What’s the Difference between Religion and Spirituality?

The concept and practice of spirituality is becoming more popular and acceptable these days. Many people, however, struggle with defining the difference between spirituality and religion. I will offer some fundamental differences between traditional religion, progressive religion and spirituality.

I also provide research on the trends of religion and spirituality. Additionally my own thoughts are included, as to the importance of traditional religions being more open to progressive spiritual concepts for their own sustainability.

What is Religion?
The word religion in Latin means: “to bind oneself, to commit oneself.” Religion involves offering duty, a commitment to God and its particular teacher/prophet, such as: Jesus Christ or Mohammad.

Religion is about morals and what’s deemed right or wrong by the religious leaders. The spiritual or religions teacher’s messages are interpreted by church leaders and created doctrines, for man’s understanding and use. These doctrines offer a moral compass, and dictate how people should conduct themselves in order to win favor of God and the religion in general. 

Traditional religion I believe, often stresses the importance of sacrificing oneself as a way to honor and live for one’s God. Religion offers rituals of worship and praise to their God. It is public and group centered in its orientation; designed to be a source of comfort and advice, through a supportive community.

Conventional religious organizations, offer a way and place to worship and praise their God. Providing a structure for connection and friendship. Likewise, offering inspiring and comforting messages, rituals and music.

The churches or temples are beautiful and offer a sense of awe and peace. Religion serves many people well, and reinforces the “group think” and connection need.

Systems, such as: governments, education, corporate and financial systems, have rules and ways the masses are to adhere to, in order for the system to function. These systems require the group to conform, so it doesn’t want you to be different or step out of the norm.

Beginning in childhood, we are conditioned to conform to family and group/system rules and order. On one level, this serves a purpose and is a means of maintaining order within the system. However, it can create subtle, yet powerful ways to control people.

I view traditional religion, as a system, having its own rules and group norms. Generally, religion, like most systems is about conformity to its group rules. It’s not really interested in you becoming self-actualized or liberated‒free. It often struggles with independent thinkers and people being “out of the box.”

In my opinion, the philosophy of many religious organizations advocates the belief: God, is out there somewhere. So you need a third party to intervene with your communion and communication with God.

Traditional religion is a structured institution, governed by hierarchy, which is mostly male dominated and oriented. Today some religious hierarchies remain blinded to the fact, that women are becoming more empowered and have equal merit in their wisdom and capabilities to be religious leaders.

Progressive religious organizations are ones that are breaking the old paradigm, and including women in leadership roles and worship services. They are in general more including, rather than excluding, and embrace the concept of unity, rather than separation.

What is Spirituality?
The origin of “spiritual” is the Latin word spiritus meaning breath. Breathing, is an essential element of human life. Therefore, spirituality like breathing, is part of the essence of living. Other words with this common root include inspire, aspire and to conspire which means to breathe together.

Spirituality is more personal and individual in its philosophy and formats. It takes a more holistic‒body, mind and spirit approach. With an emphasis on one’s well being within their connection to a higher power. It views the divine, is as much inside of each of us as outside of us.

It embraces and encourages three parts or aspects of life, for exploration and discovery:
1. Divine wisdom from a higher power and your own
higher self.
2. One’s connection and relationship to nature and the
universe.
3. The discovery of the true self.

I believe, spiritual seekers have interest in moving beyond their ego; with a desire to live more from their heart-center. Spirituality encourages exploration of the soul and seeks to ask, and more importantly explore life transforming questions, such as:
Who am I?    
What’s my purpose for being here?
What’s the meaning of life?

Spirituality allows you to have control of your own individual journey‒your purpose, beliefs and method. Like the spiritual masters and teachers of many traditions. A spiritually mature and confident person has released the “group think” ideas and mind-set.

They are independent thinkers and doers; sailing on their own spiritual destiny. They are comfortable and adaptable with both personal and group interactions. They have learned the art of non-attachment, so they are accepting and tolerant to the path of others. Additionally, they have no need to convince others of their own spiritual path.

Distinctions between Religion and Spirituality
In my view, a major distinction between conventional religion and spirituality is: Spirituality advocates inclusion, love and unity of all parts of us, our fellow humans, and the earth.

