A Beginner’s Guide to Exploring Spirituality

exploring-spirituality

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” —A.W. Tozer

When I was in college, I read the preceding quote from the theologian/philosopher A.W. Tozer. The substance was so profound I have never forgotten its message almost 15 years later. It continues to spring up again and again in my mind on a regular basis.

I realize spirituality can be a very touchy topic that arouses countless strong opinions, intellectual arguments, and far too many unspeakable emotional wounds. Nevertheless, I believe the quote above holds true. There is nothing more central to our lives than our understanding of spirituality. And it is a conversation we ought to engage in far more often than we do.

Whether we have intentionally pursued a personal spirituality or not, our beliefs have a profound impact on our lives. Consciously or subconsciously, it influences us in countless ways. Consider how it impacts our understanding of…

  • Ourselves. Does God care about me? Is He mad at me or pleased with me? If there is no God, who am I? And where did I orginate?
  • Others. Are all lives equal? If so, on what basis? What is my responsibility to care for others?
  • Minimalism. If we have removed the pursuit of worldly possessions from our affections, with what will we replace it?
  • The world around us. In what specific ways should we care about the world and the environment around us? Is our motivation in this regard more significant than survival of our species? And if so, how do we as humans responsibly interact with it?
  • Morality. Is there a moral set of truth for the universe established from a higher power? Or is morality determined by each individual?
  • Evil. What am I to understand about the evil and suffering in the world? Is it there for a reason? To what extent should I try to counteract it?
  • Money. Does the universe give money/status to some and not others? Or is money/status earned by the individual? What should I do with it when I obtain it? Do I hold any responsibility to care for those with less?
  • Afterlife. Is there life after death? Is death something to be feared or welcomed? And either way, how should I be preparing for it today?

No doubt, our understanding of spirituality carries great influence on our lives. For that reason, one of the most significant journeys we can ever embark upon is the exploration of it.

I understand fully this community is made up of readers from every imaginable religious/non-religious background. I am so very thankful for that reality. And I should be quick to mention this post is not an endorsement of any specific religion. Instead, my hope is only to prompt each of us to further consider the role of spirituality in our everyday lives. And cause us to joyfully embrace the journey rather than shy away from it.

Because of the important role it plays, you will never regret any time spent furthering your understanding of the Universe. Whether you have never tried, have tried but given up, or spend time everyday seeking one specific God, let me offer seven beginning steps that are central to our personal exploration of spirituality.

A Beginner’s Guide to Exploring Spirituality

1. Respect those that have gone before. The quest to understand spirituality is as old as humanity itself. Billions have gone before and have spent countless hours seeking spirituality. Don‘t overlook their efforts. Consider their findings and their writings—even those outside the religion you have become accustomed to.

2. Your journey must be your own. You alone must be the decision-maker for your view of God. You should not blindly accept the teachings of another (even your closest mentor or parent). Your heart must ring true and your spirit must rejoice in your spirituality—or it is worthless.

3. Start right where you are. We all have special gifts of character: compassion, laughter, self-discipline, love, etc. Use them as your starting point. Are you facing a trial in life (disease, loss, rejection)? Use it as motivation to further pursue your understanding of spirituality. Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” He was right in every regard. Start your journey with whatever first step makes the most sense to you.

4. Ask God for help. By this I mean, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making the request. If there is a God, He may answer your prayer. And if there is no God, the process of making the request will still work to help focus your senses and desire.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Like everything else in life, spiritual growth is mastered through practice. If you don’t find your answers after your first few steps, take some more in a different direction. It will require time, effort, and energy. But given its influence on our lives, it is always worth the effort in the end.

6. Don’t be afraid of unanswered questions. Although leaving questions unanswered may sound contrary to the goal of the pursuit, we should not be afraid of them. These unanswered questions will cause some to forever abandon the journey. And while our spirituality should make sense of our heart‘s deepest questions, it would seem unreasonable to believe our minds could successfully fathom all the mysteries of the universe.

7. Be wary of “everyone is right” thinking. If there is no God, there is no God. If there is a God, He is something specific. Personally, I am skeptical of the thinking that says God can change from one person to another—that philosophy crumbles under the weight of its own logic. God is who God is. And it‘s our responsibility to successfully find Him.

Again, I realize fully this journey is going to look different for every single one of us. Spirituality is a highly personal matter and will likely result in different outcomes. This is not a post that endorses any specific religion. It is simply a post of encouragement and a reminder this journey is important.

I do not typically moderate comments too closely (unless they turn offensive). But I might make a suggestion for this post. In the comments below, I would be interested to hear about your personal journey toward spirituality. How did it begin? And how did you arrive at your understanding? I think this conversation will be more helpful and encouraging than a specific argument made for choosing your view.

Image: overgraeme

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    My journey started when I was very young. My parents put me into a private Christian school (even though they are Buddhist and Catholic) from Pre-school until 5th grade.

    The school guided me and taught me morality. I learned to love and accept even those who didn’t believe in the same things I did. My open-mindedness is credited to the people at this school.

    There was never any forcing beliefs down another’s throat. Sometimes I wonder who I would have grown up to be if I hadn’t gone there.

