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Are You “Spiritual But Not Religious?”

Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Inspirational with 6 Comments

Lissa Rankin | Wakeup world

yogaWhen I talk to some people about spirituality, they commonly respond with, “Oh, but I’m not religious,” to which I respond, “Yeah, me neither.” Then they look a bit puzzled. The way I see it, every religion is some human being’s interpretation of spiritual principles, and while there’s a lot of overlap in the teachings of all religions that probably points to some spiritual truth, I find myself resisting any dogma that says that one way is “The Way” and everything else is hogwash.


Ages ago, I wrote about my “Grab Bag Religion”. Some critique such an approach to spirituality, arguing that those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” lack the discipline that comes from focus on one religious pathway. Others say that the California-style “It’s all good” approach to spirituality fails to offer clear morals and strict values. This may be a valid criticism. Certainly spiritual practice can deepen one’s spiritual journey, and living a life of integrity tends to accompany spiritual commitment.

I certainly respect those who have found a religious discipline that feels aligned with their truth, but after investigating many religious paths, none felt truly authentic to my soul.

Though Buddhism most closely resonates with me and though I’m attracted to the yogic tradition, I still say that Jesus is my favorite. And yet, I don’t consider myself a Buddhist or a committed yogini or a Christian. I tend to resonate with the Buddhist teachings of non-dualism, especially the way Adyashanti teaches, but I’m also attracted to the Divine Feminine goddess worship of the yogic tradition, especially the way Sera Beakexpresses it. I also love the Sufi mystic poets like Rumi and Hafiz. Yet, no deity speaks to my heart more than Jesus, who strikes me as perhaps the most loving being to have ever walked the earth in human form

If you mix all those together, you get a flavor of the cocktail of my spiritual inklings. But yours might taste quite different, and I think that’s perfectly okay.

Defining “Spiritual But Not Religious”

If you, like me, consider yourself “spiritual but not religious,” what does that even mean?

Christine Hassler, my soul sister and author of Expectation Hangover, recently wrote:

Spirituality is one’s capacity to be guided. It is not about how much we mediate. Or how often we go to church. Or how many yoga poses or Sanskrit words we know. Or how much time we spend praying. Or how many Om pieces of jewelry we have. Spirituality is really about how much we get out of our own way and allow ourselves to be guided by God.

That means . . .

Letting go of expectations.

Releasing attachments to the way we think things should be.

Quieting the voice of our ego so we can hear the voice of inner wisdom.

Making changes that maybe scary and facing uncertainty with faith.

Being of service to others that Spirit places in our lives in often unexpected ways.

I thought that was pretty much the best definition of “spiritual but not religious” that I had ever heard. I might add that spirituality is a commitment to walking the spiritual path from the head to the heart. It’s a choice to free yourself from letting your ego take the lead in your life so you can surrender your ego’s attachments and instead, let your soul take the wheel. It’s the decision to choose love over fear — to withhold judgment of yourself or others, to stop labeling everything as “right” or “wrong,” to transition from a black and white “dualistic” world to a non-dual perspective that is comfortable with paradox. It’s the willingness to make your life an offering to the Divine in whatever form you resonate with a Higher Power, whether it’s God or some other deity or just the Divine within yourself (which I call “Your Inner Pilot Light“). It’s your commitment to learning to receive, interpret, and discern spiritual guidance, mixed with the courage to actually act upon this guidance, even when it directs you away from what your ego wants.

(If you’re not sure how to receive this guidance, listen to this free teleclass I recorded with Rachel Naomi Remen — 10 Ways Your Soul Guides Your In Daily Life.)

When you choose to live by these principles and your prayer becomes “Make me a vessel for Divine love in the world,” you are definitely on the spiritual path, whether or not you consider yourself religious. And when you realize that orchestrating your life around the ego’s grasping desires and attachments fails to truly fulfill you, you free yourself from the prison of the hungry ghost of the ego, which never gets fulfilled, no matter how many goals you achieve or how much money you earn or how much love or sex you attract. Once you stop letting fear rule your life, you become free. The reward from the challenges of the spiritual path is inner peace — true lasting relief from human suffering, regardless of the chaos happening around you. And that makes it all worth it. Really.

As an added side effect, living this way is medicine not just for the soul, but for the body. As I described in Mind Over Medicine and as I dig deeper into in my upcoming book The Fear Cure, when you’re no longer living in a state of constant fear, anxiety, and stress, the nervous system rests in the relaxation response and the body naturally begins to heal.

The Spiritual Path

Making a commitment to the spiritual path is no small task, and many who consider themselves “religious” are not on the spiritual path at all (though many are). Just because someone is faithful to religious rules doesn’t mean they’re committed to freeing themselves from the prison of fear and an ego-driven life.

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6 Reader Comments

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  1. tiffanynknebel@gmail.com' Tiffany says:

    Wow. Your spirituality sounds just like mine. Like spooky kinda. Perhaps a long lost soul cousin or something lol

  2. Tmiers@rcn.com' Jennifer Miers says:

    I truly enjoyed this article. Thank you for sharing this. I often feel isolated in “my truth” but you nailed it! I am looking forward to reading more

  3. cherrypopcorn@live.co.uk' Lorelei says:

    Thank you Lissa, this is such an inspiring piece of writing, truly encouraging. Many, many thanks to you.

  4. connorsgram@yahoo.com' megan atchie-jacob says:

    You nailed it….. I have never been able to truly put it into words. Thank you!!!!

  5. roche8410@yahoo.com' Denny says:

    Look within a composition made to relax and ease the mind. Spirit of the Wind 10 Google it and see if you can use it with headphones and listen to the entire recording for a couple of days and feel the difference it can make in your life. Thank you for listening.

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