit for literally thousands of years, and whether one likes it or not, this blending of Eastern and Western philosophies and mindsets will catapult mankind into a new era of belief, faith, and love.

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