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks Vincent. I appreciate this comment. Just the type of dialogue I was hoping this post would arouse.

    • says

      I often think about how our upbringing influences our “spirituality” choices as adults. How much of our spirituality is our own choice; how much has been ingrained into us?

      Personally, I do not spend much time worrying about the possibility of a higher power, or what they would or wouldn’t want from us. In my opinion, doing things in the name of a religion, has caused more harm than good throughout history. I simply adhere to the belief that we should all strive to end the suffering of living beings, and leave the world a better place than we found it. I give no credit to a higher power for this quest, and when I ask for help, it is from myself and those around me that I care about.

  2. says

    I was atheist my entire life, up until around 25 years old.

    Somehow I started reading about the Pinael gland and DMT. I started researching it and found reference to the pinael gland in many religions including it being referenced constantly by the Egyptians.

    Digging deeper, I found my way to artist Alex Grey, and when purchasing one of his books I saw a suggestion pop up underneath it for a book called “Be here now” by Ram Dass. I did a ‘read more’ before buying because I was bored at work, and one paragraph stuck with me

    Something like “Forget about the past, just be here now” “Forget about the future, just be here now”

    I bought the book, read it, blew my mind, began meditating and studying buddhism, hinduism, and taoism. Now I’m no longer atheist and more free and happy than I have ever been in my entire life.

  3. Carrie says

    Joshua, what an interesting and worthy topic! I especially like your point that if we are abandoning the pursuit of material possessions, then what will we pursue?

    My own spiritual journey began with being raised in a Southern Baptist Church, but wow, have I made some leaps and bounds since then. I never seriously questioned belief in Jesus, since His gracious and challenging teachings have always rung true to me. However, I always felt that something was missing, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

    I took an interesting step when I joined a small charismatic/Pentecostal congregation. At first, I thought the missing piece was the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that they taught about. They pointed out that many Christians use the “Holey Bible” that leaves out the parts about supernatural spiritual gifts, and that made sense. Eventually, however, that nagging feeling of “something missing” returned to me.

    One day, a colleague invited me to a Messianic Jewish Sabbath meeting. It was interesting and different, but I didn’t really buy into the idea that the Torah is still important. I continued attending for a long time because I liked the people and enjoyed the lively Bible studies.

    Some time later, I was reading a chapter in Isaiah (65 or 66) and noticed that there were verses there critical of eating pork (pork is forbidden in the Torah). The odd thing was that it was in the context of the future Millennial Kingdom and the new heavens and earth that will come afterward. This bothered me. Why would these prophecies imply that the kosher food laws would be in effect in the future? What of Paul’s teachings and the traditional Christian interpretations?

    I did a lot of reading and praying for understanding. Eventually, after what I term my “struggle” with God, I came to the conclusion that my Messianic friends were right: the Torah was not abolished. I don’t mean to say that our salvation depends on following all the ancient ceremonial rules, nor even that Gentiles are held to it the same way the Jewish people are. But Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew, and He did not come to start a new religion, but to continue the one started by God: Judaism.

    It was scary at first, but over the years, becoming a “Messianic Gentile” has been an unspeakable blessing to me. I’ve learned about the festivals that God invented in Leviticus 23, and how each and every one of them is about Jesus. I celebrate these festivals with an excitement and fullness of spirit that I never experienced with Christmas. So much of the Bible that I couldn’t relate to before, now I understand how I fit in as a Gentile believer in the Jewish Messiah. I have a vision of Judaism and Christianity one day being a united faith in the only, unchanging God, and I am more stoked than ever about Jesus’s Second Coming and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth.

    In short, I now read the Holy Bible instead of the “Holey Bible,” for real this time! It all fits together, and I know that I’ve found the missing piece. I’m so grateful to God for showing me such breathtaking insights into His Word. I will spend the rest of my days trying to live out Jesus’s teachings in preparation for His Kingdom. No easy task, but so worth it. Thanks for allowing me to share.

  4. says

    In the spring of 2005 my 27 year old brother suddenly died. I had become a Christian many years before and this was a catalyst for me to explore (and question) everything I’d ever learned. During the entire process, it was my fellow Christians who seemed to offer the most offensive advice for ‘getting over’ my grief. I left my church and in the process, became closer to God, closer to myself, and more grounded in my faith than ever before. Do I still believe in Christ? Yes. Am I still a Christian? Yes. Do I subscribe to the same belief system I did 8 years ago? Absolutely not.

  5. Steph says

    I don’t see anything problematic in believing that everyone’s spirituality can be right. If we don’t practice acceptance that other people are equally as ‘right’ as ourselves, how do we view their deep beliefs? We would be dismissive and distrustful, surely? I think it’s perfectly plausible that everyone’s spirituality is valid, considering that we manifest what we seek in life through our beliefs – if someone goes through life manifesting their own version of spirituality, it’s at least real for that person, if not everyone else. ‘God’ – or whatever, whoever a person believes in, doesn’t have to change to accommodate 7 billion spiritualities – maybe there are just 7 billion different aspects of God or whatever else. Besides which, there can be no proof of who’s right and wrong – why then should we decide who’s wrong? We should be equally as accepting of everyone, because everyone has an equal chance of being ‘right’ in their beliefs, and a 100% chance of their beliefs being right for them.

