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How to be spiritual without necessarily being religious?
It occurred to me recently that I see an ever growing number of people who are spiritually minded, who have beliefs that recognise either a supreme being, a greater whole, or something which can be collectively called god. And, yet they feel disconnected from most traditional religions, or feel that religions are not providing the answers in a form in which they can relate.
So, where do you go to connect, if you don't follow the lingo of the latins or the mantra of the muslims? How do you follow the "Lord of the Dance" if you feel your rhythm is more freestyle, when the available options seem to be a formation waltz or the military two step? How do you "tune in to god" on a radio with only preset channels?
I would like to make it clear, that I am not anti-religion, but I am pro-choice.
I do not want to be merely quoted information from a book which is deemed to be the word of god, but I do want to understand and know the essence and the values which inspired it.
It is not enough to read a particular written doctrine and say this is absolute truth, this is the word of god, this is the law above all others and must be followed without question.
I do question. I want to know - how can a text, which has been translated and revised from it's original inception still be accurate to the original "word of god"? Even if it was, how could it be absolutely and totally relevant today when written from the context of centuries ago? And even accepting all of that, how can the essence of god really be condensed into words without losing something in the process?
For example, no matter how eloquently, I might be able to describe the taste of an orange, it would still fall far short of what the real taste of orange was like. I might read a book about oranges as a starting point to learning and knowledge, just as I might read a religious text to start to know god. But, it is only a starting point, a guide along the way and a signpost for direction.
I might also search out knowledgeable people, just as I would look for others who have experienced oranges and who might also help me in my orange studies, perhaps even show me where to find one or how they enjoy them. However, if they tell me that THEY are the only one with the key to the orangery or that I have to join the Orange Appreciation Society in order to get near enough for a sniff, then I start to think that it's not just oranges that I can smell!
It is when exclusivity creeps into religious attitudes, where the rituals and rites seem to take precedence over the core values of our spiritual unity, that I start to look for answers elsewhere.
All these "good books", waved fervently by their devotees as badges of allegiance might be based on spiritual values, but people being people, often put people focused interpretations on them and then they lose some of the divine essence to baser human frailties.
Most of the "good books" could really be refined down to a few essential principles upon which all interpretations of them would be based. That way, freedom to choose a particular way needn't violate someone else's choice about their path, because they are both still based upon the same fundamental principles. By trying to be a step-by-step guide to heaven, a good book's focus on one route often excludes other options, which may be equally valid. Added to that, human nature has a tendency to validate it's own beliefs by reinforcement (sometimes forcefully) and by denigrating anything else that doesn't fit or follow.
To illustrate - here is one core principle that you can find in most "good books" in some form or other:
"Treat others as YOU wish to be treated".
This very simple but profound principle gets trodden on and trampled to death by all the presumptions of rightfulness, the intentions of the righteous and the glory of the mighty.
Presumably, those who go into battle, with their "good book" in hand ready to impose their righteousness, their lifestyle, their beliefs, their way on others, also expect to be treated in that same way. After all, if they are following the instructions of their own "good book" they must be acting how THEY wish to be treated!
And, if someone abuses another in the name of some "good intention", whether they perceive it to be for "their own good", or the greater good, it also means that they expect the same treatment if the tables are turned.
History is littered with the debris from "good intentions" and "righteous warring", but are we really living now in more enlightened times?
Personally, I feel disappointed by the standards being upheld by many religions.
Too many religious leaders are allowing fanaticism to become established at the expense of unity and the expansion of all humanity.
Too many are turning blind eyes to behaviour that subverts the morals and ethics of which they espouse, and in doing so teach double standards to those who look to them for a spiritual lead.
Too many are becoming entrenched in their own dogma rather than inspiring others through enlightened guidance.
Too many are taking judgmental stands and preaching intolerance and separatism rather than acceptance and union.
Too many expect rigid adherence to a rule book and expect rituals to be undertaken "religiously".
In fact the term "religiously" has now taken on slightly negative connotations and is often used in other contexts to indicate following an idea or ideal slavishly and without question.
However, it is through asking questions that we expand our knowledge and that we increase understanding. We may step out of the comfort zone of routine perhaps, but we are then able to discover something greater than we previously knew or were. We may still have faith in a higher existence, we may still trust that we will reach it, but each day we can ask ourselves - which path shall I take? who's company do I choose? who am I? what are my values?
IF WE STOP ASKING QUESTIONS, WE STOP GROWING.
If we stop growing and expanding
our spirit, we are merely following a familiar groove and are invariably
looking down rather than upwards or 'god'-wards.