I’m more spiritually eclectic than anything else, though. Comes from my love of all things mythological since childhood. I must have read D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths about fifteen times since I was ten, along with a number of other books on mythology and religion, including the Bible, of course (all of it, mind you—thanks to a Jehovah’s Witnesses challenge). Unfortunately for the Witnesses, my reading of Bible expanded my view of religion beyond Christianity and Judaism, rather than convincing me of their worldview.
I got this title from a blog a couple of years ago by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on the increase in “spiritual independents” (read their article here). This post is an update to one I wrote when I first found this article.
Seems like a new thing on first blush, but spiritual independence looks a lot like my experience with Unitarian Universalism (UU) in the 1990s. UU is a cool way to explore different spiritual systems in an open-minded community. UUs (they’ve been around a very long time, the Unitarians since the Renaissance, and the Universalists since at least the 19thC) are not so much concerned with what you call your god as much as how you behave toward your fellow humans. You can even be a secular humanist and have no deity in the mix and be very welcome as a UU. So I’d class UUs as spiritual independents for sure, although many have chosen a path of some sort (everything from Christian to Wiccan).
From my observations of the group, though, most folks dabble in different belief systems and often choose the UU community for its social connectiveness and broad-based approach to religious education for their children than anything else. Once I figured out what my spiritual identity (New Age/Neo-pagan, I guess) was, I left the organization. This is why the UU church will always remain a small minority of churches; most folks want to belong to something more than an intellectual and social group that simply shares a love of free thought and a respect for human rights.
To me, though, spiritual independence doesn’t necessarily mean not belonging to a group or participating in shared beliefs and rituals; it often seems to mean a rejection of the traditional church organization model and its expectations. Even the UUs fall prey to the “grow or die” model of churches. They spend way too much time concerned about money—fundraising and the costs of maintaining things like facilities to meet in.
I’d like to apply the principles of minimalism and simplicity to spiritual groups myself. Smaller is usually more effective if spiritual transformation and personal connection are what you are looking for. Small group retreats, solo vision quests into nature, sweat lodge experiences, even tours to religious sites are more impactful for participants because they actually have a chance to develop deep connections with others and more importantly with themselves.
I belong to a couple of small-group discussion and spiritual sharing groups online, and that’s where the energetic transfers really occur. We all leave our little one-hour sessions with concrete changes to carry out in our daily lives. Try it! You can meet at home, online, at a coffeehouse. Seriously low overhead. You can still have symbols, altars, rituals, music, all in a much more intimate setting than a church can provide.
Look around online and see what small-group activities are available through things like Google Hangouts or Skype, links from spiritual books you really like to local group metopes. There’s no reason to get lost in a mega-church or burdened by monthly donations for building rentals.
Spirituality is energy, just like everything else. Keep the structure simple and the windows and doors open to let the energy flow. There you will find joy.
Outposts Along the Path
Check out The Gift of Presence over at the Becoming Minimalist blog. Being present to those closest to you is a gift to them and to yourself.
And, taking care of your spiritual energy means also taking care of your physical being (a temporary coalescence of energy into matter). For some great, and a bit different, advice on breath and centering at the core of your body, check out Cait Lynch’s post on body awareness. When you are done, go look at the rest of her posts; you won’t be disappointed.