It views the natural world as sacred, and has a child-like curiosity of the universe, and our connection to all that makes up the universe. Spirituality sees the divine/God in all that is. In addition, there is equal honoring and value of both female and male in leadership and teaching roles

Many traditional religions are about fear and shame/guilt, promoting a fear of God/Allah. Advocating separation and exclusion, an “us vs. them” mind-set. If you aren’t of my faith and belief, you are not welcomed and I should refrain from interaction with you.

I’ve come to realize a simple distinction between religion and spirituality is: Religion tells you who you need to be. Where as, spirituality invites you to discover who you are and can be.

There are roughly 4, 200 religions today
Most people believe in only one of these and discount the other 4,199. There are over 7 billion people on the planet today and each one of us likely has a different perception and interpretation of what spiritually and religion means.

I believe the key is the realization that humans and all of life, for that matter are inherently spiritual. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Spiritually affirms there can be many paths to the divine and inner peace. It encourages the exploration of the metaphysical.

“Metaphysics” is the study or exploration of those things and phenomena which are “beyond-the-physical” realm. It’s our connection to all things seen and  unseen.

Spirituality does not necessarily need a building to connect with God and inner peace. Many spiritual people find connection with their higher power and to life in more natural and informal surroundings.

To promote one’s spiritual experience, ways of self-expression and connection with divine energy. Spirituality encourages, meditation, being in nature, participation in a yoga or other self-enhancement classes, and spiritual retreats, etc.. Even preparing and eating a meal can be a spiritual experience with mindful intention, thoughts and practice.

I myself enjoy and encourage my clients (if they choose) in exploring the teachings and wisdom of different spiritual masters and world religions. This makes for a more inclusive understanding and acceptance of others. Which is part of the ingredients of love and world fellowship.

Enlightened Beings
Teachers and prophets: Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad and Krishna were not of a particular religion. Jesus wasn’t Christian and Buddha wasn’t Buddhist. They were spiritually enlightened beings and teachers, who taught inclusion, unconditional love, acceptance, and higher divine truth and ways of being. Particular religions adopted each of these teacher’s as their own. As in Jesus Christ associated with Christianity and Mohammad with Islam, etc.

Jesus for example, was an independent thinker and doer. He was for everyone. He interacted with women, children, the poor and sick. He promoted power-with, not power over. He challenged Jewish law, and broke the Sabbath; he was a rebel/”out of the box.” Church/group leaders were threatened by him, and used their man-made laws to condemn him.

Jesus’ purpose was to offer humanity, a higher dimension of love, teaching divine/metaphysical laws and ways to live a reverent spiritual life.

A Trend Toward Spirituality 
The phrase “spiritual but not religious” has become widely used in recent years by some Americans who are trying to describe their religious identity. While Pew Research Center does not categorize survey respondents in such a way, surveys do find that the U.S. public overall appears to be growing a bit less religious‒but also somewhat more spiritual.

A study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2012 found that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion has increased from 15% in 2007 to 20% in 2012. One fifth of the US public and a third of adults under the age of 30 are reportedly unaffiliated with any religion, however they view themselves as being spiritual in some way. Of these religiously unaffiliated Americans, 37% classify themselves as spiritual, not religious, while 68% say they do believe in God, and 58% feel a deep connection to the earth.    http://www.pewforum.org/files/2012/10/NonesOnTheRise-full.pdf

Changing Times
The latest survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center in 2014, finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped over six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.

Furthermore, the study suggests, that in some ways Americans are becoming more spiritual. About six-in-ten adults now say they regularly feel a deep sense of “spiritual peace and well-being,” up 7% since 2007. And 46% of Americans say they experience a deep sense of “wonder about the universe” at least once a week, also up 7 points over the same period.

Overall, 64% of religiously affiliated adults say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly, compared with only 40% those who are unaffiliated. Even among the “non-believers,” there has been a recent 5-point rise in the people who say they frequently feel spiritual peace (from 35% in 2007 to 40% in 2014).  www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/21/americans-spirituality/

To address this decreasing trend in religious affiliation. Some religious organizations and particular churches; are embracing progressive spiritual concepts into their organizational structure and worship service.

In closing
The concept of spirituality and its practice is growing, especially among younger adults. Research shows people are abandoning fear based doctrines and self- righteous authority figures within the religious structures. As a result, more people are favoring the exploration of a higher truth on their own. Spirituality seems to offer an attractive fit to this new paradigm shift.

As humanity is becoming more globally connected, people have greater exposure to spiritual traditions and ways of living from around the world. A sort of West means East encounter is happening.

