All things evolve and that includes our spiritual paths. Many awakening souls are finding themselves on what is commonly called a “spiritual but not religious path”.
It’s a path that embraces the universal truths that are interwoven throughout all the world’s traditions but that don’t require that we fit into or commit to any one particular box. In other words, we’re not Buddhist, or Christian, or New Thought, or Jewish or any traditional religious path.
We have spiritual freedom and a sense of “I am” that arises from within not without.
With this freedom comes a desire to cultivate a direct relationship with something bigger than ourselves that doesn’t involve the dogma that often accompanies organized religion.
“Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished.” ~ Tom Robbins
This need for our souls to have spiritual freedom is liberating on one hand but leaving many of us spiritually adrift without a defined path.
People on a spiritual but not religious path don’t want to fit into a box. We want to be connected with others on a similar path in new and meaningful ways.
For those of us travelling this path it often feels like it would be so much easier if we could just fit into one of the boxes.
The movement towards universal spirituality leads people down one of two paths.
One path is the new age spiritual path with its promise of “love and light” if you use the right crystals, beat the right drum, say the correct affirmation and balance your chakras.
Or there is the path that is deep, long, mysterious and requires that you embrace your shadow, heal your wounds, commit to daily spiritual practices and bring more light into your life by going deeper and not wider. In other words, it’s a lot of work!
As we explore both of these paths, we begin to get a sense that the true spiritual path is the path that takes us deeper. And while deeper is often more challenging, it is where we find more meaning and moments of joy.
The hard stuff is where the gold is. It’s where we truly find and connect with our true selves.
Our deep spiritual path is in the messy arguments with our spouse. The person at the office who rubs us the wrong way. The soul-sapping job. The teenagers that keep us up late at night worrying about their safety. The global pandemic that has disrupted our lives. In other words, I believe in a spirituality that is grounded in our everyday lives. It takes us deeper and not higher and through that process, we fulfill our soul’s need to grow and evolve into our most authentic selves.
I’ve found that it is possible to travel a spiritual but not religious path and get the depth our souls are so hungry for.
This for me has been a natural way of embodying spirituality. It’s evolved organically and guided by my inner wisdom as I didn’t grow up in a home that valued religion. We certainly never talked about what it meant to be spiritual but not religious. I only went to church a handful of times.
As a young adult, I got married in a church, after taking the required classes (I felt like an imposter) and had my kids baptized when they were born. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I felt I should. I often wondered why I felt that way because religion wasn’t part of my life. I now realize that it was out of fear: What would happen if I didn’t baptize my kids? Was I a bad person if I didn’t believe in “God?” Would I go to hell when I died? What kind of a parent was I for not bringing my kids to church?
By the time I entered midlife, I would say my spiritual life was like a desert. It was barren! I had no idea what I believed and actually hadn’t given it a lot of thought.
And then the perfect storm. I had retired from my beloved Nursing career ( which was a mystical gift that I received as a little girl), my kids were launched, and I was travelling the world. Living the dream!
Out of nowhere (although the soul hunger was slowly creeping up on me), The Universe orchestrated a dark night of the soul. This was a huge problem because at the time I didn’t know that I had a soul and I most certainly had never heard about the dark night of the soul.
It was a cruel experience to inflict on someone who had no frame of reference or way to understand, “what is happening to me?” or what it even meant to be spiritual but not religious.
How could I? I had barely stepped foot in a church and was living in a spiritual desert as far as conscious awareness went.
I marvel now that ALL of my life experiences were ripening the spiritual seed inside of me. As they do in all of us -whether we’re conscious of it or not.
Looking back I now realize that I had my first dark night of the soul when I was a very young girl. A mystical experience that shaped the course of my life.
Most of us have these mystical types of experiences that transform us and unless we know how to make sense of them, they’re not integrated into our lives in meaningful ways.
We don’t know how to mine for the gold that are the treasures hidden inside of us.
The amazing thing is that all of this happens inside of us. We often don’t realize we’re incubating and ripening our soul’s need for expression.
A spiritual awakening became the gift of my dark night of the soul. A deeper connection with who I was at my core and how I’m part of and connected to something bigger than myself.
In many ways, it was a gift that I didn’t have a spiritual or religious background. I was a blank slate and was able to discern as an adult what felt right for me and what didn’t. I didn’t need to strip away layers of beliefs that were imposed on me when I was younger. My filter was my own soul determining what felt true for me.
I went from not having spirituality on my radar to full-on being guided by spiritual principles and values in every aspect of my life. Spirituality grew from within. It arose from my soul and often left me wondering what I should even call “It.”
Maybe that’s a good thing because as Lao Tzu says,
“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.”
Some inherit religious beliefs that feel too small and confining
I’ve found it interesting that many folks I work with have a different struggle with their relationship with religion and/or spirituality.
People who have grown up with religious dogma and beliefs that don’t seem to nourish them or align with what their soul says.
Questioning a spirituality that minimizes their life force energy rather than expanding it. Or has them living with traditional gender roles that aren’t meeting their soul’s desire to integrate both the masculine and feminine. The author, Sue Monk Kidd described these challenges so powerfully in her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.
I hear as people share their confusion about the sense that they are outgrowing the “box” of their inherited traditional beliefs. They’re having to face the fear of leaving communities, shedding fear-based beliefs and finding their own path often in the dark with a sense of feeling alone.
This for many becomes their dark night of the soul. A process that is difficult and yet gives birth to a new vision and relationship with spirituality. Like all transformations, something has to die in order for something new to be born. A difficult and confusing time of living in the void, knowing we can’t go back and yet we also can’t see a way forward.
What is so mystical is that the Universe signals when it’s time to make these radical types of transformations in our lives. It gives us signs that we’ve drifted too far away from our essential selves and it’s time to wake up!
And our soul doesn’t care what path we’re on – it could be religious, spiritual or as in my case, the path of no path. The only thing that really matters to the soul is that we follow a path that is uniquely ours and resonates at the core of our being.
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