When I started taking an interest in my spiritual life, I was drawn to the idea that spirituality without religion might be possible. It seems to me that all religion is based in the deep, nameless, mysterious divine force or presence that informs all of our lives. We might call it the Creator, the Universe, God, or we may refuse to call it anything at all. All are attempts to express something that can not really be named or defined.
Someone raised in the forest may find spirit in the trees. Someone who prays with hundreds of others may find spirit in the company of friends. A wonderful, wise energy may be perceived by someone as an angel and by someone else as a being from a far away galaxy. Each of us responds to patterns, images and perceptions that resonate with our emotional and mental landscapes. Whether a prayer or meditation was given to us by a friend or by a long ago saint, if it leads to inner peace, it's worthwhile.
I moved away from religion when I first started exploring my spiritual nature. I didn't see how the church of my childhood could lead me where I wanted to go. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion or seemed to stress certain rules. It felt superficial, even dishonest at times. I especially disliked the hypocrisy; one of the most pious of us sitting in a saintly way in the front pew, snarled at us the second she got outside after the service. While the ritual felt soothing and the music harmonious, it seemed rare to really touch upon any deeper mystery.
There was one exception though. When the priest ended the service, he started a sentence with "May the peace that passes all understanding ..." That was a deeper mystery. The peace that passes all understanding. That phrase rang true deep in my heart as a child and stayed with me ever since.
Now, I find I am drawn back into an appreciation for religion in all its ritual and custom and richness. I love the feeling of sharing faith with others. I love the presence of spirit that fills the walls of a building of worship with an almost tangible grace. I enjoy being in an environment where I can surrender my cares and concerns to a force greater than me. Every religion I have encountered has a bit of space for people like me.
We can explore spirit inside a religion or outside one. All it takes is the longing to connect with that deep, nameless, mysterious divine force or presence that informs all of our lives.