I’ve noticed when I mention spirituality people always bring up religion or church. While I understand that, it frustrates me a bit. Yeah, they’re sort of related, but not at all as identical twins.
In some circles in which I travel there’s a clever saying – “Religion is for people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve been there.”
I’ll look up what www.dictionary.com has to say about the two words, but before I tilt my brain that way, here’s my take.
Religion is an organized structure often with hierarchies and buildings and money involved, centered around theology – a set of beliefs or views about God/the Cosmos/How To Live Your Life (that is likely ethics – the how to live your life business). Note that not all paths we call religions involve all of these elements – particularly the external God part.
Spirituality, for me, is our own personal connection to the Divine, apart from theologies, ethics and certainly apart from buildings and moneys and Teachers/teachers of any sort.
So, for me, my spiritual path at this juncture DOES include a religious affiliation (in my case, Unity), but there have been long swathes of time in which that wasn’t true.
I think of my own spiritual direction as a big River with lots of tributaries, and the River is flowing into the Ocean of All-That-Is/aka God. For me, the Big River is based on the 12 Steps, with lots of key tributaries – my current Unity path, a lifelong connection to Mary, Jesus’s mom, Buddhism – especially lovingkindness and meditation, and a connection to Earth-based religions and celebrating the turning of the Wheel of the Year. That’s sort of the structure of it.
But the practice is what’s important to me – any fancy labels or codification just helps my too-dominant left-brain organize all of this. The reality is more based on remembering to connect with God (talk to Her/Him – that’s called prayer, typically), listen to God (meditation) and let God (that’s what I like calling All-That-Is/the Universe/the Life Force) work through me in my daily life.
So while the hour I spend in church most Sundays feels like a connection to God to me so does the time I spend “telling a joke in troubled times” (Ferron lyric that is a good guideline!), or playing with toddlers or smiling at strangers.
My hardest spiritual path is lovingkindness. Omigosh do I ever have opinions! Lots and lots and lots of opinions! My ego is pretty sure it knows how to run YOUR life better than you do and seems very eager to jump in and Help You. So taming that insane ego is a huge part of my journey. The Course in Miracles is a helpful guide for that – reminding me that everything is love or fear and when people (including, alas my own dear self) are behaving badly it is a cry for love.
So what do YOU think – is there a difference FOR YOU in being spiritual/being religious? Are you one? both? neither? How does your spirituality evince in your life? How about your religious beliefs? Looking for information about YOU – not about what anyone else ‘should’ do or believe, okay?
Here’s my parting wisdom (as I head out to church myself) – from Jethro Tull:
“I don’t believe you. You’ve got the whole damned thing all wrong! I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.”