Yesterday, I had the pleasure of walking my extremely wonderful and recently divorced friend through setting up her eHarmony profile. I was impressed with the depth of the questioning process. One of the questions took a long time to answer because it steered our conversation off-topic. It asked her to select the type of religion(s) or spiritual affiliations that she seeks in a potential mate. There were many options and she could select all that she would be willing to consider. One option was “Spiritual, but not religious”. She had a hard timing imagining exactly what that meant.
I shared with her my perspective though I’m not in any way suggesting that this is an official or all-encompassing description. It is just how I view the distinction between “spiritual” and “religious”. For me, the word “spiritual” refers to a core set of beliefs. The most universal is the belief in a supernatural force that exists in the world. Spiritual people may call this God, the universe, or many other names but it always relates to the idea that there is an unseen order in the world. This order can’t be proved empirically or through our senses, but a spiritual person still believes in this concept. I view “religion” as the particular set of rules and rituals that a spiritual person guides their life path by. So in that sense, all religious people should be spiritual. But all spiritual people don’t have to be religious. They may choose to pursue their spiritual path on their own and without engaging with organized religion.
There are other concepts that are typically believed by “spiritual people”. Some examples are:
- Faith that positive things will occur. (Also called “trust in the universe” or “setting intentions” and many other names.)
- Giving thanks for what you currently have.
- Believing that life is a series of lessons and that negative things happen for the purpose of teaching those lessons.
- The importance and power of setting time to build a deeper spiritual connection. (This is called by many names from prayer to meditation to advanced yoga practices.)
When I think of the last bullet, I realize that I’ve tried all three of the examples and have absolutely felt a deeper spiritual connection while doing them. I now see serving others as a spiritual practice similar to prayer. There are three things that I look to get from my prayer or meditation time. At times, I have experienced each of those things while serving.
- It clears my mind of the non-stop internal chatter. When I’m focused on serving others, I’m also enjoying the rare mental silence that allows my heart to awaken with spiritual awareness.
- I’m not focused on myself or the importance of my place in this world. I feel part of a system that connects us all at our core. This concept reminds me of a quote I once read (but can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it) that described people feeling like individuals to waves feeling separate from the ocean.
- There is a peace that comes over me. It is like I briefly understand my place in the world before my mind wakes back up and starts telling me how important I am again.
I know these are very hard concepts to get across through writing, but I believe that many have experienced these through their own spiritual practice. I hope some of you have experienced this through the practice of service. If you have, I’d love for you to share it with me. I’d love for you to share it with others. No pressure though, I’m happy to have shared a connection to you just because you chose to read this. Until next week, serve on!