December 13, 2013

Spirituality vs. Religion & Why I Hesitate to Use the Word God. ~ Camilla Sanderson

I always hesitate to use the word God.

It’s so emotionally loaded for so many people.

Me included.

Someone says God, and I think of religious patriarchal hierarchies. The truth of my experience is that religion is full of patriarchal hierarchy, rules, regulations, and hypocrisy that has little to do with spirituality, love and healing, which is what I am interested in.

Many are the names we give to what some call God, others call the Divine, the Beloved, Life, the Universe, Spirit, the Force, Mother Earth, a Higher Power, Source, the Field of Potentiality, Om, Christ Consciousness, and the list goes on. Regardless of the word we use though, in essence we are all talking about the same energy that connects us all.

I read recently “When there is peace among religions, there will be peace in the world.” This makes sense to me. So many wars are fought over difference of beliefs, and the thinking that “my way is the only way.” There are endless ways of doing things and seeing things. Through my study of various religions in interfaith seminary, I’ve learned of the many commonalities throughout the world’s faiths.

The difficulty I have though, is that so much religious language evokes feelings in me of a heavy and earnest dedication, self-denial and seriousness; whereas I long to express joy, fun, light, inspiration, laughter and love. Yes, there will be times of pain in my life, which is why I want even more, to focus on the love, light, and laughter. A healthy, disciplined and committed daily spiritual practice is what I have cultivated over time. One that allows me to feel the light of God and Christ consciousness flowing through me. Not a heavy and earnest dedication where I’m supposed to feel guilt if I miss a time of practice.

So many religious texts scream to me of good versus evil, and yet my experience has shown me that we each have the capacity for both good and evil, and our challenge comes in the form of loving and accepting both the good, and the depth of our shadows within us. It is by suppressing what we judge as evil, that it comes out sideways. Take for example anger. Many religious teachings give the feeling that anger is evil. However, what I have learned in my life is that if I suppress anger it will come out sideways in an unhealthy way. If I truly connect to the anger I feel, truly experience the heat of the anger, the rage in the depth of my being, and hold that energy, without dumping it onto someone else, without taking action on it, I allow that energy to transform into enormous strength.

The same with hatred. Feeling hate is a human experience that many religions would have us suppress. But by truly feeling the hate, truly connecting to it and holding that energy, and not acting on it, we allow it to transform into power. The key lies in not acting on what may be viewed as a “negative” feeling, but to simply feel the feeling. To truly hold the space with that feeling. By loving and accepting all of our emotions, without having to act on them, we allow them to be here, and to transform. This is so much healthier than suppressing our feelings and emotions.

Why don’t religions teach us this? Teach us how to work with our emotions—both the positive and the difficult emotions, and not try to make us feel guilty for being human and having these feelings. In my experience, guilt is a wasted emotion, used to manipulate people.

I object to the sentiment that prayer and spiritual practice is about “pleasing God” and “consenting to God.” This makes God out to be a patriarchal authority figure, which doesn’t do it for me. My spiritual practice is not about pleasing “God” as it’s defined in the patriarchal and authoritarian religions. My spiritual practice is about nourishing my body, mind and spirit. And it’s about the evolution of my consciousness. In evolving my own consciousness, I am one drop in the oceanic movement towards a shift in human consciousness that is so necessary for our planet to survive. Also, my daily spiritual practice is about taking exquisite care of my health in body, mind, emotions and spirit.

The focus of my spiritual practice is to keep me healthy in body, mind and spirit, continually freeing blocks and obstacles, so that my consciousness may continue to evolve, and I may continue to allow life, love, light and laughter to flow through me, and be liberated and free.

I think it vital for every world citizen to have an understanding of our world religions and where they came from and how they evolved. At this point in our planet’s history I also think it vital for each and every one of us to find some resolution within ourselves of how to practice our own spirituality, and not be identified with any one particular religion, to the extent that one would go to war over a difference in religion, which is the antithesis of what all spirituality is about.

Let us be the change. Let us practice peace. Let each and every one of us connect with our own inner Divinity; become attuned with Life’s message for us; practice our dharma in the world; find Flow. Our planetary vibrations are increasing in energy and our earth’s heart is broken open. Can we find the unity in the human race to heal our beautiful world—both our physical planet, and our innate human differences, and remember that we are One in Love?

I believe we can and it starts with me, and it starts with you.

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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant journal photo archives

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Camilla Sanderson