Can You Be Spiritual Without Being Religious?
“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it—maybe even said it—before. But what does it actually mean? Can you be one without the other? Once synonymous, “religious” and “spiritual” have now come to describe seemingly distinct (but sometimes overlapping) domains of human activity. The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional religion to the private experience of God within.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at people who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.” and how they make it work.
Gather a room full of 1,000 people and ask what spirituality means to them—let alone spirituality that isn’t pegged to a certain religion—and you might get 1,000 different answers. When viewed outside of a religious context, spirituality connects us with a dimension of life that is greater than ourselves. It’s a daily exercise in finding faith—one in which we are both teachers and students, givers and receivers—that allows us to live from a place of greater compassion for ourselves and others.
At the end of the day, all of us need to find our own way through life, and spirituality can help us do that. Here are five simple ways to live a more spiritual existence, regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof:
1. Take 10 minutes to calm your mind when you wake up.
We have the power to focus our thoughts in a positive direction—positive for ourselves, for others, and for the world. Dedicating the first 10 minutes of each day just to being still and connecting with something greater than yourself is a way to do just that. Give it a try and start practicing meditation or yoga, reading an inspirational text, or taking a walk in nature right upon waking.
2. Be useful to others.
Obsessing over our personal wants and desires creates isolation, not happiness. Instead, practice simple ways to be of service to others: Offer your seat on public transport to someone who needs it more than you, smile at the person preparing your coffee, really listen to others without judgment.
3. Know that you don’t need India, Bali or the Amazon jungle to locate your sense of spirit.
The essence of spirituality is that it happens here and now. It is not about the things that you do but instead about who you are. Your life is exactly as it needs to be for your own spiritual growth. Paradoxically, it is when you surrender to this truth that the gates of limitless love and change open.
4. Explore what spirituality without religion means for you and who embodies it.
Read books, watch videos, go to conferences and workshops. Find a role model who embodies spirituality according to your own terms and study his or her ways of being in this world, but always remain yourself. You are your own unique and glorious flavor and contribution to this world. That is what spirituality is meant to help you discover too.
5. Keep it simple.
“Spiritual success” isn’t about fame, power, or money. It is knowing that everything is perfect and that we are all one. There is a power that keeps everything in its place and fuses everything. It is from this point of faith and inner stillness that meaningful actions can arise. Leave a few moments in your day to forget about to-do lists. Simply turn off your phone and observe what moves around you and for you. In a world dictated by consumerism, I tend to think that this simplicity is refreshing.
And maybe that’s something a room full of 1,000 people would agree on, too. Are you one of those? Share your views in the comments below.