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks for the comment Steph. Step #7 caused the most back-and-forth in my mind if it should be included or not. It certainly displays a bit more of my personal beliefs than any of the others. In the end, I chose to include it but tried to explain this was based heavily on my personal thought-process related to understanding spirituality.

    • says

      I personally reconcile this issue by thinking that God is what God is, but we each have different experiences and images of God. We conceptualize God in a way that fits our contexts and perhaps needs (know of someone who said we tend to conceptualize God in the image of our fathers…benevolent and accepting, harsh or judgmental, whatever our experience; don’t necessarily agree with that, but it’s interesting to consider). Therefore, we see depictions of God shift over time and across cultures because God is understood through different perspectives. It’s somewhat akin to saying I am Mary. I am always Mary. Yet people encounter different aspects of me. No one fully grasps the entirety of who I am, but each of their experiences are “real” and “true” (though people may experience me differently than I intend). Maybe I am not doing the concept justice…

  6. says

    When I saw the title of this post, I was so excited to read it, Joshua. Thank you for handling a delicate subject so beautifully and encouraging us to stretch the limits of our belief in material reality alone.

    Spirituality is central to me life. I stumbled upon Buddhism many years ago and I feel a strong resonance with its principles. At the same time, I’m deeply moved by the “truth” I hear from other religions and spiritual approaches. May we all find our way to embrace a the goodness of a bigger vision.

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks Sandra. Appreciate your kind words about my approach to the topic. It is a touchy subject and not easy to address. But as I mentioned above, I think it is an important conversation we need to be engaged in—and one that can definitely be discussed in a civil manner.

      • Marilene Hunzeker says

        I agree with you Joshua that this is an important conversation and I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and I agree with Sandra that you handled a delicate subejct very well. Thanks again and best wishes :)

  7. Scott says

    This subject is always a favorite as the views, experiences, and perceptions are almost always so varied. For full disclosure I have drifted from Lutheran to atheist to Pagan and have done time volunteering in a ministerial capacity.

    The exploration of spirituality is always personal as my experience and those that I have met in life are always expressed in those terms even if they are unaware of it. As humans we can only speak intelligently to that which we have experienced, understood, and explored which can only be personal at its core. Sure we might get together to worship, discuss, serve, etc. but we always have to rely on our own understanding and filter system to really derive what we get out of it. Our life’s canvas defines our reality and the picture we paint on it.

    For point 7, I would like to offer, share rather, a different perspective using my paragraph above as a filter. When someone states that “God can be different from one person to another, it is in my experience a high-level statement referring to the relationship of God to one person or another. To try to limit God to a particularly bounded description or perspective does God no justice. God is so much more than what we perceive or understand. Here is an example that might help to begin to illustrate my point.

    I am a person, whole and complex. To you I am simply an anonymous commenter on this thread with a bit of depth what I have already told you. However, I am much more than that. I am a father twice over, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, a confidant, a minister, a team mate, and so on to many others in my life. To say that someone’s understanding of me is all that there is really does me no service as I am so much more based upon my relationship with others individually.

    I am not belittling your perspective and I do respect your experiences and perceptions. I do however recognize an opportunity to share and hopefully to give you food for spiritual thought.

    Yours in service,

    Scott

    • says

      Oh, this is a clear way of saying what I posted in a reply above! I should have made it down further into the comments before commenting myself. This is very similar to how I think about the issue of God’s nature and our experiences/images of God.

  8. Erin says

    What an interesting topic, and one that is very relevant to me at this stage in my life. I was raised by Baptist missionary parents and up until several years ago, never questioned my faith or my upbringing. Through a series of events, the biggest catalyst being a bout of clinical depression and then a solo cross-country move, things are not so clear as they used to be. Because I moved to a brand new city on my own, I began to visit different churches, hoping for a place to call home and a community to bond with. I never found it. Coming from my background, for a long time I felt an enormous sense of guilt towards no longer attending church like a good girl. I have been working through this guilt and have been very open about it on my personal Facebook page, and many people have been super supportive – but the most distressing thing is that the most negative feedback came from my former pastors. I am now convinced that I am much more comfortable in a more free and accepting church – I guess you could call it charismatic. I just now shy away from large, organized churches where worship and teaching are very prescribed. I’m in the process of moving back cross-country and will be seeking a house church instead.

    • Carrie says

      Hi Erin,

      I went through a similar thing of visiting different kinds of churches just after I finished college. It’s really tough (at least, for me) to find a community where I fit in — which is frustrating, because it is so fulfilling when it happens! For me, my greatest sense of belonging was not in a church at all, but an independent home group.

      And at the moment, I don’t attend a church or synagogue at all, even though I recognize the importance of it. I, too, struggle with guilt about this. Don’t let your former pastors get you down. True community isn’t something that can be forced. Hang in there, and know that you’re not alone. Hopefully you and I both can find spiritual “homes” sooner rather than later.