People are embracing and including several spiritual traditions into their lifestyle. There is a greater desire to know and understand our neighbor and ourselves, in relation to not just the world and God, but to the wonders of the universe‒our connection to all that is.

Spirituality, with its progressive concepts and teachings provides a vehicle to assist individuals toward one’s divinity.

I believe, if religions are to sustain themselves in the years ahead; it seems important for them to begin to embrace the concepts and ideas of spirituality.

Progressive churches of some religions are realizing the value of incorporating the ideals of spirituality as a way of connecting with people. While offering a more universal and holistic approach.

There is value in taking the productive love based concepts and teachings of religion and merging these with spirituality. Offering an inclusive, love and acceptance based way of assisting individuals on their journey.

After all, we are to expand the mind and open the heart. This is how growth and transformation happens on both the soul and human level.

I welcome your comments.

Are you curious and seeking more information or guidance with your spiritual journey? A gentle resource is just a phone call or email away. Please contact David Schroeder if you would like support with your spiritual concerns and journey. David offers life transition and spiritual growth counseling and coaching session’s in-person, by phone or Skype. Visit his website at transitionpathways.com. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength, a healthy and assertive way to help yourself and move through life transitions.

David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed and spiritual social worker, certified life transition coach, and author of Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey. His practice, Transition Pathways helps people find healthy pathways to love, greater awareness and higher potential. David’s book, Just Be Love is available through his website: transitionpathways.com or through online bookstores: amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

12 Benefits of the Power of Acceptance

In uncertain times, we struggle with trusting the process of life. We are fearful, so we want control, we want to know the outcome, yet we tend to predict a negative outcome ahead of time, while bypassing the process of “what is.” All this feeds our fear, the sense of powerlessness and loneliness, which fuels depression and anxiety. 

Could it be in these uncertain times, that our individual and collective shadow aspects are being exposed more than ever? Could it be the contrast of light as love and dark as fear, is coming more to the forefront; to be recognized and reconciled within us individually and collectively? Sure seems like it to me, how about you?

Transformation and growth always comes from the uncertainty and the struggle. Creation and renewal comes from darkness.

Uncertainty, is a lesson and opportunity to practice Acceptance. So in uncertain times, we are called to the act of acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like or agree with “what is.” Acceptance, is to just be present to it. To be in the thoughts and behaviors of love and compassion with what is, rather than fear, resistance and resentment.

When we resist, deny, avoid or blame, we delay the opportunity for our happiness and growth. 

If we are unhappy and unfulfilled: we haven’t asked and more importantly answered an important question: What’s happened in my life that I’m not accepting?

Acceptance is to ride the wave of uncertainty, without losing yourself in the unknown of what is. Acceptance is shedding our will and way, and aligning with the divine power and will. With the knowing, we will gain more than lose, as we trust and allow in the power greater than ourselves. 

Acceptance is getting to know and understand our neighbor, from their perspective, not just our own. To respond, rather than react to differences and conflict.

The following are 12 Benefits, of why Acceptance is Powerful and of Value:

1. Acceptance is a sign of spiritual maturity.

2. Acceptance is being present and mindful to an experience without being defined by the experience.

3. Willingness and understanding lead the way to acceptance. Acceptance is wisdom in action.

4. It embraces the acts of spiritual surrender and willingness of “what is” creating realistic neutrally and non-attachment to experiences.

5. Acceptance, as spiritual surrender; magnifies our connection to the divine, and to love. Which restores hope, and allows for a higher meaning to life experiences.

6. Acceptance is an act of love and courage. Accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change what I can. Furthermore, it moves you from powerless to  Empowerment.

7. Acceptance transcends denial, creates emotional calm and inner peace. In addition, it widens one’s perception.

8. What we Accept – we Conquer. What we resist – will Persist.

9. Acceptance is a forward moving energy. It allow us the opportunity to rise above our struggles. 

10. The willingness to accept another’s and our own imperfections, is to discover the perfection. Perfection in divine terms means: To have Compassion for. The divine has compassion for all that is. 

11. Acceptance leads to Compassion, which allows for Forgiveness or Reconciliation.

12. Acceptance begins to transform fear, sorrow and bondage to love, joy and freedom.

With acceptance, comes tolerance, resilience and confidence to weather life’s uncertainties and difficulties. I close with my quote, which seems to fit during times of uncertainty. Realize, the choice is always ours, as to who and how we want to be in times of uncertainty. I choose Understanding, Acceptance, Compassion and Forgiveness, for they equal the power of Love!

