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 interwoven throughout all the world’s traditions but doesn’t require that we fit into or commit to any particular box. In other words, we’re not Buddhist, Christian, New Thought, 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 the one hand, it leaves 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 approach in new and meaningful ways.
For those of us travelling this path, it often feels like it would be much easier if we could fit into one of the boxes.
The movement toward 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 suitable 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. 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 spouses. The person at the office who rubs us the wrong way. The soul-sapping job. The teenager that keeps us up late at night worrying about their safety. The global pandemic has disrupted our lives. In other words, I believe in a spirituality grounded in our everyday lives. It takes us deeper and not higher; through that process, we fulfill our soul’s need to grow and evolve into our true selves.
I’ve found that it is possible to travel a spiritual but not religious path and get the depth our souls are hungry for.
This, for me, has been a natural way of embodying spirituality. It evolved organically and was guided by my inner wisdom, as I didn’t grow up in a home that valued religion. We 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 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 thought I should. I often wondered why I felt that way because religion wasn’t part of my life. I now realize it was out of fear: What would happen if I didn’t baptize my kids? Was I the wrong 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?
My spiritual life was like a desert when I went through my midlife awakening. It was barren! I had no idea what I believed and hadn’t given it much thought.
And then the perfect storm. I had retired from my beloved nursing career (a mystical gift I received as a little girl), my kids were launched, and I was travelling the world and 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 massive problem because, at the time, I didn’t know that I had a soul and had never heard about the dark night of the soul.
It was a cruel experience to inflict on someone with 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 with the embodied knowing that all of our life experiences are ripening the spiritual seed inside of us.
The fantastic thing is that all of this happens, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. In The 3 Soul Commitments: How to Honour Your Awakening Soul, I share how those on a spiritual path are in a dance with our soul that requires three things of us.
Through this spiritual and midlife awakening, we develop a deeper connection with who we are and realize that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.
In many ways, it was a gift that I didn’t have a spiritual or religious background. I was a blank slate and could 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 soul determining what felt true for me.
I went from not having spirituality on my radar to 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 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 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.
They are questioning a spirituality that minimizes their life force energy rather than expanding it. Or have them living with traditional gender roles that aren’t meeting their soul’s desire to integrate both the masculine and feminine. 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 people share their confusion about the sense that they are outgrowing the “box” of their inherited traditional beliefs. They have to face the fear of leaving communities, shedding fear-based beliefs, and finding their path often in the dark with a sense of feeling alone.
This, for many, becomes the 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 for something new to be born. A complex and confusing time of living in the void, knowing we can’t go back and yet we also can’t see a way forward.
It is so mystical that the Universe signals when it’s time to make these radical transformations in our lives. It shows us that we’ve drifted away from our true selves, and it’s time to wake up!
And our soul doesn’t care whether we are on – if we’re religious, spiritual, or in my case, the path of no path. The only thing that matters to the soul is that we follow an approach that is uniquely ours and resonates at the core of our being.
If you feel called, please leave a comment below. Our community would love to hear from you!
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