Sunday, June 16, 2013

Getting your bearings on the spiritual terrain

Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with P...
Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant) early October 1889, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana (F641 ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Atheism. Agnosticism. Spiritual but not religious-ism. Traditional religion. Reformed religion. Conservative religion.  Liberal religion. New religion. Agnostics who are spiritual but not religious. Religions that claim to be both traditional and liberal. Conservative religions that claim to be reformed. And in the midst of these and so many more options, chilly relations mix with loads of hot air, stirring up currents of thought and emotion that blow over the social landscape and portend more storms on the horizon. That herald further reshaping of how people understand the past and imagine the future.

What is the value of tradition and continuity? What are the risks of new revelations and interpretations? Is it necessary to find the right community with which to practice or the right guide to help you along the path? If so, how do you know which ones are right? How much do you have to study to really appreciate the real value or insights of a particular tradition or community? Is there a "genuine" core of experience and thought at the heart of such a tradition? Is it similar or even the same as the core of other traditions? Or is it better to go it alone when confronting the larger issues of living and of human existence? Is there value in such an examination of our lives, or is it just a waste of time? How can one go beyond just thinking or writing about such traditions, communities, and practices? How does one find and embrace authenticity? How does on really "get it"?

This past April marked the 8th anniversary since the beginning of this blog, my first attempt at blogging (I was hesitant to adopt the platform after seeing the much of the promise of message boards go really wrong). The above issues and questions, I think, reflect some of the stronger or more common underlying considerations for I've blogged about in my attempts to appreciate or understand what people (in post-Enlightment/Western or Western-influenced) societies mean by "spirituality" and "religion". In a way this is consistent with my larger life long interest in learning in general, and in understanding what we know/how we know it in particular.

One of things I've discovered is how many layers of misunderstanding and misuse there are for "spirituality" and "religion" along with related terms, concepts, attitudes, beliefs, rituals (and other practices), myths/narratives, and institutions. We take certain aspects of what we label as spirituality or religion, break them off, and use them to represent the whole range of what the spirituality and religion represent. (Check out this succinct summary of how I tend to see them -- I may need to write a book in order to develop and represent the larger vision of spirituality and religion that the summary and the contents of this blog suggest.)

Having familiarized myself largely with Christianity (beyond the contemporary evangelical fundamentalist perspective) and Buddhism, with smatterings of Taoism, Hinduism, and so on through many years of reading, discussion, debate, and even practice, I am of course in no real position to be telling anyone what to believe or why they ought to believe it. Nor am I any more of an expert than the many people who blog or write the books on the subject that occupy the space in the spirituality and religion section of your local bookstore. But those experiences and access to a blog give me as much of a chance to put my thoughts out there on the topic as anyone, even if there is less chance of those thoughts getting in front of people's eyeballs.

But you also learn from such efforts at trying to understand and describe your own concerns and confusion, as well as the times when you thought you were clever. And that insight can be of use to others who are exploring or who have become stuck while diving into the same issues. That's one reason I leave the blog up even if I haven't posted in nearly a year. And it's something that draws me back in, at whatever frequency, to get and share my bearings on my own journey and to listen to others sharing their own updates. I've been away for a while, which always helps with perspective.

Over the next week or two I'll be sharing a little of what the spiritual terrain looks to me at the moment if I take the time to stop to look around. I'd love it if you shared some of your own perspective as well. There's plenty of room in the comment area! ;o)
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