You may be among the growing number of people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. What does that mean for you? If you don’t relate to a religion to help you define the meaning and purpose of life, in what ways do you sense the spirit? Naming the ineffable is almost impossible, and yet many people have a feeling, a knowingness that is an opening toward the transcendent.
Religions offer a community, a framework and some rules to follow, which are familiar and comforting to many. If no religion makes sense to you and yet you do sense the sacred mystery and wonder in life, you have to create your own roadmap for practicing what matters to you.
Spirituality is, for me, an experience of the divine rather than a belief in an all-powerful being. I viscerally sense presence in me and through me. “Presence” is the term often used to describe the invisible but knowable stillness that is paradoxically also the animating life force.
To be spiritual is to be connected to the heart – not an emotional or sentimental heart, but the heart that senses its interrelatedness to all life. There is faith in a permeating wisdom that is larger than self. You can be struck with awe through science, art, nature and in the faces of your loved ones. There is ecstasy in recognizing that life – yours, mine and all of life – is miraculous and sacred.
How does one live in union with the felt presence? How do you integrate your personal soulfulness with your business endeavors and your relationships? This is where an ideal of spirituality meets the messiness of life. And this is the place where some practice is necessary to integrate and live out one’s spiritual values.
Joy, peace and love are part of most people’s spiritual ideals. The Golden Rule is a common aspiration. But intellectually believing the ideals is not the same as living them. How often do I put on the face of understanding when inside I feel ready to clobber my neighbor? Having the frustration is human, but the capacity to notice it without acting on it is an example of living in concert with one’s higher values.
Staying mindful speaks to a way of holding and responding to life’s good and difficult times. It is a nonreligious way of living out spiritual ideals. Psychology helps us understand our personality, our ego’s structure. Spiritual development is for becoming more skillful at sensing true nature and taking responsibility for the values we actively bring to any situation.
The foundation is to develop keen self-awareness. Over time and with practice, self-regulation can be developed. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of self and other with equanimity. Emotional and social intelligence are secular ways of describing age-old spiritual values.
Our true nature is joyful, peaceful, compassionate and loving. Regardless of whether through religious belief or through one’s own spiritual framework, the ability to live these values takes skillful means.
I respect all religions and often work with people who feel called to follow one. Many tools for my practice originated in religions. I find that without the structure of a religion, it is even more urgent to find some teachers, some like-minded family and friends, and practice some skills to allow the sacred to live through me.
Davy Davidson earned a Master of Arts in spiritual guidance from Sofia University and sees clients as a spiritual coach at Sofia Community Center for Health and Wellness in Palo Alto. For more information, visit truenaturenow.com.