 

Are you struggling with accepting some life experiences? Are you anxious and/or overwhelmed by change or uncertainty? Help is just a phone call or email away. Please contact David Schroeder if you would like assistance with your acceptance and change issues; and how to work through them. David offers life transition and spiritual growth counseling and coaching session’s in-person, by phone or Skype. Visit his website at transitionpathways.com.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength, a healthy and assertive way to help yourself and move through life transitions.

David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed and spiritual social worker, certified life transition coach, and author of Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey. His practice, Transition Pathways helps people find healthy pathways to love, greater awareness and higher potential. David’s book, Just Be Love is available through his website: transitionpathways.com or through online bookstores: amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

Navigating Change and Transition: From Struggle to Opportunity

As a therapist and life transition coach, most people seek my services, because they are experiencing a life change and are struggling with the transition of this change. An aspect of love is the willingness and ability to move through the transition change creates.

Change comes in a variety of ways. Such as: getting married, birth of a child, a death of a loved one, a partner’s affair, a divorce, job loss or transfer, or a grown child going to college. Some transitions can seem positive on one hand, yet create change and adjustment from our norm. So you may struggle for a time, adapting to “what is” now.

There is a difference between change and transition in the following ways.    

  • Change happens first and transition occurs due to the change.
  • Change can be seen as a shift from a norm, transition is the process of moving from one norm/way of being to another. Transition is the adjustment and adaptations we make from the change.
  • Change is usually an external experience, where transition is more of an internal process.
  • Change is often more sudden, more visible and tangible. Transition is a slower process, less visible, more intangible.

Change for people can be difficult to accept and move through, both physically and especially emotionally. It’s natural to want the situation and/or person back to how it was (old way).  Many people need certainty and to know the outcome, within what has now changed (new way).

The resistance to change, the need for certainty and the need to know, in the mist of the unknown, are often what causes many people to struggle with change. The need for certainty and control, leads to fear and resistance; creating racing thoughts, and self-created perceptions of negative outcomes.

This will lead to distributive sleep pattern, drained energy, and little motivation to move forward. The end result can be depression and/or anxiety. We become stuck in the mud of a self-defeated mindset. The process of transition has now become more difficult and overwhelming.

For a time, some of this is all normal and part of our process transitioning through change.  It’s important, however, not to get stuck emotionally and physically for too long.

The longer we chose to stay in the emotional and physical fear, avoidance and resistance, the more unhealthy and unproductive power and control we give to the resistance and uncertainty of transition; this does little to change our perception, process and reality to the change.

Human nature is such that when things change, we tend to focuses more on what we believe we will lose or need to give up. Healthy transition through change, one should focus more on what will be the benefits and gains of this process.

These two key Steps begin the process of transition through change: Moving you from struggle to opportunity.

  1. Accept the things I cannot change: This is the first part of the Serenity Prayer from Alcohol Anonymous aa.org. This prayer or principle I believe, applies to all of us when we experience a change in life. There are many experiences in your life you cannot change, and you may feel and believe you are powerless and helpless because of this. You feel like choices/options have been taken away.

    The second part of the prayer says: The courage to change the things I can. The reality is, in life situations, the only thing you can really change is yourself. You change, by changing your perception, thoughts, belief and attitude. It takes acceptance, courage and willingness to change from within.

    The good news and opportunity of this is ‒ there is much inner power and transformation that takes place with the act of acceptance. Acceptance is extremely difficult for many people, yet its incredibility liberating when you allow it to happen within you. Acceptance helps you to focus on the benefits of transition through change, not what you believe will need to be given up or lost in the process.

    To have the willingness and ability to accept what you cannot change, and change what you can; is the fundamental way to begin to change, and reclaim your inner power and determination to move forward. Acceptance is an act of self-love, and a moving forward energy. It acknowledges and accepts “what is.”

    The process of acceptance, doesn’t mean you like what’s changed, rather you recognize that resisting the change only creates more struggle and pain. With acceptance you create an opening to begin to change from within, with regard to what’s change in your life.

    This process helps you begin to gain power in a different way. You see it was your own misguided perception and belief around the difficult situation, which really gave your power away. It wasn’t actually the situation/experience itself. True power and moving through transitions happens when we change from the inside-out.  Acceptance is the beginning of changing from the inside-out.