  9. Ciska Wilson says

    Great post. It’s a difficult topic to write about without turning people off. Personally, I wasn’t brought up to be either religious or spiritual and don’t believe in God. Having said that, I do feel that my life is missing spirituality and the sense of community and/or belonging that comes with being part of a religion and am interested in learning more. Your beginners guide is a good reference.

    I realised a few years ago how ignorant I was and dismissive about religion so decided to at least familiarise myself with the basics of Islam, Christianity and Buddhism to make a more informed choice. I felt I was missing something, surely all those believers couldn’t be wrong?

    I started to read the Bible with an open mind but quickly put it down because it was so sexist – I didn’t get far past the Adam and Eve story. Later, visiting the Vatican city and the Sistine chapel, although undoubtedly impressed by the art and beauty, I found it disturbing and hypocritical to see the money and power wasted on this fantastic building that could’ve be used to help the poor, sick and needy. Catholicism seemed to me a religion based on guilt, fear and power. I looked up the main beliefs of Islam, which seem quite similar to Christianity, but the wars fought in the name of Islamic extremists is a complete turn-off and again it doesn’t seem a religion keen on equality or tolerance. Looking through history, so many barbaric wars and atrocities have been done in the name of religion, but underlying many was the bid for power. Religion seemed out of date, illogical and irrelevant to me. Buddhism was the one that resonated most.

    I realise that I’m over-simplifying and am the first to admit I haven’t studied any in great depth and am still ignorant. My conclusion so far is religion is a structured way for people to be spiritual. The positive aspects are to encourage believers to be good and kind to others and to take comfort that there is a higher purpose or being and a set of guidelines to follow. I believe all humans have an innate need for spirituality, but this can be found outside of religion too.

    I’m still too sceptical to believe there is a God, an after-life or reincarnation, but I’ve taken the parts of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam that make sense to me: meditation and personal growth, being kind, tolerant and compassionate to people, animals and the environment, giving to charity and most of all living a life of integrity. I’m living more simply and consuming less which frees up time and money to give back to others and live less selfishly.

    Finally, being spiritual to me means being grateful everyday for the life I’ve been given, being present in the moment as often as I can remember to give the best of myself to the people in my life, to appreciate the beauty that is everywhere, to teach my children to be kind, tolerant and compassionate and to live life to the full and make my short time on Earth worthwhile.

    • says

      Ciska,

      Romans (in the New Testament) says that God has revealed himself to all people, and because you have made kindness, compassion and integrity a part of your life, it’s clear you have responded to him in some measure, because those are his very attributes, too.

      The older books of the Bible are very easy to misunderstand unless we gain some education about the context of the culture they came out of, and how they fit into the larger story arc. This is no insult; I mean that *anyone* trying to read the book of Genesis through a modern-day filter will often be confused at best, and deeply offended at worst. (And Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? Forget about it!)

      Also, it is a many-layered book. (A library, actually.) I have been studying the Bible off and on for most of my fifty years, and seriously for about twenty; and I learn new things all the time.

      If you have the patience, D.A. Carson is a very good instructor who has delivered a series of lectures about understanding the Bible. Here is the first one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uROSgxsEIK0 His lectures have also been made into a book: http://www.amazon.com/The-God-Who-Is-There/dp/0801013720/

      I would encourage you to follow Joshua’s suggestion #4 again, then seek some good teachers who can help you see past the smoke, to the light.

      Blessings.

  10. Annie says

    I was baptized and raised by Roman Catholics parents who did not attend church regularly, nor did they push us to as children. I never took my first communion nor was I confirmed. My parents encouraged us to explore other religions and wanted us to choose whether we joined a church, temple, etc. as adults after careful consideration. I’m glad they did so since I have differences of opinion with many organized religious groups and would have struggled within them if I was “forced” to be there. However, to this day I still struggle with my spiritual side. I am torn between believing in God and not. It is hard for me to have faith in words, and other intangible things, as I have been hurt when I trusted only those things. My experiences have taught me to trust actions that I can see for myself. Still, I find myself drawn to the idea of a spirit I can freely talk to and who would support me when all else fails. I long to be part of a group that shares these feelings and also does good works to help others. Perhaps that may be the answer for me…perhaps a group that helps others without necessarily having a religious component…the search and struggle continues…

    • says

      Keep looking, Annie. There are groups like that out there. And you are looking for the right thing. One of the most-repeated refrains from God in the Bible is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    • says

      Finding Jesus is a whole different thing from finding “Religion.” The Bible says that the Church is the entire world-wide group of Believers–not a building, not a bureaucratic system of behavior, and certainly not an organization. If you just pray and ask Jesus to show you if He is REALLY the Savior and Lord of all, I promise you–He WILL answer that prayer. Ask God to guide you and He for sure will! “You receive not because you ask not.” It’s so simple that it’s too difficult for most. :-)

  11. Sallyann says

    I am an atheist, however like Ciska, I believe in morality, kindness, compassion, doing as little harm as possible to the creatures we share this earth with, and making a difference. Being an atheist I think deepens one’s appreciation of the here and now, because I expect that after-death will be very similar an experience to before-birth.

    I also appreciate many of the elements of Buddhism; I have read a number of books on it and it has some very useful practices.

