Episode 27 - Religion vs. Spirituality: Moving From Fear to FunJoyment in Your Life
In this episode Mark Michael Lewis of RationalSpirituality.com explores a common psychological and spiritual trap that those of us interested in self-development often get caught up in. He describes what it is, the bait for the trap, and the effects of getting caught in it. Then, he offers an escape from the trap and an opening into a deeper freedom to pursue Money, Mission, and Meaning without attachment, but with our whole heart and soul.
Welcome to Money Mission and Meaning, Passion at Work, Purpose at Play, where we explore how we can integrate our personal values and professional skills to Create Pleasure and Profit in the Business of life. I’m your host, Mark Michael Lewis, of RationalSpirituality.com, Author of RelationDancing: Consciously Creating What you Really want in your relating, Problems Are The Solution: Embracing Conflict As The Gateway to Love, and The Key Is In The darkness: unlocking the door to a spiritual life.
Today I want to talk about the difference between two central concepts about what it means to live a meaning filled life. Spirituality and religion. I want to talk about what I’m going to call the difference between those two. When people speak about religion or spirituality, they will often that ask the question, “who am I really?” or “what is it they created me and what is it that I’m a part of?” And while these are fine questions, I want to ask a slightly different question and it’s this:
"How is it that we have been so fortunate to be born who we are?" This question, in all its wonder, lives at the heart of what it means to be human. The way we answer this question determines not only our moment by moment experience, but the lives that we create for ourselves and others. I suggest that there are two central kinds of the answer to this question. The first I call religious. The second I call spiritual. By learning to recognize the qualities associated with each of these answers, we can learn to focus on the answers that create the greatest happiness in our lives.
Let us begin by examining the hand of cards we have been dealt. We have intelligence, sensuality, and the possibility of creativity and love. We have language, technology, philosophy, and the Internet! We have the ability to communicate with other human beings, sharing our deepest emotions, and partnering toward projects that inspire us with their beauty. In the history of time/space/biological/cultural evolution, we have won the lottery.
Unfortunately, instead of ecstatically enjoying and creating art with these gifts, we often use them to try to prove our value and worthiness - to our parents, our peers, ourselves, even God. It is as if who we ARE is on trial, and our every success or failure is evidence that might condemn or vindicate us.
I call this the Religious view of existence. We make God in the image of our own shame, and spend our lives trying to fulfill the dictates that we imagine "him" to command from us. We think that morality is about being obedient to god's laws, and that these laws require us to sacrifice happiness here on earth. If we obey god's commandments, we will be rewarded with heaven after we die. If we disobey, we will be punished with everlasting hell. We become preoccupied with protecting our "self" from being judged, because the threat of being judged is unworthy is simply too painful to contemplate. In the end, we typically end up avoiding critically examining our own behavior, and sometimes even lie to ourselves or others to cover up the " immoral" behaviors we engage in to try to be happy. Our fundamental relationship with existence is ourselves as defendant, and some "other" as judge, who can speak the words that will define our ultimate value as a being. Sometimes that "other" is god, sometimes it is our parents, sometimes it is a neighbor, or random member of the opposite sex who might " reject us" as unworthy of their love.
But seriously. Take a moment and look at this moment of your experience. Notice your capacity to see colors and depth and motion and text, or to hear the sound of your own breathing, or the noises and the environment around you, or the harmonies and rhythms of great music, or the feelings of ecstasy and balance and movement in your own body, or the texture and hardness of the surface that you're on, or the fact that you can understand the words and I'm saying, or any of the infinite aspects of your experience in this very moment.
And now, (assuming you are not driving) close your eyes and block off your years, and imagine that all of this were taken away from you. Imagine that all there was in every direction, was dark, still, silence in which you were floating in a sea of nothing. Imagine that you have been floating in this nothingness for years. Notice how alone, how absolutely bored you would be, and how pointless your consciousness would be.
And then, open your eyes and take in your surroundings once again. As you do you may begin to recognize what an indescribable gift your life is, whatever your situation. Life is not a trial, but a gift. Each and every moment is a miracle that we are inalienably blessed to experience. Whether you think human life is the result of a God or evolution, it is, by any other name, divine.
I call this the Spiritual view of existence. In this view, God becomes, not a judge who we must obey in order to avoid being sentenced to a hellish existence, but the highest possible experience of love, joy, and beauty, that calls to us and inspires us to enjoy and use the gifts that we have been given to create and ever-increasing happiness for ourselves and others.
If the question of religion is - "what does the God who created everything want for and from us?" The question of Spirituality might be, "What is the nature of consciousness and the world that it perceives and moves through? What is its "spirit?" What leads and what leads to its deepest fulfillment?"
I invite you, here and now, to pretend as if you have just woken up to realize that your answer to the question, " how is it that I have been so fortunate to be born who I am?" Determines the fundamental character of your life experience. This question is a spiritual question, and you do have an answer to it.
So let me ask you, are you curious about what your spiritual perspective is? Not what it should/shouldn't be, but what yours currently IS. Since it determines, not only your happiness, but your productivity, the depth of your relationships, and your overall stress level...isnt' that perhaps the most important thing to know about your life? Isn’t this a reason to make your spiritual existence, your spiritual life, at the center of your being?
PS - the answer is Yes! Just in case you were wondering.
When it comes down to it, when you know what your real spiritual perspective is, that’s when you’ll begin to see how it shapes each moment of your life, and you’ll get a new level of choice about the life you are living, the feelings you pursue, if the relationships you build, and the money mission and meaning that you spend your life expressing in the world. And that’s what the show is all about.
I’m your host Mark Michael Lewis SEE-Inc. A Beautiful Future Now, and that brings us the end of our show. Thanks for listening and join us next week on Money Mission and Meaning; Passion at Work, Purpose at play as we offer you practical ideas to bring you Pleasure And Profit in The Business Of Life.
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