Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spirituality rocks

Earth's sky and clouds inspire me.
I'm ready to shout it from the rooftops. Spirituality rocks!

Always willing to share my love of food or my passion for all things natural, I'm also happy to publicly declare my position on spirituality.

Fully acknowledging my interest and my thirst to explore more on the topic makes me feel, shall I say, all warm and tingly... and spiritual.

What is "spiritual"?

1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.

2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.

This is an exciting time for me.

Spirituality is a satisfying indulgence. Spirituality is uncertain, emotional, illogical, not rational. In so many ways, we are all called to, no, required to, be solid and practical every day. But I need more.
Exploring spirituality feeds my creative spirit and allows me to consider and engage in otherworldly potential.

I certainly wouldn't be considered shy in the social media landscape and I'm fairly certain I'm considered outgoing in social situations. But deep inside, I'm a very private person.

As many of you may also, I've got this whole inner dialogue going that I don't regulary share. But here and there I get really excited about the conversation with myself and I want to share it with others.

Concepts of spirituality intrigue me. Buying books on the topic, watching shows featuring spiritual leaders, researching on the web, formulating and refining my own ideas. This is all yet another adventurous phase in my life-long quest to learn.

This certainly isn't the first time I've explored the topic, though. I've touched on the theme of spirituality here before in this hodgepodge blog of mine.

It's always so interesting to observe the conversations and declarations on social networks.

Frequently there are posts and comments about organized religion from one end of the belief spectrum to the other.

I myself don't really comment on religion or politics in the social landscape. That's the more private side of me. I review what folks are thinking and feeling, though, and it prompts me in my own discovery and thought process.
I see the arguments from all perspectives. Everyone is so certain they are right. It's really interesting to watch.
Religion is man-made

Religion has been around a really long time. Some detractors argue that organized religion is a man-made invention to keep the masses in check.
Petronius Arbiter (c. 27 - 66 AD), a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero, wrote, "It is fear that brought gods into the world."

Edgar Allen Poe said what many think: "All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry."
Even if you agree with those statements, you have to admit it's pretty cool that these "man-made" religions popped up all over this good earth throughout time. 
Going back further than we can all imagine, human beings who didn't know of each other were all coming up with these "organized" ways to explain the essence of life and how they came to be. These world religions are all so different, yet all so similar.

I think Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950) made a striking point when he said, "There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it."

Martin Buber, an Austrian-born Israeli Jewish philosopher (1868 -1965) said, "God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him?"
It's a study unto itself to research the multitude of names for God that exist across world religions. Sufis poetically call out the 99 names for God or the most beautiful names of Allah

For still others, the word God doesn't resonate or hold any meaning. Some spiritual thinkers call what they feel to be good and true, the energy source of all that is, the origin of all love, "The Universal Light."

It seems more than a coincidence, though, that the theme of universal light and the concept of goodness are repeated over and over across many religious and spiritual expressions. Even science and evolutionism acknowlege principles of energy, dark, and light.

The Universal Light
Not sure who to attribute this image to since I see it so many places on the Internet.
Yeah, so what if religion is man-made? What's wrong with respecting that some people like that structure and the opportunity to belong to a community of like-minded folks? That's what this country is built on.
Those who despise religion don't like what can be bad about it. There's always someone who gives something good a bad name. Good and bad reside in all people and institutions. We're all well aware of the bad when we see it. But are we always open enough to recognize the good? Or is it too easy to use the bad as an excuse to refute the good?

Over time, yes, religion has been the cause of violence, wars, discrimination, pain, and suffering. But so have other man-made institutions. It's not an exclusive club.
We all have a right to comment and share our beliefs. I'll be the first to humbly admit that I'm not qualified to judge others or make an absolute statement on who's right or wrong on the issue of religion. 

I'm grateful to live in a country that by law allows us to decide for ourselves. How we judge each other outside the law is another story.
All that said, the diametrically opposed opinions and arguments witnessed on social networks have actually ignited my own interest in spirituality and common elements across world religions.

