For years, there’s been a great debate between religion and spirituality. Some people believe that they are one and the same, yet others believe they are distinct and separate ideas. But there’s a difference between religion and spirituality. One dictates how you worship, the other how you live.
Often times, people use the terms interchangeably. They consider their religious beliefs to be spiritual ones or their spiritual beliefs to be religious ones. The two can go hand-in-hand, and most frequently do, but a person doesn’t necessarily need to be religious to be spiritual or spiritual to be religious. Actually, a person can be both, either, or none. To truly understand their differences, be them subtle or overt, we need only look at their meanings.
Religion is a man-made system of worship. It is an organized practice that gives a framework in which a believer may interact with his or her higher power. It is based on tradition and teachings that have been around for years. Spirituality, on the other hand, is the belief within the believer. It is the recognition and acceptance of that connection between the inner self and a power that lies outside of his or her personal being. It is based on feeling and faith in something unexplainable.
You see, spirituality is innate, and religion is by design. We are born with our spirituality, that connection between ourselves and the world around us, an inherent confidence in what cannot be seen or heard. We are taught our religion, a method in which we practice our beliefs, a set of guidelines established through word of mouth. When you experience that connection or believe that things happen for a reason, this is your spirituality. In essence, it guides you in how you live your life. When you practice a doctrine of beliefs or pray a specific prayer, this is your religion. It tells you how to live your life. At Marianne Wells Yoga School this is something we touch on a lot. It is important to understand your own beliefs and that path to discovery begins by first understanding yourself. Spirituality is innate, so your journey to discovering that is critical to your health and happiness.
A person’s spirituality and religious beliefs can stem from the same foundation. However, within any religion there is a personal relationship between the self and the higher power. If we attend services at a church, we practice a certain religion amongst a group of people. Most of the followers in attendance possess the same general belief in the doctrines of that particular sect. For the most part, each person accepts the scriptures taught within that organization as truth. But our spiritual nature, even within our practice, is individual. Our interpretation or perspective of what we are taught is unique from one person to the next. We each take something different from our religion. We each apply it in our own personal way to our life.
There’s a difference between religion and spirituality, just like there’s a difference between how we worship and how we live our lives. Simply because someone goes to church doesn’t make them more spiritual than someone who doesn’t. It merely means they’re practicing differently. Simply because someone leads a spiritual life doesn’t make them more religious than someone who leads a secular life. No matter how you observe your faith, it is personal.
With this, I ask you to reflect on your religious or spiritual journeys. How have they affected your life? How have you enacted your beliefs within your life? Have they helped you get through a difficult moment in your journey? I would love to hear your feedback if you are comfortable sharing!
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