The trend is obvious: Organized religion is losing its appeal. About 25% of Americans don’t identify with any religion, and this number has grown in recent years. What about you – do consider yourself agnostic, atheist or agnostic, or somewhat spiritual, but not religious?
Maybe you are a recovering Catholic, who is still suffering from nightmares of malicious nuns torturing you and the other schoolkids. Maybe you are turned off by the scandals surrounding pedophile priests, or you are appalled by the prejudice and intolerance some Christian churches lecture, even though Christ’s teachings were all about love, acceptance and compassion. And maybe you are one of the many, who, no matter how much you oppose the rules, dogmata and limitations of organized religion, still long for some kind of connection to a God, a higher power or the Universe. But, how do you develop your spirituality without the framework of a religion?
My own spiritual journey started in a small Lutheran community in a predominantly Catholic region of Southern Germany. While at that time it was still frowned upon by some, the division of the two denominations used to be much more severe if a Lutheran boy would date a Catholic girl, and vice-versa. For example, when my grandparents were little, our town had a Catholic and a Protestant fire brigade, which only served their appropriate congregation members. Like my aunts and cousins, I sang in the church choir, although the closer I got to puberty the less I sang and the more I fainted (apparently I was growing too fast, causing syncope, or rapid decreasing of blood flow to the head, so that whenever the choir stood up to sing, I went the other way – ending up with a dull thud on the floor).
Since the dry and old-fashioned church services neither inspired me, nor provided me with satisfying answers to my existential questions on the bigger purpose of life, I became interested in Russian mysticism, metaphysical philosophies, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shamanism and Religious Science etc. While each tradition and philosophy taught me something new, I also found that many spiritual paths are similar at the core and complimentary in their details. Although I don’t subscribe to one particular religion or teaching, my personal blend of spirituality gives me a sense of peace and meaning in the world – and it provides me with a solid moral and ethical foundation. As the great Friedrich Nietzsche said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
My special guest on this week’s Empowerment Radio is Ben Jamison, author of “Church-Free Spirituality: How to Craft a Spiritual Practice Beyond the Bounds of Religion.” Ben has a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology and is a Spiritual Counselor through the Centers for Spiritual Living.
Here is an excerpt from his book:
Nothing has a greater ability to positively impact the experience you have on a daily basis than a strong and consistent spiritual practice, or the application of tools and techniques intended to bring you a deeper understanding of your true nature as Spirit. If money were the answer, there would be no depressed millionaires, but there are. If fame were the answer, then no celebrity would ever commit suicide, yet they do. We live in a spiritual universe. Through quantum physics, science is beginning to prove what the mystics have long said. We are not human beings having a physical experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience. The invisible or spiritual aspect of us exists before the physical and is superior to the physical. From this perspective, it becomes clear that turning to anything in the physical world, like money, success, or fame, will do little to uplift your experience. Since your true nature is spiritual, the spiritual is where you must focus to have the most powerful, dramatic, and lasting impact.
We all imagine living a different life than we currently do. It might be a better relationship, more friends, more money, a different job, better health, etc. that call to us. Yet there is a tendency that, no matter how good life gets, there is something nagging in the background for “more.” What many people don’t realize is that the “more” that is craved is not more money, power or friends. The
“more” yearned for is more of ourselves, to be in touch with our true spiritual nature as a direct experience. Humanity yearns to fulfill the ancient Greek aphorism,“Know Thyself.”
When you arrive at the place where you truly know your Self, through not only logical reasoning, theory, and concept, but also direct experience, then the amount of money you have or the notoriety attached to your name or anything of the physical world will have lost all of its power to negatively impact your experience. The question then becomes, “How do I explore my true nature and have a direct experience?” The answer is through spiritual practice. The truth is, no matter what you currently think you know about who you are, you are far greater. We all have the ability to be happy, to experience joy, to share love and to live in a constant state of gratitude. We have the power within us to dissolve all perceived barriers and be completely connected with all of Life, exuberantly experiencing the wonder and beauty of creation. Feel into these last several statements. Read them again in the first person. “I am far greater than I realize. I have the ability to be happy, to experience joy, to share love and to live in a constant state of gratitude. I have the power within me to dissolve all perceived barriers and be completely connected with all of Life, exuberantly experiencing the wonder and beauty of creation”. Does a place, deep inside you, whisper “YES!”? Does part of your being resonate and feel aligned with those Church-Free Spirituality statements, recognizing them as true? If so, then you have your reason for why to establish a spiritual practice.
If you are also on a spiritual quest and don’t find the answers in mainstream religions, join Ben and me on Empowerment Radio this Wednesday, November 21 at 11AM PT / 2PM ET and learn how you can develop your personal relationship with God, a higher power, the Universe or whatever word you feel comfortable with.