  12. says

    I struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder all my life (it started in first grade and would follow me for about 14 solid years.) I had enough. I read a book that incorporated spirituality into the the healing process. I said my first open minded prayer and I felt a release. I got into the whole new age “you can become like God” stuff and then I decided I wanted to read the bible and see what that was all about. I discovered something: the historical Jesus looked nothing like the American Capitalist Jesus. He was homeless, minimalist, and He loved and included everyone. I also noticed He didn’t mention any of the stuff that is crammed own our throats in traditional Sunday morning church. I fell in love. I’ve known him almost 9 years and I just continue to be blown away by His presence and power in my life. My husband and I are actually selling all of our possessions and following Him to Uruguay next week. You can read more about our story below! Your blog planted a major seed btw. God bless you for doing what you do.
    Amy

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/love-before-suicide-campaign

  13. Thomas says

    Thanks for this excellent post, Joshua and your courage to discuss this topic with us. It’s a very controversial one. As for me, I was never attached to a specific belief in god. I couldn’t imagine him as an old, white-bearded man, sitting in the sky and watching us. But I knew, there must be something we can’t describe with words.

    About three years ago, a close relationship, that ment very much to me, crumbled and left me extremely exhausted. I started to question everything, basically myself and my view of the world. I got lost in thaughts about the past and the future and missed out the present for a very long time. I was seeking intensively for the freedom I ment I had lost in this time. But the question is: Was the freedom there before? Or was this relationship just another aspect of my needy self-perception? I tried to find answers in books from Erich Fromm, the Dalai Lama, Anselm Gruen and recently ended with Eckart Tolle. And, I think, I found it for me: spirituality is the way to ourselves, into us. It is the foundation of our external life and contains the freedom and the independence from external circumstances. And, to go a step further, it connects us with the earth. This delicate feeling that we are all one, a part of this beautiful, unique planet in an endless universe with billions and billions of other worlds: this is spirituality (for me).

    Thank you!

  14. says

    While I find this a well written post, I think it is off topic. I subscribed for information and discussions on minimalism, simplicity. Not this. While I wish you well in your journey, if this is the new path of this site, ours paths will separate.

      • says

        Our relationship with God is the foundation of everything else in our lives, including Simplicity and Minimalism. Without the rest is just a sand castle–it will crumble into worthlessness. I am thankful for this reminder–excellent post! :-)

        • Patrick says

          HomeForGood.Net, you have it backward. Simplicity and minimalism are a wonderful foundation for living, including and especially relating to the divine, however it is understood.

  15. Rebecca (Sydney) says

    Still looking, still searching, still trying to understand. Too many opinions and viewpoints whispering in my ear. Clearing the mental clutter, as well as the physical, are helping to focus my thoughts and pick up on the sign posts pointing me in the right direction.

  16. Barbara Robinette says

    Though I was brought up in the 1950s in a Protestant church, we were not regular church goers. My dad always believed you could worship God on a golf course or on a walk through the woods. I hated going to church in those years because it seemed so dead and irrelevant to my daily life.

    After my parents saw to it that I was confirmed, we never went to church again as a family. That was just fine with me as I did not want any religion forced down my throat. I enjoyed looking up at the stars in awe of the Creator who set them in place and kept them reliably in place.

    I believed in God but knew nothing about Him, he was “way out there.” Yet, in the 1970s as a young adult in college onto motherhood in the latter part of the decade I increasingly looked for Him. “Where are you?” was my attitude towards God and while I didn’t know him, I knew I would someday die and I knew I had also done wrong things. I wanted to go to Heaven when I died but didn’t know how to live a gentle life. I was often angry to the world around me and to myself for having failed so often.

    One day, unknown to me at that moment, God answered my frequent prayers…when I let go of what I wanted and said to him “Anything you want, God. Anything is better than this.”

    That was over 33 years ago. I hope my faith In God continues to grow. That is one reason I like so much the Becoming Minimalist website as it gives me confidence in going with the “lesser” road rather than with “more is better” road.

  17. says

    I’ve loved reading this. I was a little girl when I became aware of God as a personal being who loved and cared for humanity. I was drawn to worship and adore my Creator – who was this who set us in families and communities, who provided food and shelter, who knew me intimately?

    As I read the stories of the Bible, I became aware of justice, morality, and the need to order human structure because we didn’t always do what was good for others or ourselves. Because God loved us, he set boundaries that would help us care for each other. I learned the 10 Commandments as alignment with God’s character: don’t take his name in vain (he’s bigger than we are and worthy of respect); don’t lie (He’s truth); don’t steal (everything belongs to God so we gratefully accept what he gives and don’t take what’s not ours); don’t commit adultery (God is faithful, so we should be faithful to those around us = stability in human relationships), etc.

    Our happiness and human harmony rested, not on rules that told us what NOT to do, but on the principles behind those guidelines. I fell in love with God. When I married and had kids, we taught them that God is both love and justice: without boundaries there is no true freedom. (i.e.Do we want traffic coming at us every which way, or is it easier to get somewhere with lines on the road?) And embracing boundaries brought grace and favor. Be polite – people will help you and accept your help. Be culturally aware: God has set us in families and nations and everyone learns to cope (our worldview isn’t necessarily the “right” way of doing things.) We have to care for people and nature because God privileges us with his beauty and wealth – the whole, stunning planet-ful.

