It was a classic case of religion running up against spirituality. Sandy had made an appointment with me to do some counseling, she said. I had known her several years by that point as she was a regular at the fellowship community I headed.Sandy had light brown hair, a pleasant and ready smile. She was dressed casually when she arrive for the appointment. She wore brown penny loafers, with a bright penny in each, something I had not seen in decades.”How’s it going with you, Sandy?” I asked.”Not bad,” she said. “But I am frustrated with all the rules and doctrines my husband’s religion seems to impose. It spills over into my life and I don’t like it.”My ears pricked up. “What sort of rules and doctrines are bothering you?”"Wearing only skirts or dresses to worship. Must be there every Sunday. Give at least ten percent of our incomes to that church. Must believe exactly as told or be ostracized. Consult with the pastor before we can leave town on a weekend – sort of ask his permission to be away. I am just fed up.”"You have just encountered the difference between religion and spirituality, I suspect, Sandy. Are you fed up with the rigidity?” I asked.”I think that’s exactly it,” said Sandy. “Where is the freedom to be me? I don’t run into these problems here in your fellowship. What’s the difference between spirituality and religion, then?”"Religion is where you must adhere to certain prescribed beliefs and practices in order to be accepted in that group. But spirituality is where you follow your heart in regard to worship, practice and lifestyle.”"I don’t want to be restricted anymore. I want to be free to believe and think as I see fit. I don’t want rituals shoved down my throat anymore.”I could see this might be a problem in their marriage if her husband and Sandy developed irreconcilable differences over the beliefs and practices they followed in their believing life.”How does your husband feel about your point of view?” I asked.”I think he sees my restlessness under the watchful eye of his congregation and pastor. I think he will not stand in my way of change. He’s pretty easy going.”I was not convinced this would not cause marital difficulties in their future. But there was little I could do, or ought to do now, as this was not Sandy’s presenting challenge.”Then you need to follow your heart and develop your own way of seeing God and the values you may find from that belief system. Spirituality is about discovering for yourself that Spirit is a prime element in life. But how you view that Spirit is determined by you through study and practice. Are you prepared to do that?”"You mean I’m free to believe and think as I wish? I don’t have to believe in a certain way to have a believing life?”"Exactly,” I said.”That is a real relief. How do I start?” Sandy asked.”I think you need to develop a way of meditating to move closer to the Divine in your life. You need to go to a bookstore and look over the titles in meditation and discover for yourself what you might find as a fit for you.”"You are not going to suggest a book for me?”"No. I think you need to get right into deciding for yourself a way of thinking and believing that is best for you. Perhaps a book title will jump out at you at the bookstore. When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”Sandy left the office that day in brighter spirits than when she first arrived. I saw her many times in the fellowship I lead and she appeared well. It even seemed that her husband had come around to her way of thinking. After some time, he did not return to his former church.It is for you to decide what you want to be as well. You can be a religionist adhering to strict rules and dogmas. Or you can be a spiritualist and make your own way. There is plenty of help in either direction.Choose today and begin.
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