If there is anything I am learning it is the wisdom of uncertainty. The older I get, and I hope wiser, too, the more certain I become that there is very little about which any of us can be certain. This is especially true when it comes to faith. In fact, I'm pretty certain, although not absolutely certain, the religious people who seem the most certain of their faith (and Christian television and radio are full of faith on steroids) are either totally evil or they are just unaware that their outward confidence only masks their inner insecurity.
"You can have religion with spirituality; you can also have religion without spirituality" - Eckhart Tolle. I would add to Tolle's words, "You can have spirituality without religion."
God is a liberal. She's generous, inclusive, and bigger than the capacity of our little brains to comprehend. Spirituality will flourish more beautifully when you let go of the arrogance that is always the consequence of inner insecurity with one's own spiritual identity. If you meet a religious person who seems interested only in making himself right by making you wrong, you can be pretty certain you've met a very insecure person. Besides, if they were really in touch with their own spirituality, they would know they have nothing to prove and nothing to defend.
Make it your ambition to grow up into spiritual maturity. As you do, you will then be able to say with Mother Teresa, "I love all religions, even as I'm IN LOVE with my own."
4. A deep, enriching spirituality is the consequence of a regular practice of meditation, introspection, reading, and reflection.
I teach university students the art of persuasive speaking. During any semester, students are expected to speak at least four to six times. While the first speech is a short three-to-five minute introductory speech, by the end of the semester, they deliver a twenty-to-thirty minute speech.
Why do I have them make this many speeches in one semester? It is because I know that, by practicing one's art, whatever it may be, one becomes a skilled practitioner. When a better method of becoming a speaker than by simply speaking is written, I'll teach that method. What is true of speaking, or any art, is true of spirituality.
If spirituality is like a garden in your soul, meditation, reflection, introspection are like fertilizer or food for the garden.
You'll notice I left out "prayer." I did so intentionally because prayer has all but lost its original beauty and richness and has for too many centuries degenerated into a method of manipulation and a magical means of getting God to do what you want in life.
Instead of a meditative exercise wherein the practitioner enters into a deeper and more complete feeling of oneness with God, prayer has degenerated into a means of getting God to fill the items on your grocery list of needs. Prayers are coins dropped into a cosmic slot machine, pulled by a lever called faith, and both with great hopes of hitting the jackpot.
This is about all prayer is for most religious people today. It is not, however, what prayer is for those interested in a vital spirituality.
Meditation is the method of real prayer. Meditation is learning how not to speak but enter into silence and stillness. And, there is nothing foo-foo about this. To meditate is simply the art of being still, something so foreign to people in the west. No wonder "stillness" or "silence" sounds so strange to most of us. And, difficult to do.
If you will make it your practice, however, to regularly meditate (and there are many good programs of meditation), your spiritual life will flourish. That's a promise. You may never enter a church, temple, or mosque again, but you will be deeply spiritual and you will live a transformed life, if you make meditation a regular spiritual practice.
Just as You Are What You Eat, You Are What You Read
Immerse yourself in the rich repository of spiritual wisdom written by practitioners of spirituality throughout the ages. You will be doing for your inner life what the spring rains do for a newly planted garden. Spirituality will take root and burst forth with abundant growth. As an unavoidable consequence, you will know and rejoice in your walk with God.
"What should I read?" you ask.
Here are a few of my favorite spiritual guides and some of their better writings:
• Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
• Phil Jackson, A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life
• Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
• Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
• Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred
Of course, I would also encourage you to read my own book The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. I close with the question that both opens the book and closes The Enoch Factor itself ...