    This was long already, but one more observation… I’m surprised when people insist that tolerance means saying everything (and anything that we want to do) is ok. Some things hurt us and others. True tolerance and harmony seems to emerge when we accept that our Maker knew what would make us happy, specified those things (for me as a Christian, he’s revealed his nature and plans in the Bible), and given us the freedom to choose whether or not to follow.

    That’s true love and true care for his creatures. I’m happy to be his and invite others into this lovely friendship between our Creator and fellow creations.

  18. says

    Hi Joshua,

    I love this post. It is just the type of spiritual inquiry that I love! I was raised in a family where sleeping in was far more important than taking kids to church. We never went. As a teenager, I followed my friend on a quest to find the “right” church. During the process I became a born-again Christian.

    After a year I realized that wasn’t a good fit for me and one day I just quit going. I never really pursued a religious path again but knew there was a spiritual element of life that I wanted to develop.

    About 10 years ago, I wrote a personal mission statement. I still love and connect with it today and it drives much of what I do…

    Mission: To build and share emotional, spiritual and financial wealth.

    Ree

  19. Joseph says

    Personally I’m a mormon. Having this background along with my personality has led me to develope my spirituality in many ways. And by having spent many hours meditating and philosophizing I’ve come to hold certain values. Among others I truly believe in “minimalism” as a great cause that is positive both on an individual level as well as for society as a whole. Another cause that I would deem honorable and maybe even more essential than “minimalism” is that of “effective altruism” (check out 80000hours.org). Also I’ve become increasingly interested in politics and different means of affecting our world which holds values that I don’t agree with in many cases. I must say I feel the political system as well as the monetary system are quite imperfect and serious improvement but that’s a topic for another day. However I think everybody should meditate and come to terms with what you believe in, what values you hold and what you consider important in life and then strive to emulate that belief.

  20. says

    I was born and raised Baptist. Now, I understand the difference. I now say I’m a Christian, who happens to go to a Baptist church. I have been “burnt” as well, by many legalistic Baptist churches. The flip side to that is churches that are now going the other way with such a casual atmosphere that true reverence seems to be fading away. I am now on a personal journey to find what is closest to the way Jesus was. I’m currently reading the book Twelve Ordinary Men, How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness, and What He Wants To Do With You.

  21. says

    I really liked your last sentence, “God is who God is. And it‘s our responsibility to successfully find Him.” Profoundly simple and true at the same time. Amazing how many people don’t “get” that. For me finding God happened through finding Jesus. He did not say, “No one comes to the Father except through SPIRITUALITY.” Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through ME.” He did not say, “One cannot enter the Kingdom unless he is SPIRITUAL,” but rather He said, “One cannot enter the Kingdom unless he is BORN AGAIN.” I asked Jesus to become not only my Savior, but my Lord four decades ago. I have never looked back. Life has been such an exciting “spiritual” :-) journey ever since then. I highly recommend Jesus for becoming the only kind of Spiritual that will matter in eternity. Blessings, Linda

  22. Eva says

    Is it really our responsibility to find Him? I thought it was our responsibility to convert and seek and God’s grace that we can be found by Him. But this question about who does what is difficult. We have responsibility, the need of initiative is there, but the question is are we giving respons, do we answer God’s calling? Do we listen?

  23. Patrick says

    What comes into our minds when we think about God is NOT the most important thing about us. The most important thing about us is what WE think is most important at any given time in our lives.

    You acknowledge that spirituality is a “touchy topic” that could arouse painful “emotional wounds” for your readers, yet you proceed anyway. That is interesting.

    At risk of voicing “strong opinions” and “intellectual arguments,” your post is riddled with assumptions rooted in a particular understanding of spirituality that alienates some of your readers, including me. You are welcome to your beliefs, but your unsolicited “Beginners Guide to Exploring Spirituality” is condescending. Do you believe that regular readers of a blog about minimalism and intentional living lead unexamined lives? Do you think people who choose to swim upstream against the dominant culture lack spiritual curiosity, insight, or moral courage? Unfortunately, you have underestimated the sincerity, intelligence, and diversity of your audience.

    • Melissa McIntyre says

      Your second sentence reads “The most important thing about us is what WE think is most important at any given time in our lives.” Hmmm….. that’s interesting that you typed that and believe that and then go on to criticize Joshua for the very thing that your sentence just said. Isn’t he a part of your “WE” statement ? It’s his blog, isn’t he entitled to say what HE thinks is most important at any given time in his life? Do you get just as offended when he writes posts geared toward people who are new to minimalism? Do you think “Gosh, Joshua! I already KNOW all of this. You have seriously “underestimated the sincerity, intelligence, and diversity of your audience.” ? I’m guessing probably not. It sounds like what you really MEANT to say was “The most important thing about us is what WE think is most important at any given time in our lives….. unless ” I ” disagree with what you are saying OR it involves “God” OR something else ” I ” don’t agree with.” Do you see how your sentence makes no sense when it is followed by you criticizing Joshua for stating what HE thinks is most important at any given time in his life? On HIS blog. That you don’t HAVE to read. If you find it irrelevant to you and your situation, then don’t read it. Or agree to disagree. But making contradictory statements because you don’t like what was said just makes you sound dumb, which I doubt you are, but that is how your comment came across.