  2. See the experience and the required process of transition as an Opportunity: If you are resisting the change, you’re likely seeing the change as a threat and the enemy. It’s something to deny, blame, and escape from. These are the mindsets and ways of our fragile and wounded self. This part of us wants to numb the pain and have someone else make it better/or back the way it was.

    It’s important to see and ask yourself: How are my perceptions and beliefs helping me move through this change? What is my pain and resistance reinforcing in me, that keeps me in this state of suffering?  Often in difficult times of change we become our worst critic and enemy, rather than a best friend and ally.

    When you are ready and able, it’s important to see the change, as the teacher and opportunity. Yes, transitions through difficult times, offer you the opportunity for learning and growth. The process of creation, birth and growth begins in the darkness and the struggle.

    The natural world teaches us the importance of the struggle. Take for example, of how the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly, from the struggle within the cocoon. For without the struggle, how would you learn, find a higher meaning to your experience, and grow?

Life is not meant to be easy, it’s meant to be meaningful. When you change your view of the situation, you create the higher meaning of your circumstance, and this allows for the opportunity to transition and transform yourself in empowering ways.

When you alter your thoughts and view of the change, you reduce your fear, your resistance and struggle around the uncertainty. Dr. Wayne Dyer said: “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

Change and the process of transition, calls us to be open and willing to reframe our belief and choices around the situation; this is how we learn and grow from the difficult and painful experience.

Although change can seem scary and threatening, the true intent of life experiences, especially the difficult and painful ones, is to help us heal, grow wiser, and become more accepting and loving human beings, both to ourselves and with others. Accepting that life is impermanent, that things change, helps you realize, life is about change, and learning to transition‒ adjust and adapt.

Being Honest, Open and Willing, especially with yourself, is part of the HOW to accept the unacceptable, and begin the journey of transitioning from what was‒to what can be.

Want to learn more about love and transition check out my book: Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey. www.justbelove1.com, www.amazon.com, www.barnes & noble.com

Are you struggling with moving through a change in your life? Please contact David Schroeder, if you would like assistance with moving through a life change and how to work the process of transition. David offers life transition counseling and coaching session’s in-person, by phone or Skype. Visit his website at transitionpathways.com.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength, a healthy and assertive way to help yourself transition through change.

My Christmas Message

It’s Christmas, a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus/Yesuha. Some 2030 years ago, the birth of the Christ child, began 33 years of this higher dimensional being living in human form. He brought the gift and teachings of divine love and truth, the ways of light i.e. higher dimensional energy, the path to peace on earth and goodwill to all. 

Yesuha was born of Jewish parents, yet he lived and preached under no particular religion. His birth was intended to be the expression of inclusion and oneness. He was for all humans, of all cultures, beliefs and gender. Some made him of their own, as a way to create fear, power-over and exclusion. This is not the message of Yesuha, his birth and message is about love, power-with and inclusion. His purpose was to offer humanity a way back to innocence, to love, connection, peace and goodness. Christ showed us the importance of loving thy enemy, mainly the enemy within us, housed as the ego and shadow aspects of the human psyche. I’ve come to appreciate the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad and other true spiritual prophets around the world; all were offering a similar message of love, acceptance, oneness and peace; just in different languages and ways of expression.

Over the years the message of Jesus and the meaning of Christmas have become diluted, even polluted. We’ve become consumed, thus distracted by means of commercialism, the need to spend gobs of money to feed the economy on what’s called “gifts.”  I’ve learned over the years the importance of offering and receiving gifts from the heart. Not to be consumed with worry or expectations as to how the gift will be perceived. For if the gift comes from the energy of love and sincerity that is more than enough. I ask: Have we lost the true meaning and purpose of the “gift?” For it seems the true gift, is the gift of love, acceptance, kindness, compassion; wrapped in the spirit of connection and unconditional giving.

As we celebrate this Christmas, let us be mindful of the true meaning of this time, and what this superhuman child was truly bringing forth through his birth, messages and actions. Offer yourself the time and gift, to be in the silent night‒for it intends to be the holy night. As Yesuha expressed Just Be Love, light, kindness, and giving this season, and all year round. This is what Christ consciousness is about; this is what will birth heaven on earth, peace and goodwill to all.  

Blessings and peace to you and yours‒may the love and light of the Christ Spirit, and other prophets guide your way, David