Spirituality without Religion

Many Mushrooms make a great stewIs it possible to follow a spiritual path without the guidance of any organized religion? I certainly think so. But I’ve learned the hard way that there is no easy way. I’ve been wandering around for years looking for clues to guide me. I’ve tried easy fixes, pat little formulas like “Be here now” or “This is It” or “God is Love” or “The Path of Least Resistance”. Nothing makes living with quality and integrity easy. The only real choice you have is how you learn and grow from your experiences.

Organized religion offers a tested path. Sometimes it’s better to seek a known path rather than potentially getting lost finding your own. On the other hand, getting a little lost is a sure way to learn the territory well. As with any solution, one size doesn’t fit all. Perhaps a hybrid mish-mash of the best of all paths would be more adaptable to different needs. My exploration has certainly exposed me to wisdom I would not have “invented” on my own.

What I’ve found in my search for spiritual growth are a few simple rules (patterns*) which have no particular religious affiliation, but which can be found in almost any religious prescription. I like to think they are deeply thought common sense. (*since writing this, I have decided that the word “rules” has too strict a connotation- please allow me to call them “patterns“)

Pattern 1: The existence of a “soul” which lasts after this life is impossible to prove. Yet, though there may be no “spirit” after life, the fact is, our energy is never born and never dies. A cloud is water vapor, which may become rain, then a river, then steam or ice. So there is in fact a continuation of “me”, albeit in a different form. One could even deem this “continuation” of energy a spiritual axiom, though few would find it comforting. Consider this. No matter how important or “everlasting” you wish your personal self to be, your life will inevitably pass into some other form which can never really be known. So the bottom line is that we need to make the best, best, best possible life we can with the one we have.

Pattern 2: The fact is, we are not separate from the rest of the world. Our bodies are only minimally separated by porous skin from the air around us and from the rest of the physical world. Because of this illusion, it is incredibly easy to believe that we are alone and separate from the world. If we believe this long enough, we make it true. Our minds will make it true. Many of us live in this lonely hell. But if we can stay open to the idea that we are part of something greater than our individual self, we can, with lots of patience and persistence, thrive on our intrinsic connection to the world. Everything we do affects more than just ourselves. Caring for our bodies is caring for the world. Caring for a family member is helping all humanity. Caring for a plant or animal is embracing compassion. Helping planet Earth helps yourself. A smile felt from your heart goes to someone else’s heart. On the other hand, anger at one’s self is harmful to the world, and on and on through all the emotions of the lonely, false self. (this rule is the hardest for me to realize, by far, yet it is perhaps the most important)

Pattern 3: Accept your uniqueness and begin by loving yourself. You are the beginning of the rest of the world. Embrace this fact. You cannot love anyone if you can’t love yourself. I do not mean smug self-adoration over all others. This kind of false self love is toxic. It indicates that pattern two, our universal connectedness, has not been noticed. One must be responsible for one’s actions and even one’s thoughts. Only we can monitor our own psychological reality as it occurs to us. Hateful thoughts and words are only a breath away from similar actions.

Pattern 4: Learn from mistakes, yours and others. Life is like music. Becoming spiritual means playing that music more beautifully, with more meaning. Pay attention. No matter how much we read or listen to the teachings of others, we tend to have to “reinvent the wheel” to some degree. Ideas for improving your ability to give meaning to life’s music come from multiple sources: from friends, from books, TV shows, blogs, from a pet’s gentle eyes, a sweet smelling flower, the sound of water, and especially from your own inner voice. Listen to your conscience. A junior High School math teacher once said to our class, “Your conscience is like a pin prick which reminds you of what your gut is telling you. Ignore it long enough and you wear the pins down. Sooner or later you don’t feel the prick.” Don’t ignore your conscience. Don’t ignore your heart.

Pattern 5: Forgive as you go. There is a letting go in this feeling, letting go of impermanence, clarifying your spiritual permanence in a flawed world. Forgive yourself and forgive others, over and over, second to second, day after day. Forgive with each breath. Forgiveness is letting go. Cleanse yourself with forgiveness. If you remain in a constant state of forgiveness, you are much more able to learn from mistakes and to love through suffering. This is a paradox. But the fact is, a clean slate is easier to write on.

As forgiveness soaks through every cell of my existence, an airiness fills me, a porous lightness which allows pain, suffering, fear, anger and resentment to pass through me, leaving more room for growth and love.

