I hear a lot of buzz these days about the Spiritual but Not Religious, especially in the younger crowds. Churches are obviously watching this group closely because as fewer people identify with religion, the church population decreases. Most of the people I know are not religious, and I don’t consider myself to be religious either. I am a confirmed Roman Catholic, but I don’t attend on a regular basis. Every few months I get the desire to go to Mass. I will go for a several weeks and then I’m good again for the next six months. I don’t agree with many things the Catholic Church teaches, but I do love the ritual. There is a feeling of peace in the Catholic Church, a closeness to God that I have never found in other church. That is why I continue to go there. It is just one way I connect with God, but definitely not the only way.
I do consider myself to be a very Spiritual person. Being Spiritual means much more than not attending church though. I don’t like how easily the label of Spiritual is applied these days. It seems to have taken on the meaning of believing in God, but not belonging to a religion. I know many people who believe in God, in one form or another, that don’t attend any type of church, but I would not consider them Spiritual. To believe in God is just that, you believe in God.
To be Spiritual requires action. It is a practice. And like anything else, we must practice often to be effective. When we merely believe in God, we are not close to God. We cannot develop a relationship with the Divine by merely existing. Along the same lines, we cannot become Spiritual by going through the routine of a church either. Attending every Sunday, taking communion, and attending Wednesday night dinners will not make you a Spiritual person. The practice of Spirituality must be done with intent.
There are many ways to practice Spirituality. You need to try several until you find those that resonate with you. Don’t just stop with one either. Find several and practice them individually, together, or in any combination. You can only have well to gain by regular practice such as a closer relationship with the Divine, a peaceful heart, and a quiet mind. Here are some suggestions for practicing Spirituality, and you can also develop your own.
Nature walks – For me, you can’t get closer to God than being outside. Take a walk or hike in the country or in a park. Turn the smart phone off, take off the headphones, and actually listen to the sounds of nature. Walk slowly and notice the beauty and awe that is our world, and know that God is present. For an added bonus, take a walk in the grass barefooted. You can’t get closer to a Creator than experiencing the creation.
Prayer – Set aside some time each day for prayer. Establishing a regular routine for prayer helps keep us on track, but there is nothing wrong with spontaneous prayer either. Praying does not mean getting down on your knees and saying I’m sorry over and over again. Really, would you want a child that stood in front of you all day saying I’m sorry. Praying is having a conversation with God. Be thankful for the good things and people in your life. Think of each person in your life and be thankful for what they bring to your world. Talk to God about what you want to accomplish in life, what you need and what you want. Be sincere and intentional, not just flippantly saying thanks for letting me wake up this morning. Hopefully you don’t think there’s a Divine creature that makes that decision every night.
Meditation – “Be still and know that I am God.” Most people don’t know how true this statement is. Don’t be fooled into thinking that meditation is attached to specific religions. Meditation is the practice and art of having a quiet mind. It is impossible to be at peace with yourself and God when your mind is having a hundred conversations at one time, and preparing for every bad thing that has never happened. Find a quiet space, light a candle, sit with your eyes closed or barely open, and just be. Concentrate on your breathing to help keep your mind quiet. When you find yourself thinking of other things, and you will, don’t give up; just go back to feeling yourself breath. Many times during quiet meditation, you will find that when you are not talking to God, God will talk to you.
Set up an altar – Yes an altar. They are not bad things. Every church has one, so why can’t your home? All you need is a small table or shelf. Put those things on it that are spiritually meaningful to you, such as a cross, statuary, candles, pictures, etc. You might want to sit in front of your altar when you pray and meditate. Once a day light a candle on your altar, and stand there a few minutes to just be. Think about the relevance of the items on your altar, and what they mean to you. Keep your altar clean, and wipe the dust from items often, being intentional and slow as you clean. Know that this space is sacred to you, and it will be sacred to God.
Sing – Sing songs that are filled with hope and happiness. Let the Divine, the angels and the universe hear your voice and your happiness. It is really hard to be in a bad mood when you are singing happy songs. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a religious song to be a happy song and make you feel good inside.
These are just a few suggestions. Try them all, and think of new ways to practice being Spiritual. You can practice all of these alone or with family and friends. And as a side note, if any of these practices are in contention with your religion, I would strongly suggest you ditch your religious leader and look for a spiritual adviser.