“I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

This is a popular saying that is now proclaimed with such snap quickness, it’s almost expected.  (Said with all variances of enunciation and attachments to indicate a heavy story that’s certain to ensue.) The two parties of religion and spirituality have been quietly separated, spreading the word, working their many practices as people do, offering solace and a place of comfort for those in the pits of grief, the sojourning seekers and countless more hoping to find a tribe they can call their own. We’ve been purposeless and even lazy with our practices in finding the divine. While the mystics went to mountain tops, the monks retreated to their huddles and even Jesus remained heavily isolated, we did the opposite and screamed our needs to anyone listening, looking for something outside ourselves that will connect us with God.

What are our options? We meander into churches with an unspoken expectation, plop down in a comfortable chair that rivals the fanciest of movie theaters after filling up on free coffee and perhaps a pastry or two to be entertained by a 22 minute, 12-point speech from a charismatic pastor, eager to use the whit of a new acronym. We were handed a program by an ambitious greeter, told exactly where to park by attendants and passed three to four offers to sign up for retreats and other workshops. We shake a hand or two with regulars, lift our arms to a rock band boasting a full choir accompanied by a light and sound show that makes music festivals look like amateurs. Millions of dollars being spent to tee up this experience, these 22 minutes, in an elaborate facility that sits empty six days a week and why? So you can accept Christ into your heart, be saved and mosey on down the road to your Sunday brunch that awaits and feel good, until Monday that is. There are dozens of variations of the above to match the local culture, the preferred flavor of delivery, not to mention the specifics of the denomination (brand) of the church. The Catholics practice more traditionally stoic, the Baptists are conservative, the Methodists are non-conforming and then there’s my favorite, the Non-Denominational that dumb it all down to the two basic teachings of Jesus adding a third in the end:

1) Love God.

2) Love your neighbor as self.

3) Don’t ask any other questions.

Churches have rushed to embrace these spiritual seekers, lowering their membership guidelines to keep the chairs filled (and the lights on). Then there is the more highly-minded term, “the spiritual path”. These among us are rising from the shadows and coming out of the closet of mystery to reveal themselves outwardly of an inward goal. You’ll see them bowing with folding hands, wearing natural fiber clothing, unusual sandals and beads, lots of beads! The women have formed a whole new fashion sense out of it that favors a cross between a temple goddess and a belly dancer sporting flash tats, exotic jewelry that always has a story of acquisition from places like Machu Picchu, Bali or a hot spring. They are well practiced in listening and make a special art of non-committal conversation that tilts the discussion in any one direction. They are committed to their own path and honor the path you chose for yourself. They are truly beautiful people in every way, in touch with a specialness existing inside themselves, models of self care and the honoring of time. You’ll see them showing up as yogis, tantric practitioners, the fire and belly dancers and the activists among us that work overtime to live a large life on a small footprint. You’ll see them in drum circles, hosting meet-ups with words like “sacred heart”, “ancestral healing” and other mystical descriptions that, if you don’t judge the process, can be quite enlightening, not to mention entertaining. There are SO many flavors, all of them sharing one central goal.

CONNECTION. Connection to self, to others and to this universal source. (Whatever you like to call it) I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown confused in my ambiguity to either of the tribes and disassociated from membership. I am the Ferris Bueller of religion, liked by all, hated by none but kinda on the outside of everyone.  As a man in love with all things spiritual in nature, I’m a consummate seeker, exploring beliefs, talking to others, especially ones that appear different, all in an effort to get a little closer, to get an edge and experience that spiritual nirvana that feels oh, so good!

In my seeking, I’ve been a spiritual slut. Ya, I said it and doubt I’m alone. Drunk on the spiritual high, seeking the next momentous experience to smoke deeply from the practice that will get me closer to this source. It’s been fun, and exhausting and I doubt god is all that impressed.

To quote the 17th century activist, Robert Payne, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” Do I value, truly cherish, my spiritual walk? Am I willing to hold true right now, in this moment, when nobody else is watching to see how reverently I worship, how beautifully I dance around the fire or how powerfully I bang the drum in the circle? Is this deep vibration frequency reverberating through my heart, fulfilling and living ON purpose giving life meaning?