66 thoughts on “Spirituality without Religion

  1. I am so thrilled to have found this site, to read what both the author and all the other people who have commented. I don’t think I have ever encountered so much authenticity in one place.

  2. It is much better to realize that there probably is a Creator…but that there is no need to give him/her/it a name, like Jesus, God, Jahweh, Mormon, Mohammed, etc. Organized religion is simply that…organized! And more of a business than a guide or path ot spirituality. The Creator is all around us, as the Native Americans say…”Mother Earth, Father Sky.” Unless one realizes that he/she is only one being on this earth and that we occupy only a finite space in this world, we are deceiving ourselves about our own self worth. The environment, the animals, us…all part of our tangible world. Organized religion is NOT about this,…it is about making you obey a certain set of rules. It is about mental, physical and psychological control of you, as a person, a human being. I have taught medical students who are rabid catholics or mormons, all obsessed with “obeying,” to the point that they can no longer think an original thought. Seek those people who are like minded, not the company of those who are obsessed with walking a very fine, and well defined “road of rules.”
    dr. doug/WV

  3. dr. doug- Thank you for your perceptive and relevant comment. I have been tickled at how much rich and original thought has come from the comments on this post.

    Moment to moment experience, un-namable, unknowable except for a string of perceptions, is where “god” is. Not a person or presence, but a wholeness manifesting itself in infinite discreet moments, and a knowing of yourself as a pattern within that wholeness. Even these words have the beginning of corruption of the idea.







  5. Garey, thank you for your comment. I think my body and it’s energy are never lost to oblivion. They continue, whether as another being or some other energy form.

    I like your universal message. I often focus on the individual, forgetting the power of group spirit.

    Yes, of course you may use any of my writing in your own writings. I hope you’ll mention my name.


  6. I really like your beliefs, they all make sense. I think alot of people seem to follow groups, they conform. They think they must either follow an organised religion, or be a pure atheist; they see no other option. In reality the best option is to just follow what you truly believe, not what others do.

    Alot of people try to use science to prove my beliefs (afterlife, possible creator) wrong. Telling me that there is nothing supernatural in this world, all fact. But how can time possibly be endless with no start? What started everything? How can the universe be endless? These are supernatural things, no amount of science can explain.

    Rich, 17

  7. Rich- What you may think of as supernatural may not be outside of natural, just at the edge of what WE know is natural. It is entirely possible that we are only aware of one space/time continuum, from which some events in the universe appears “un” natural or “super” natural.

    take care,

  8. This has helped me re- think my beliefs. I have never believed in God ,heaven or hell. I just kept thinking that there was something wrong with me, so I truley thought I was an atheist, but even that just did’nt feel right to me either .After reading this, I feel relaxed and at ease with myself, something I havent felt for a long time. thank you ,Kelley

  9. Well written, thoughtful post David.

    There is a growing awareness in the world that looks and feels like what you described. Innumberable people are searching, seeking out their own path. It can be scary to step away from the established “norms” of religion, but as you walk your path, you’ll become aware of new guideposts along the way.

    Your post echoes the themes in my novel, “The Confession of Mason Young”, a story of a spiritual journey framed by faith, love and forgiveness.

    Thank you for sharing. On the net, you never know who you might influence, you never know who you might help awaken.

    Regards, Tom Carroll

  10. Pattern #4 especially hits home for me. I think that most of us struggle with loving ourselves. We live with deep-seated guilt that separates us from God’s love. He wants to pour out his bounty on us and so often, we simply are not ready to accept his love. Our greatest enemy is ourselves!
    The Bible instructs us to pray, meditate and contemplate. Authentic meditation enables us to tap into the universal consciousness and to finally view ourself with compassion. We can find true ourself within and without.

  11. Thanks to this site I have ound that which I have been seeking a long time, many thanks,


  12. Great post. Something I practice myself in a very simplistic way. I especially love the pattern about being connected with all around us. I remember a story by Pontiac (the Indian not the Car) about the streams being our brothers..very nice. I tend to live and be very comfortable with the fact that I will never be able to understand much of the universe around us. i just appreciate it and enjoy it and am very greatful to be part of it but don’t fret about trying to ubnderstand it.

  13. Pingback: Baby name meaning and origin for Garey

Comments are closed.