The first 3 courses of a 7 course meal
It’s almost inevitable that any time someone mentions anything about spirituality on social media, someone else will trot out the well-known claims about the damage done by religion. And to be honest, they’re not wrong. A lot of atrocities and and heartaches have been perpetrated “in the name of God.” Of course most often here in the West, that god is the Judeo-Christian one, and indeed, many people, entire societies, have been wiped out in service of appeasing that god – or at least, those committing the acts thought, or were told, that’s what their god wanted. In any case, the same argument could be made about other religions, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of this is to provide an answer to both those who think all religion is horrible, and those who think spirituality is inseparable from, or insignificant without, religion. And the easiest way for me to do that is to describe the spirituality I practice.
I discovered over many years of searching that, in my opinion, no one religion seems to cover all the bases when it comes to providing a set of spiritual guidelines, instructions, and ideals to pursue to achieve enlightenment, self-actualization, salvation – whatever you want to call it – a closer relationship with the Creator/Source/Truth/Spirit/The Universe/Whatever. Rather than provide some lengthy descriptions or personal anecdotes (have to save something to put in my memoir someday, right? Lol), I am just going to list out the ingredients I put on my spiritual plate to feed my soul that seem to satiate me, along with aspect of practice they seem particularly effective for – at least for me. So here, in no particular order, it is.
Christianity (in particular the New Testament, and Gnostic flavors): Love for all humans; forgiveness, healing and service to others; prayers, and how to pray, what to pray for.
It’s tough to beat the teachings of Jesus (what HE actually said, not how others interpret/ed it) when it comes to guidance on how to be of service to other human beings, how to view and treat them, and how to pray. I used to despise Jesus because of all the terrible acts that were committed in his name – until I actually read the New Testament, and just it, for myself. Dude got TOTALLY screwed, everyone basically did exactly what he told them not to. Once I realized that, and took to heart what he said – there’s just no better teaching on loving and forgiving others, and praying for them.
Buddhism: The nature of suffering, how it is intrinsic to existence; also down to earth guidance on how to actually live day to day; meditation – DEFINITELY the best for this.
Who doesn’t love the Buddha, especially among yoga practitioners, New Agers, and hipsters, am I right? But I’m guessing most of them have little idea what Buddha or Buddhism is really about. The 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism, the bedrock of the spiritual tradition, are all about suffering, and how it is basically just a natural part of physical existence – not something terrible to be avoided. In fact, we can’t really. We have to accept it. But there is a way to recognize what REALLY causes it (hint, it’s not external circumstances) and to move past that, or at least reduce it and use that energy in a more positive way. The Eightfold Path provides extremely simple instructions on how to live day to day, and when it comes to meditation, Buddhism is THE tradition to learn that in.
Native American (and many other indigenous) traditions: love for Mother Earth; connection to nature; gratitude and respect for living things; concept of no ownership of land – we all borrow from Mother Earth. [NOTE: I hope any Native people reading this will forgive me for oversimplifying and lumping together; I know there are many different tribes and traditions, and each has their own beliefs and customs; I am simply stating my takeaways, primarily based on Navajo, Lakota Sioux, and Hopi teachings as I understand them]
There are simply no other traditions better than those of many indigenous peoples when it comes to actually respecting Mother Earth, seeing Her as a living being, and recognizing that we are only alive because she gives of herself – through plants, water, animals, etc. I didn’t even realize what I was missing in my spiritual practices until I was blessed enough to actually get to know the grandson of a Navajo Medicine Man and connect with him on a very deep level. All humans would do good to rekindle that connection with our earth and all its life – especially in these times.
These are the first three courses. In my next post, I will outline the next 3. Stay tuned – stay hungry!