Let’s Talk About Religion and Faith

In our last post, we touched a little bit on how the concept of spirituality differs from organized religion. Neither is necessarily better than the other, and they can be related. However, they’re not the same, as had commonly been accepted in the past. You don’t have to embrace a religion in order to be a spiritual person. Spirituality encompasses a wider set of circumstances and evolves over time. It’s something that an individual determines and shapes, rather than a doctrine or structure to be followed. That’s not to say you can’t be a deeply religious person who is strong in your particular faith and still pursue other spiritual endeavors. The two can exist simultaneously. To make things a bit clearer, let’s take a look at some of the more specific ways in which spirituality differs from religion and faith.

Individual Focus

Religions are comprised of congregations or followers. In many cases, their focus is on sharing their teachings with a group of people within their ranks. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a very uniquely personal endeavor in which the individual creates her or his own meaning. You decide as an individual which direction to take with your spiritual studies. You may choose to pull certain guiding principles from a particular religion or philosophy and combine them with tenets unrelated to any organized group whatsoever. When it comes to following a spiritual path, what matters is that the practices resonate with you.

Less Structure

Most formal, organized religions are quite structured. Followers are often expected to attend worship in a specific meeting space on a designated day. Rituals are frequently part of that worship service, and as a rule, the entire congregation must follow along. You can practice your spirituality in a much more fluid way that best fits your lifestyle. What matters most on a spiritual journey is the way in which you personally decide to format your practice and how you choose to prioritize your beliefs.

Solitary

Your spiritual path is usually one that’s walked alone. While you have the benefit of choosing your own guideposts as you go, doing so can be a bit of a lonely process. When it comes to religion, most folks can depend on their congregation members for support, guidance, socialization and fellowship. Each has its own merits.

Definition of Truth

When it comes to spirituality, what you consider to be truth is predetermined only by you. Most organized religions have a holy book or document that spells out universal truths for followers. There can be a great deal of comfort in following the gospel truth as you see and believe it. However, some people prefer the ability to look for their own version of truth in the world through their lived experiences and through research.

These are merely a few of the differences between spirituality and religion. I simply wish to point out that this 30-day challenge is one that doesn’t require you to hold a particular religious belief, as spirituality can exist separate from religion. I look forward to moving ahead to explore the ways in which a spiritual pursuit, combined with meditation, can help you to live each day more fully and in alignment with your own personal truths.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a concept we hear a lot about these days, but you may not really be sure what the term means. That’s because it’s evolved quite a bit over the years. Once, the word referred to being religious. Whenever someone spoke of being spiritual, you could almost guarantee they meant they were speaking about their formal religion. These days, the term is more fluid. It extends to refer to any form of growth process aimed at reaching a higher consciousness. Spiritual activities of all types allow people to move toward becoming their best selves and to focus their intent on living a purpose-driven life. These activities can include meditation, yoga, research, fellowship, communing with nature and more.

The Importance of Spirituality

Spirituality brings a connectedness to the world around them that many people feel they are lacking. Engaging in these types of activities can help you center on your purpose, pushing you to move toward what is important to you in life. Spirituality can also help us to appreciate the here and now, as well as to notice the beauty in the world around us. Spiritual moments abound and are found nearly everywhere. Something as simple as appreciating the laughter of a child can be considered spiritual because taking note of it has led you to experience feelings, such as joy, that go beyond the mundane or the everyday. It’s easy to get lost in the daily tasks of survival mode. A spiritual study can help move your life beyond what simply must be done to get by. It can help you to truly live.

Ways to Embrace Spirituality

We’ll examine ways to become more spiritual in depth throughout the rest of this month, but I’d like to give you a few suggestions for how you can get started embracing spirituality right now. One of the best ways is to set aside time each day for yourself. If this goal seems too much or too indulgent, you can begin by at least carving out some time a few days each week to devote to yourself. Self-care, reading, enjoying a favorite hobby or pursuing a new interest are all activities you can engage in to help you feel renewed and to mindfully nurture yourself, making you a priority. It’s also spiritually rewarding to do good deeds for others. This can be as simple as taking time to visit an elderly neighbor who doesn’t see family often or by taking on a full-fledged volunteer campaign to help a local charity. When you work on behalf of those in need, you’re making a connection that transcends the everyday interaction. You could also take time each day to just practice gratitude, making a list of what’s good in your life and giving thanks. This act acknowledges your fortune to the universe and demonstrates your appreciation. There are so many other ways in which you can bring the spiritual into your daily life.

Spirituality Vs. Religion

Though the terms were once used interchangeably, spirituality and religion are seen by most to be two separate things. Spirituality can be an aspect that falls under the umbrella of religion. It’s part of what makes up a religious practice. But religion itself refers more to a formal and organized group or study that revolves around a common belief system, deity or deities. The purpose of religions is to spread their teachings, as well as to nurture a following that continues throughout generations. Spirituality is a bit more personally focused. It refers to the way an individual views her or his own belief system and pursuit of life’s meaning.

Hopefully, you now feel confident that you have an understanding of the concept of spirituality. It is a broad term that encompasses quite a bit. Ultimately, what’s important is the way in which you feel it pertains to you and your goals.