Spirituality vs. Religion

As I explore my own spirituality, it's been interesting to note that a lot of spiritual leaders may belong to a certain religion that maybe they were born into, but they don't feel they have to be religious to be spiritual.

I've felt that way myself for a very long time. I was very involved teaching catechism while raising my own children since I felt it was beneficial to provide a great foundational start for young minds to think through their own beliefs as they grow and learn.

But through all my education in religioius-affiliated institutions and my own exploration and participation into adulthood, I more readily identify now as being spiritual than religious.  

My gut instincts (in no particular order)

Organized institutions of religion go wrong when they are more intent on proving there's one true religion, their own. That's a big turn off to many. That comes off as arrogant and elitist.

It's key to treat others the way you want to be treated. Whatever you believe, you can't go wrong if you follow this golden rule. No matter the outcome, you will feel better knowing you tried and did your best.

We, as humans, are amazing beings with so much potential. Every breath we take seems a miracle. Our bodies can do wonderful things. Our minds intrigue. Our souls inspire. We are like animals, we are like machines. We are amazing. We should never forget to acknowledge that in each other. 

We can choose good or evil. Most choose good, but that doesn't get as much press. A focus on evil only makes us sad, depressed, and bitter, which maybe is one goal of the evil-doer. Seeking what's right and true and spreading the word help us triumph over evil.

Living on this good earth is a gift. It's marvelous every day that we wake up again in this wondrous universe. The air, the trees, the sky, the clouds, the dirt. We are lucky to be here.

Whatever we believe, we can't go wrong if we practice together kindness, compassion, caring, tolerance, service, and community. Less time struggling and pointing out our differences could mean more time working next to each other on these admirable qualities. 

Great minds 

As part of my ongoing quest to learn, I like to research quotes of those whose impact has been positive, who've left a lasting mark in this world. 

I'm so drawn to the abounding wisdom of the Dalai Lama. He says, "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." 

Again, Dalai Lama says, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."

British satirist Jonathan Miller once remarked, "In some awful, strange, paradoxical way, atheists tend to take religion more seriously than the practitioners."  Interesting perspective. 

Thomas Jefferson said, "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."  Yeah, Tom, you tell us. It's all about freedom of choice, folks. Do good, no harm. Let it be.

One of the greatest minds ever, Albert Einstein said, "My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance - but for us, not for God."   

Albert Einstein also said, "True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness." In my search for commentary on religion and spirituality, I'm amazed by how much Einstein commented on the topics

Mother Teresa said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

Jesus of Nazareth said "Love your enemies!" He also said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The intention with both statements is, I think, even when they are different from you. That would rock if we could do that. These are important lessons that our world still struggles to learn.

Swami Brahmananda sums up the crux of the matter for me when he said, "There is no true religion or spirituality without kindness and love."

I agree. Those who spout goodness or holiness and then do things that aren't kind or loving give all that's good a bad name.
I don't know all the answers, for sure, and I don't feel I need to. I'll say it again that I'm here on this good earth to learn and I don't want to stop until I'm done.

Paint your masterpiece
as you see fit.
Make it your own.
Religion can be paint-by-number for some and that's okay. This can be a good thing. I loved and am proud of all the paint-by-number paintings I've done in my time.

Practicing spirituality, though, for me is now a blank canvas that I'm free to paint what I'd like outside the lines using whatever colors I want. I'm heartily taking this art class and diving right in to learn everything I can. 

I want to absorb from all the world masters today and before me, pursuing the opportunity to create my own spiritual masterpiece.

It's your choice: spirituality, religion or none of the above. To each his or her own. For me, it's all good where there's good.

Until next time, yours in creative spirituality...Therese

P.S. A friend's Facebook status on his religious views still tickles my funny bone:

At the end of the day, I'm glad to live in a country where we all have the right to practice or not practice as we'd like, to believe or not believe what we want, and to choose or not choose as we will. Thank you, founding fathers. For me, spirituality rocks, and so do you.

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