embodied spirituality

 

For years, I’ve been writing about spirituality and religion. I even studied comparative religion in college, got a degree in religious studies, studied it as part of my interdisciplinary graduate program, and have worked in interfaith ministry. I have a strong academic interest in the many threads of spiritual expression and religions that have developed to embody them; I have a stronger interest in practical applications of religious and spiritual principles to create greater health, social justice, well-being, inner peace, and compassion for myself and my world.

Throughout my personal spiritual journey, there has yet to be one tradition, or one spiritual community, that felt like home. There have been many that have come close, and through my connections with their people, teachings, and rituals, my life has been enriched and I have grown in my personal understanding and mystical awareness. For a time, this felt like a failure on my part and I leaned toward pathologizing my inability to find one true spiritual home with which I wanted to spend the rest of my life. After all, our culture promotes monogamy in all its forms, including spiritual monogamy. You can stay in the religion in which you were raised or you can convert to a new religion, but once you’ve made that choice it is assumed that’s where you’ll stay. To leave, or to practice more than one tradition, is often seen as a rejection or a betrayal.

Add to that the fact that many religions take an exclusivist stance to other traditions, claiming that their own way is the One True Way — the only way to achieve any kind of worthy religious end-goal, be it eternal salvation, health, wealth, love, enlightenment, nirvana, moksha, or heaven. While it is certainly challenging to reconcile the seeming contradictions between different traditions (particularly cross-culturally), I find it even more challenging to reconcile religious exclusivism with any truly loving deity or any truly compassionate society. Exclusivism, unchecked and encoded into the fabric of a society, has historically been used to justify the mistreatment, genocide, and enslavement of The Other. This is my greatest objection to theocracy — be it Global South regimes or megachurch-attending political leaders preaching hate, racism, misogyny, and bigotry in the US House and Senate.

There has been a lot in the media about the rise of the nones in recent years in America. Given a limited set of boxes to check, I might fall into this category myself. After all, there is no one house of worship — no one tradition — that I count as my spiritual home or identity. But more than thinking of myself as a none, I’d like to consider myself one of the manys. I don’t have one single tradition that meets my needs, but that doesn’t mean I have no traditions. I have many. I pull from the many threads of religious, spiritual, philosophical, and ethical tradition to find my inspiration, and with those threads I am weaving a life, a practice, and a group of mythologies that inspire me, grow me, uplift me, comfort me, and make me a better person.

These threads and their unique combinations on the loom of my life help me connect with nature, with transcendence, with immanence, with Spirit, with my humanity, with the humanity of others, and with realities that exist beyond what we can currently see and measure. I’m not creating a new tradition, but rather learning to weave together the bits and bobs of wisdom that reach into my inner being and drag me forth into broader understanding. I’m taking the threads that push me beyond myself and expand my awareness, and weaving them into something that is uniquely suited to bring me to closer connection with The One behind the many — the Spirit that animates all of life and occasionally explodes into my reality in flashes of mystical knowing and undeniable numen.

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