Am I true!? Those three words haunt me. Yet, I feel hope.1478170016-6431-robin-austin-reed-with-beard I’ve carried around that ‘Ole Rugged Cross’ (hardcore Christians will understand that reference), impaled myself on the very steeple I’ve worked to erect and suffocated in the spiritual practices of the globe to find identity with others that truly want to worship and experience this bliss of knowing. We all want to know we’re more than this feeble human body. Indoctrinated with a worldview of God that he (notice I gave it a masculine pronoun) is a wise man with a white beard and friendly eyes sitting kingly on a massive throne with all power to judge and send us little people to a burning place of fire. Or, if I “act right” and keep the biblical (Biblical..again, big B or little B?) laws given to the Israelite’s 3,000 years ago (that were intended to keep them alive) well then, certainly my behavior will earn me god’s pleasing and divine favor. Surrendering it all, laying the practices down gently I’m left to ask the question we all avoid, what is your religion? Staring out the windows of life, we ponder, we ask questions and we return over and over again expecting different results from the many practices. Funny how our species seems to run in cycles and we’re now embracing things that the powerfully enlightened of our time have spoken (preached) about for hundreds of centuries. Jesus, Buddha, the sages, stoics and mystics of old all forming the conclusions that our fast-paced society has to sexy-up and retro-fit into the mechanics of our mind.

The noise is dissipating. Things are quieting down. A knowing-ness settles over some of us. The fiery conflicts and silly dramas surging from within are now only a smolder. Upon looking at my brother, I see divinity instead of the ways of differentiation that create separateness and catapults us into relating to each other through frivolous competition. In my sister, I see a vibration elegance that reflects the power of mother nature instead of a compliment to masculine pleasure and a partner in sexual gratification. Whispered softly, knee to the ground, I’m finally surrendering and unburdening myself from this narcissistic need to know, which only created an unattractive arrogance furthering more of the separation hoped to alleviate. In the constant seeking, led full circle back to where the journey began. How counter-intuitive. Could the Christ known as Jesus have been right when he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) What is this Kingdom he spoke of? Twelve loyal men at his side and hundreds of more following behind, eager to absorb the wisdom of this man that brought enlightenment in a time of merciless shadows, were led to a land they had possession of all along, they in their seeking, just didn’t see it.

1478170016-9248-Bald-man-with-praying-hands

love.

All of our practices and seekings have been filtered down by popular thought leaders of our era that are expanding the meaning of love, universal consciousness, divine intelligence and empowering thoughts that challenge us to expand our burdened views of…god, God. (big G or little G…I never really know.) It’s with us here, all along, we only must chose to see and embrace.

LOVE.

If love was my religion, I could just be. In that being-ness, you could just BE too and together, we can belong and actually create the wonder of our imaginations that reflects the divinity in which we seek. No longer watching the dancers from the side, I join in the conscious coupling of the partnering that must happen for the beauty of dance to even exist.

L O V E .

If love was my religion, then I could trust that the universe exists as my house, to care for as it cares for me. There would be no lack, there would be no division, only a healthy portion for everyone to dip their ladles in deeply from a never-ending storehouse of riches. My eyes widen, heartbeat quickens as I speak about it. “Aren’t you being naive?”, you may ask. Maybe. Ya, probably. I like to think of it as peacefully brave. Because to really love is the hardest HUMAN thing to do, much less master. Yet, this act connects me to the very thing I’ve been searching for…the knowing inside this body of mine, this “kingdom of heaven.” Love requires we overlook all the apparent differentiation and powerfully engage in creative curiosity, live in a home, filled with others, to forge through and BE love. Love fosters a rebellion to the ways that aren’t working, revolting against untested, outdated practices to give wings that soar into insights proven to heal, repair and bring resolve where there was once confusion. Love holds the child that isn’t my own. Love brings comfort to the woman suffering pain. Love guides the man that has lost his way. Love builds bridges of forgiveness and restoration that launch into creative expression, thriving businesses, sacred sexuality and true care of the deepest parts of ourselves, touching gently what has been forever hidden. In love, we reflect our truest, highest self. In love, we become one, fear subsides and we advance into a state of god-like-ness, deities of beauty that capture the essence of powerful tenderness.

If love was our religion. How would this world be? Attend your churches. Wear your natural clothing. Beat on your drums and gather your tribes to exotic places around the globe to enrich your lives and connect. Love in your expression of religion. I’ll join you in any and all of those practices, surrendering judgement or personal preference. I’ll wear your sacred clothing, eat your cultural food, pray like you, even call this source what you enjoy hearing. I will dance at your ceremonies, grieve as you do, celebrate in your methods and I will do so in the only thing I’ve been able to find that connects us all. Love.

Love is my religion. Just…Love. ~Robin


Photo credits to Daniel Davis and Jenna Jasso – Daniel Davis Photography Daniel on Facebook Daniel on the web (editted)