  24. Diaga says

    My spiritual journey began 3 years ago when my twin sister suddenly died of an aneurism. We were 17 at the time. I had been suffering from panic attacks lately when I would begin to contemplate the idea of death. So one day I prayed to god and asked him to help me understand and overcome my fear of death. And left it at that. 2 weeks later my sister died on the same exact day my mothers sister whom she was named after had died years before. The day she went into the hospital was on the 13th and she died a week later on the 20th. I began to look for answers and meaning in all that had happened. I was full of grief, pain, I was confused but I knew that god had a purpose for all of this. So it began with the numbers. 13 symbolizes death and it is the tarot card of the scorpio which we are. It doesn’t always mean a physical death but just an ending of something. And the number 20 which represents judgement, rebirth, starting anew. I knew this was a message to reassure me she was ok. But it hasn’t been until recently that I realized that it was instruction for my life as well. I died as well that day. My whole identity was wrapped into us I never experienced being an individual up until her death. I had no concept of it. And the world was a totally different place for me. I was ackward, alone, and full of pain so I suppressed it with drugs and alcohol for about a year and a half. My life was going down hill. Once I started to let my self grieve and feel the pain of losing her it transformed me. I found myself and in doing that I found god and I can see what life and death is about. They are just different aspects of the same thing. We are the the percieved and the perceiver. We are love, we are god, we are consciousness becoming conscious of itself. It’s a never ending cycle. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed this is what god is! I don’t hold to anyone religion they all attempting to lead us to the same thing. God is infinite and I personally think it’s ignorant to limit ourselves to one idea or belief about god. Sorry if I babbled on but I feel amazing everytime I think about it. God is you and god is me. And we are love. Be blessed !

    • Carrie says

      My heart goes out to you for the loss of your sister. May you find further healing and success on your spiritual journey. I hope I can help a bit by offering some food for thought: We must let religions speak for themselves, and some of them would not agree with your statement that “they are all attempting to lead us to the same thing.”

      Let me give an example from the point of view of Judaism and Christianity. These two religions consider the Bible (just the Tanakh portion in the case of most Jews) their highest authority on spiritual truth. If you become familiar with the Bible, you will notice that while the God of the Bible is the universal Creator and espouses universal moral virtues, He is also a specific entity with a name (usually translated into English as LORD), and He unequivocally forbids His followers to worship any other gods. He asks pointed questions like, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4), gets frustrated at the futility of idol worship (see Isaiah 44:12-20), and challenges false gods to prove themselves (see Isaiah 41:21-24). The Bible is attempting to lead us to this specific entity (the LORD, our Creator), and part of that means rejecting other religions. It’s sort of like when you get married — you expect your spouse to limit himself in certain ways to you alone, not in order to be ignorant or intolerant, but to be faithful.

      I’m not saying this to criticize your beliefs or your understanding of spiritual reality; you are certainly free to understand it in your own way. What I’m getting at is that if you accept, for example, pantheism (everything is God), be warned that you are rejecting Judaism and Christianity, and therefore rejecting the God of the Bible as well as Jesus’s own teachings about God. There’s really no way to get around it.

      Even though you can’t accept all religions at once, here’s the good news: You can and should treat people of all religions with acceptance, love and respect. At least, that’s what my religion teaches. :) You are still young, and hopefully have many years ahead of you to explore, learn, and solidify your perspective. I wish you all truth and joy, and I pray that you will one day be reunited with your sister.

  25. says

    I learned of religion through nine years of parochial school. I learned of spirituality through twenty years of rearing children and twenty years of nursing those with disease. I didn’t understand religion until I understood spirituality. I didn’t understand spirituality until I understood myself. I didn’t understand myself until I understood my children. It is through my children that I truly learned what spirituality meant.

  26. says

    Wow, thank you for starting this discussion, Josh!

    The topic of spirituality has always fascinated me, and I love to hear other people’s perspectives on it. I don’t think anything in life is as important as the search for truth.

    I grew up attending various Protestant churches, and there are a number of aspects of Christianity that I still agree with. There were a few things, though, that didn’t sit well with me, so I haven’t attended church in years.

    Last winter was an extremely dark and challenging time for me, and I was blessed to have a friend who was there for me the entire time. When I asked about it, this friend shared their spiritual perspective, which is much more eclectic, and more abstract. They explained Zen to me, and recommended a couple of books by Thich Nhat Hanh. I found that this fit well with the understandings that I maintained from Christianity, and helped me to learn and grow during such a difficult time in my life.

    I guess my most central thoughts/understandings (I don’t like the word “beliefs,” because that implies that they won’t or can’t change) are that the Universe is larger and more amazing and complex than we could ever comprehend, and that everything is motivated by either love or fear. I think that love and God may well be the same thing, and at our core, love is also who we are.

