“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.