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Am I Spiritual or Religious? (What’s the difference?)


spirituality vs religion

What is spirituality

Many have said we are spiritual beings in a physical body, so why is it so difficult for most of us to relate to our spiritual side? Just what is our spiritual side anyway?  Is it really different than the physical body?  Well yes, and no.  Some say it is the spirit that powers the body therefore it would be impossible to separate the physical from the spiritual.  But let’s be practical and for simplicities’ sake we’ll say physicality is the body and spirituality is something else. Spirituality: spirit, invisible, silence, ghostlike…maybe God like? Sacred. Divine. Power.   All of these are words that in one way or another begin to describe what we are as spirit and therefore, describe our inherent spirituality.


Spirituality deals with our journey to discover who we really are.  It is a journey into what we might call the unknown because even though we are already that, we don’t know it yet.  The unknown side of ourselves– the Divine, powerful, God Self within that has eluded us all our lives so we naturally consider it unreal.  It is unseen after all, and isn’t only what we can see real?  We hear very often nowadays about people who have had near death experiences (NDE), or who have died and come back.  They all describe an eerily similar experience: They often travel through a tunnel of light, and they feel like they have “come home”, back to a place that welcomes them with unconditional love and joy. They often meet deceased close family members or other ancestors who join with them and make them feel welcome and at home. It is often described as the most peaceful, loving experience one has ever had. They want to stay and not return, but yet they do return. And this all happens outside of the reality we can see and touch.  So was it real?  These folks say it is. And research is backing them up. Many report seeing and learning things from the other side that deal specifically with this side, this reality, which could not have been possible for the person to have known about, yet they do. And they say they saw it clearly from the other side. 


This is the essence of spirituality vs religion.  Spirituality is a tapping into something that we already have access to and that we already are, but we just don’t know it yet. Or we don’t know how to tap into it. The truth is, we simply haven’t tried. But more on that later. Spirituality is the journey of understanding the mysterious and awesome side of our own beings. It is getting in touch with our own inherent healing abilities and powers of awareness, of knowing.  It is also a way of life that allows that process to unfold. A way that encourages us to be the best humans we can be; more loving, mature, non-judgmental, caring, compassionate and understanding.


Spirituality vs Religion: what’s the difference?

While these two words can have very different definitions, they can also be tightly intertwined with each other.  Religion deals with the following of certain rules as well as moral and ethical codes.  It is based on duty, faith, defined beliefs and certain rituals. Religion requires being pious, or devout, which essentially means one will go through the motions that the church or religion has set forth. He will follow the rules no matter what, with the end goal being that such following of the rules will make oneself a better person. 


Spirituality, on the other hand, deals with higher moral qualities or the highest moral qualities. It deals with spirit, the Divine.  Spirituality involves more of a freedom of choice as to how one will achieve long range personal “Godly goals”.  It entails following one’s own path and purposefully choosing to purify oneself from that which holds one back from discovering his true Divine, powerful Self. It is not done through rules, or any set of guidelines as it is through developing an awareness of one’s own actions, behaviors and habits and slowly converting those actions, behaviors and habits over to what one personally defines as the highest moral qualities. This is an ongoing process in which both the personal awareness and highest moral qualities evolve and change as well.  A religious man or woman can certainly follow a spiritual path, even while observing the rules and guidelines of his or her religious organization.  When this is done, the religious individual follows the pious path, but also does his own personal soul searching and cleansing to become the best person s/he can.


How does spirituality relate to our native land?

spirituality in the native land

We all come from the Earth.  Our bodies are “made of dirt” and will return to dirt. Dirt is the organic content of our biological form, our body, and therefore deserves a recognition or honoring of its value.  We all want a healthy body and that starts with clean, healthy tissues: skin, muscles, bones, guts, organs, brain and other tissues. We need to be made from good dirt to be healthy ourselves. Our soil and our water must be healthy in order for our plants to be healthy.  Animals, including humans, eat plants and these plants in turn provide the ingredients that give us life, that give us our body. In this way the land we live on is sacred and deserves our utmost attention to keeping it clean and pure. 


As one journeys down the spirituality vs religion path, this concept becomes clearer and more meaningful. As one purifies his own self and increases his compassion, love and understanding for himself and others, he naturally wants to take care of the earth that has given him life.  He wants for all people to experience an abundance of clean air and water, and fertile soils. He will be naturally inclined to reduce waste, pollution and over consuming of the earth’s resources. This is seen over and over again by those who embark on this path.  Some even say the earth itself is alive. The earth itself is a living being that feels and deals with the conditions on its surface. Ideally, we all want to live on a happy, joyful earth that radiates this energy to all its inhabitants. The earth itself is our native land, and this living being wants to thrive just as we do.  It wants to share with us it’s unfathomable mysteries. Those on the spiritual path will learn some of these mysteries, and when they do they will know that the earth is our spiritual rock.


How does spirituality relate to our ancestry?

Science knows the DNA in our body holds the patterns of our ancestors for 5-7 generations, and more! That’s a lot of people! But what does this mean?  It’s kind of like we get blue eyes from our father and brown hair from our mother. Not only do we get physical characteristics from our parents and their parents and so forth, but we also acquire emotional, mental and spiritual characteristics as well.  We are a melting pot of ancestral patterns!  Some of these patterns are special gifts we get handed down to us like intelligence or creative ability, and some of them are those difficult emotional patterns we display that always get us into trouble, like feeling not good enough and then slamming doors.  It is important in a spiritual way to honor our ancestors for these gifts. It is also part of our spiritual work to clear the troubling patterns from our own psyche and body. This is the spiritual work of purification.  And when we do this work, we benefit our entire ancestral line of certain issues they were working on in their lifetime but didn’t finish.


How to start your spiritual journey?

The journey begins with you.  You have to want it. Spirituality vs religion is not like the girl scouts that stand in front of the supermarket and beckon you over. No, spirit is infinitely patient, and it is waiting for you to come to it first. Carving time out of our day is the first critical step.  Create time to spend with spirit.  Today this usually means turning off our electronics.  Getting away from our cell phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snap chat, YouTube; getting away from drama, from the news, from the angry boss, emotional co-workers, partner, friends, kids, siblings, pets; taking our mind off problems, money, diet, pain, car, house…how much time do we have for anything if all our attention is taken up by all these things? Most of us spend every second of our day locked into thinking about one or more of these things.  Just stop, for 10 minutes a day.  


Relax. Breathe. Learn to silence the mind for just those 10 minutes.  Spirit joins us in that silence.  The more time we spend there the more we get to know it.  It’s like spending time with a friend. The more time you spend with a friend the closer you become and the more you get to know each other. It is the same with spirit. Spend time with spirit. Go on a four day vision quest or simply spend 10 minutes of your day in conscious silence.  That’s mindfulness, and it’s growing.  You see on the front cover of magazines everywhere you look now. So start your spiritual journey and get to know yourself !  Your supernatural self is waiting.

By Matt Tellez, Naturopath, Chiropractor and Intuitive healer in Bellingham WA.


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