Monday, June 7, 2010

"Spiritual But Not Religious"

I, Anne Milligan, was a holistic-oriented therapist long before holistic was cool. I first learned of this way of looking at human behavior via my first college degree, which was as a Social Worker. The Clinical (Therapist) branch of Social Work emphasizes the "people in environment" perspective wherein any part of our experience plays out within the context of our inner world and outer world (environment). Over the past 20 years, human consciousness has branched out to a far more pervasive (and I have to admit, really cool) understanding of the connectedness of all things. Nothing you or I experience exists by itself. It is affected by, and affects, everything else in some kind of magnificent orchestration of energy which exists below the surface of our everyday knowledge. To take this a few steps further, a new awareness of the connectedness of all things is coming together in a form of personal and global spirituality that many describe as "spiritual but not religious". This means that a more modern and genuine form of spirituality would break out of (but not necessarily exclude) the confinement of church and move out into the "real world" of everyday existence. Here are a few areas of interest on this topic which you might explore. At the bottom of the page, please note that I am asking people if you are "spiritual but not religious" and, if so, to post any personal ideas you have about what that means to you. The following are some of my own ideas about the subject. Tell us yours:
Inclusive, deep respect for diversity. (NO ONE gets left out based on age, sexual orientation, gender, race, country of origin, economic class, etc.)

Environmental consciousness. An awareness of the effect of our carbon footprint on the choices we make every day.

Non-extremist. (Fundamentalists won't like this one).

Inner awareness. The willingness to approach our inner self via a "mindfulness" branch of psychology which forces us to "get real" with ourselves so as not to project our unconscious (unknown to ourselves) inner stuff onto others. The very best first step in this way is daily mindfulness meditation. Three years ago, I created a
mindfulness meditation CD for those wishing to enter this arena in a way which is guided and not confusing. The steps which you will be guided into with these two meditations come straight out of the latest knowledge from the psychoneurology arena of science - what REALLY works in terms of focusing the mind to influence the whole system toward healing. It also includes the imagery of healing light, love, and the release of heavy grievances. Here is the link for that CD:
Part of coming to know ourselves inwardly is to understand how our bodies hold emotions for us. The "alchemy of illness" opens our awareness to how physical healing of illnesses might include emotional healing of past hurts, unforgiveness, trauma, grief, etc. The spiritual aspect of personal Body-Mind-Spirit awareness can include opening ourselves to hypnosis-oriented inner work such as that taught by David Quigley at the Alchemy Institue of Hypnosis. In my own work in this arena, my clients and I have discovered the marvel of "synchronicity" which is a fancy word for a meaningful coincidence. It seems that when deep inner healing happens, the outer world changes to match that inner transformation, and it most often manifests in the form of synchronicity. I would definitely call that spiritual!
Anne Milligan

1 comment:

  1. I like your angle on diversity as it pertains to offering and receiving care, I hadnt thought of that! And as you requested here is my take on Spirituality and Religion:

    What's wrong with being spiritual? I told someone that was what I considered myself to be more spiritual than religious, and it was like I admitted to being a pagan or something. What is wrong with being spiritual? Isn't God a spirit? Aren't we supposed to worship God in "SPIRIT and in truth"?

    I guess there is a somewhat negative connotation to the term Spirituality, no doubt due to the non-doctrinal, non-conformist and otherwise universality of the term. Spirituality is not a religion, it cannot be "religiousized", meaning it cannot be organized, formalized, or categorized. Spirit is free. It is intuitive, it moves as it wills not as it is expected or told. For one to say they are spiritual is to say they are free to experience THE Spirit in whatever way THE Spirit moves. This understanding of the divine cannot be quantified or classified and therefore it cannot be controlled.

    The problem that I see with spirituality is the fact that there isnt any codified or organized system that can be universally enforced or accepted. But this is only a problem for religious people. It seems that we, especially Christians are so institutionalized by our history and culture that we have forgotten how to truly allow the Spirit to move in us and through us. Instead we only allow the Spirit to move in the ways that we are programed. So when the Spirit DOES move in ways that are contradictory we reject Her.

    My religious readers might say this line of thinking is a "slippery slope" that could lead people to follow their own way and reject all doctrines and teachings. Thats the same thing the religious people said about Jesus during his ministry. Jesus was a spiritual person, he had a spiritual relationship with God that transcended religion. That was why he was able to do what he did. He allowed the Spirit to use him as She willed. Sometimes her will was against religion completely, and could not be controlled. I believe that was why they wanted Jesus dead, because the things he was teaching and preaching stripped the religious institution of its power and gave it back to the people.

    This is not an indictment on religion, it is more an indictment on our human tendency to worship religion instead of God, the same message that Jesus preached.

    I dont think spirituality can or should replace religion. In fact I think they should compliment each other. They are two side of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. We need religion to establish order in our lives and in our society, but we need spirituality to keep us in tune with the Spirit for Divine guidance and direction.