  27. says

    -I had a Christian up-bringing

    -Lost my childhood faith and was fooled by syncretism (all faiths lead to the same God) and new age for more than a decade.

    -Realized that Christianity is the only faith (not religion!) that leads to true God, the only faith that says you are saved by grace alone, while all the other religions say you must work your own salvation/enlightenment.

    -I still didn’t put all my trust in Jesus Christ. he was my plan B, my last hope. So I went through a trial that I later saw was a huge blessing. I had a brain tumor in the pituitary gland and I was vomiting and sick for a year. It got so bad I was in the hospital in an IV drip for fluids. I was so tired that I would fall asleep in the middle of the day very day and I felt like I was barely alive.

    -One night at home in my bed I realized there was nothing I could do. I wanted to die but I couldn’t because I have a child to take care of. I was backed to a corner with no way out. So I just said: “Lord, here I am, take this mess and do whatever you want. My life is yours.”

    -At that moment I was filled with the Holy Spirit (I didn’t even know that this could happen or what it was) and all my sickness went away and I felt incredible supernatural peace. Next morning I woke up, like a new person. I told my husband: “I think I was healed”. The next day I had a scheduled MRI scan and when the doctor called me she said there was no tumor whatsoever to be found.

    -After this I really began to walk with Jesus Christ every day and he is leading me and helping me in wonderful and sometimes miraculous ways and my trust is in him, with all my life and everything in it. He is a living God and everything the Bible says is true.

  28. Marilene Hunzeker says

    I grew up in a house with two religions. My parents were Catholic and my sibling were LDS (Mormon). My parents always taught us about God and how we didn’t have to be afraid or discouraged about life because the God of Israel would be with us every step of the way, even though my parents taught us about a loving Father in Heaven and his son Jesus Christ they never forced us to go to any church, they just let us choose our own paths.

    My siblings became LDS, and my parents and I followed their foostep later in life and joined the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”. I was raised in Brazil and later in life I was called to serve a LDS mission in the United States. I was called to serve in Florida for 18 months.

    I arrived at my understanding of spirituality while I was serving my mission. Three months into my mission I received the horrible news from home that my dear and oldest brother had been murdered, my world collapsed for a moment. The pain, the anger, the despair and the doubts started to creep in into my soul. For the first time in my life I started to question God and my believe in him but not for long. During my darkest hour I felt his Holy Spirit comforting me with all the love he had to offer, a love so powerful that I will never be able to explain.

    I just knew that I wanted others to feel the same love, the same peace that I felt. I grew up so much spiritually by forgetting about myself and focusing on the spiritual needs of those around me. I loved teaching about our Savior and brother Jesus Christ and about our loving Heavenly Father.

    I will always miss my dear brother who departed so soon from me. I will be forever grateful that my parents planted in my heart in an early age that I was loved by God and that I was never alone. This knowledge has been my anchor in this life.

    This scripture in the Book of Mormon relates well my feelings towards my spirituality “…, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” Helaman 5:12

  29. Gillian says

    As a happy spiritual atheist with interest in Buddhism and Be Here Now, I encourage you to reflect on how using male pronouns for god affects our view of ourselves, others, and the world around us. Constant cultural references to a male god are not innocuous; they are an insidious aspect of gender hierarchy. While I am sure you discussed a male god with no ill intent, it is important to be aware of the beliefs we are perpetuating. For anyone who thinks this is a ridiculous consideration, please ask yourself why you are comfortable excluding half the population (and probably most races) from our divine imagery.

  30. Marya says

    I do believe in God and the after life and I do believe in human dignity and being nice to others. But I do not believe in any particular religion, especially when I see how each religion was or has been used by the hypocrites.

  31. Tori says

    I started my spiritual journey when I was 15. I was just coming of a phase of hating God and claiming to be an atheist (which, you can’t hate God and deny his existence at the same time). I realized I felt most connected to the Spirit when I was out in Nature. I became interested in Pantheism. Since then I have become very interested in exploring many religions and spiritual beliefs. I enjoy reading about paganism (which is not what everyone imagines it to be), Native American beliefs, Buddhism, Taoism, and the teachings of Jesus. I think I will always be slightly agnostic, as there’s so much to take in. However, I am confident that I already know the bases of what I believe in, and I will always be quite spiritual.

  32. jasi says

    I think that God can change from one person to another in respect to their own relationship with God. For example, the person that is my mother is also my father’s wife. She is someone’s friend and another person’s enemy, etc. We are to each other what we need the other to be in our own experience. Certain realities are shared and exist as a mutual understanding (or agreement sometimes) so that we can relate to each other. But these agreements do not make it truth.

  33. says

    I was raised in the Christianisms; my parents dabbled in Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Christian Science, and denomination non-specific paths. I could respect them, but they didn’t feel right to me. I tried on Wicca for a few years and then turned to deism/agnosticism/atheism for my teenage years, but not having a religion was emotionally suffocating in a way that’s hard to describe. I’m now a polytheist, and conduct worship in the way that feels most natural and pure to me. The idea of there being a singular God is something I cannot understand on a pretty fundamental level.

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