Recently one of my brothers and I had a short conversation about a very interesting subject, or question that he brought up. Can a person be spiritual
without following a religion? Is this really possible?
First, I think of the meaning of these two words. What is religion? It’s a system of faith and worship, it is (according to Merriam-Webster dictionary) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. It is an object, practice, cause or activity that somebody is completely devoted to or obsessed by. (Encarta). The key word in my opinion here is, System. Someone, or some people put this system together based on their beliefs and practices. There are rules, there are limitations.
What is spirituality/spiritual? Oxford American Dictionaries says “of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul, as opposed to physical or material things. Merriam-Webster has one definition that says: “something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such”. Lots of definitions relate spiritual and spirituality with religion. The two words are in a sense, intertwined. So it makes sense that most people would think that you can’t have one without the other. You can’t be religious without being spiritual or vice versa. But the truth is, a person can be religions and spiritual too. A person can be religious and not be spiritual at all. A person can be spiritual but not relgious.
Most of us are raised learning whatever religion our parents practice. Eventually, we either embrace that religion and continue practicing it as we grow into adulthood, or we reject it and choose our own path. So we begin, with a religious base and from there we explore, we seek, we learn, until we find the path that we can feel the most comfortable, most joyful with. This search can take many years, or not. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we stay true to our hearts and not follow this or that just to please others.
Many wise ones have said that the deeper we get into religion, the further away we get from the Divine/God/Goddess. To me, those words are very meaningful. We are essentially spiritual beings, all connected to each other and to the Divine. This connection to the Divine is not something that we have to look for, it is not lost, it is not a prize to find, it is within us already. It has always been there, as a part of us. We have simply chosen to ignore it and opt for easier ways of dealing with life. Like, letting a priest tell us what we must or must not do, what is right or wrong, what we are or aren’t, what we must reject and accept. And so we follow the herd, and comply, and point the finger at those who do not, and live in constant fear of God. Some people feel happy living that way, but if you are like many of us who have awakened and who are truly seeking a deeply spiritual path, then you probably already left the herd or are trying to do so at the moment.
And to you I say, keep going, never give up! Anyone can walk a spiritual path without the need to practice a religion. You are the temple, and the Divine is within you, and around you. Look around, everything is sacred, everything that is of nature is of the Divine. We are Divine beings. When I open my eyes every morning, I am grateful just for that. I look out the window and see the sky, and I am grateful. I practice my Reiki self-treatment, some Kundalini Yoga breathing exercises, then I do my morning prayers. Reiki is a Japanese spiritual healing practice that helps our bodies heal and balance. Kundalini Yoga is a very spiritual, balancing and empowering practice. My prayers are to Hindu deity and Ancient Egyptian deity. As you can see, that is one eclectic morning routine! I do not follow any religions, and I don’t feel the need to.
A person can take care of their bodies, eat healthy food, exercise, meditate, practice any healing modalities they wish to, practice yoga if they choose to, and all that is part of a spiritual path. Just expressing daily gratitude, practicing compassion, kindness and choosing to accept that we are all connected and the well-being of another is also ours, are all parts of a spiritual path. Living mindfully, living now, leaving the past where it belongs, and embracing the beauty of life, and joy. Caring for your plants, your pets, spending more time with your family, and being grateful for it all at the end of the day. Doesn’t sound so complicated does it? And the more we do it, the better it gets! All these activities have a very powerful impact in our lives and the lives of our loved ones and those around us, as we are all connected.
If you have difficulties because your significant other or family follows a religion and they expect you to do the same, you need to communicate. Communication is very important in families and couples, and it has been decaying as technology takes a bigger part of our lives. Do not make assumptions. Always ask questions, express your feelings, but do it with love and compassion. Speak the way you want to be spoken to. When your family sees that your spiritual path makes you happy, peaceful and joyful, they will benefit from this as well and they will understand. This may not happen instantly, but again, with love and compassion, you will find the best way to communicate and your message will go through more effectively than if you impose, argue or rebel.
“This above all: to thine own self be true…” -Shakespeare