Monday, January 12, 2009

Spiritual, but not religious

Spiritual but not Religious.

The library is quite a peaceful place and the mid-afternoon daylight pours through the floor to ceiling windows. I have always enjoyed writing in the quiet of a library or bookstore, though the relative ruckus of High School adolescents reminds me to schedule my library sojourn for an earlier hour of the day.

This morning, during my mantra-meditation practices, my mind kept toying with this concept of spirituality vs. religion. I encounter many in my coaching and speaking programs who vehemently abhor organized religion. I can understand that sentiment as I was raised in a religious institution myself. Practitioner’s disdain for ritualistic and institutionalozed practices, rules and regulations, devoid of mature spiritual development and understanding, is in most cases well-founded.

Let’s set religiosity aside for the time being; at least religiosity as defined as an institution. What is spirituality? It is easy to define religion and religiosity. However, people’s definition of spirituality varies from person to person. I will say that in my experience, more often than not, spirituality is basically religion without the “God” element. Religion without “all the worship and service to God” generally describes most people’s idea of spirituality.

Religiosity, devoid of “worship and service to a particular God”, still does not clearly explain or define spirituality. The definition of spirituality, with or without acknowledging God, is a significant issue considering the saying by the philosopher Chardin. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

As spirit beings inhabiting a matter-based reality we will naturally encounter some incongruities. The question is simple; how do spirit-made beings function in a matter-based world?

The process of negation is one way to identify and nourish our spirituality. Let’s eliminate gratification. The senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and sound provide us with sensual pleasure and gratification. However, activities that are not primarily intended to gratify these senses, yet still give us a sense of happiness, is an activity that stimulates the soul, hence spiritual.

If we invite a friend to accompany us to the movies with the primary intention of sharing the experience and getting to know the other person then the evening can be spiritually uplifting. If our primary concern was the stimulation of our senses, during the movie and thereafter, then we are susceptible to frustration if the movie turns out to be drivel and the evening does not turn out to be sensually gratifying.

Our spirituality is identified, nourished and strengthened when we choose activities and engagements that are only secondarily or incidentally stimulating to our material senses.

Problem solving must be done in a similar fashion. When we encounter problems and find solutions to those problems that are not primarily tied to our personal, sensual gratification the resultant spiritual solutions will be far more universally applicable, acceptable and beneficial.

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