“I’m Spiritual Not Religious” – An American Thing

“I’m Spiritual Not Religious.” – An American Thing

‘Don’t use Buddhism to become a Buddhist. Use Buddhism to become a better whatever you are.’   Dalai Lama

Most people don’t enter a path of spirituality when they are happy. It is when life gets hard that they look for help. When I started on a spiritual path, I learned a little of everything. –Meditation, Mindfulness, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Anything A Non, Judaism, Taoism and Sufism. I took a Spiritual Christianity class and learned about the Koran.

When I travel, I try and learn about the religions of a country –to see how God fits in their lives. The religious buildings are so much a part of the architecture that I love. I like to learn about the kind of people that use them. What I have seen is that the poorer the country, the stronger the faith and the community of faith. Spiritual but not religious people seem to be prevalent in America only.

My spiritual path is a bit of this and a bit of that. At the moment (and it changes often) It includes some yoga, meditation, mindfulness, quotes from everything, erratic Torah study, Tai Chi, Sufist readings , Indian food, bracelets and feng shui. I haven’t studied the books intensely of any of these religions enough to know the true meaning of the work. I take what I like and leave the rest. My eclectic spiritual path seems to place me on a path alone. My thoughts and belief systems start to change as I continue on to the unknown. It is my journey and my truth and I can become as self obsessed with it as I wish. Is this the religion of the me generation?

True spirituality is supposed to put you in touch with empathy for the world, I’m not seeing the correlation between good, kind and caring people and “ the new American spirituality”.  I’m hearing the words but I don’t see the transformation. Being spiritual allows you to be ambiguous. You don’t have to have a belief system, you can just believe in something. There are no expectations about your behaviors or attitudes . You don’t have to be accountable for your actions.

Spirituality in the American version appears to be a bit selfish. I find myself being hurt by people who say they are spiritual. I give them qualities that they don’t seem to have yet. Their search for their own truths becomes more important than anyone’s feelings but their own. Spirituality and meditation seems to be about making yourself feel better. It isn’t about being part of something bigger or helping a community . It can be a bit narcissistic if you are inclined in that direction. Your own journey is the most important thing.

A  Vietnamese Buddhist monk was teaching a meditation class. He said “If you hear bombs in a neighboring village and your first thought is where is my family? Oh, they are not there. Everything is ok” than continue to sit and meditate.”

So I will have to reconsider my spiritual path once again. I have to change my mindset. I have to make compassion, kindness and integrity more important than my own personal well-being. If the world is going to change, it starts with each of us.

Fly safe,


6 thoughts on ““I’m Spiritual Not Religious” – An American Thing

  1. Hi Jayne, My favorite bible passage (license plate and bracelet) comes from the 35th verse of the 9th Chapter of the book of Mark in the New Testament. When questioned by his disciples as to which one was best of them, Jesus replied, “He who would come first must come last of all and be servant of all.” If you embrace the servant heart and look at yourself last, you are well on your way to a rewarding spiritual life. Harv

  2. As always, your personal posts motivate deep thought, personal retrospective consideration, and the hope of the spiritual “a ha’s” that so rarely come to those of us that seem to be far too task focused. I was at a wedding this weekend where the traditional breaking of the glass was amended … with an hourglass. The classic tradition was enhanced with a contemporary metaphor about “the sands of time” which was traditional, touching, creative, and profound – all at the same time. I hope the “me generation” finds a way to take the essence of the past and creatively grow it with resonance for today. Thank you for calling out for us to think, feel, and explore the knowledge we don’t yet possess or understand…

  3. I agree, Jayne, that much of contemporary spirituality is about “me” yet I think that is not the intent of the traditions that the teachings spring from (the ones I am familiar with…) The words “spiritual” or “religious” mean different things to different people. I know “religious” people who are unkind as well as “spiritual” people who are like angels 🙂 The whole point of spiritual practice is about becoming the best human beings that we can possibly be, and to make the world a better place. In my mind, our spiritual practices are about helping us learn to be more compassionate, kind and generous and inclusive. We are all connected – more than we realize – and every one of our actions make a difference. If my practice can help me “feel good” and less stressed that’s great – but that is only one intention. The issue of seeing ourselves as the center of the universe is not just an issue with “spirituality” but of American consumerist values (in my opinion) — that’s just gotta change. And by the way, there are many “religious” people (think about the extremists in all religions) who are all about the truth being one way (their way) so…..Thanks for the thought-provoking blog post, as always.

    • Thanks Jill i was hoping you would read it and of course you are right. This is a long overdue lunch conversation. Its my “American spirituality” issue or maybe it is how I went into it. Email me about class. Are we having it this year?

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