Spirituality is, to me, the opposite of religion. Both are alike in that they are a search for profound meaning in life, but after that, their meanings diverge. Religion is embedded in an institution, with formal doctrines, rules, dogmas, hierarchies, and levels of power. One “belongs” to a religion by saying yes to its creeds and assenting to its doctrinal teachings.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is informal and individual. It is not a product, like the package surrounding a given faith, but instead a process. Spirituality is like a journey, and everyone is in the caravan somewhere. Some people long to link up with others and share their experiences or questions along the way. Others travel alone. Some find meaning along the way in talking with others. Others of us do our work best in silence.
At night, everyone needs rest when on a journey. Some of us gather around the campfire. We eat together, sharing food from our backpacks. We sing and make music. Some dance. Some huddle together and bounce insights off one another. Some of us give back-, neck-, and leg-rubs to those whose bodies are especially weary and in need of touch.
That fellowship in the dark with only the light of a campfire and the stars and moon to guide us is the UU church. We keep each other warm. We help other stragglers as they find our camp. If we hear someone crying in the dark, a few of us will go out to find them. We will offer them food, solace, company, and a place to rest with us. We are a place that tries to help others find healing for their wounds. That is our fellowship.
What you saw and learned that day on your journey is yours to share with others if you wish. Or you can ponder it in your heart. All of us have a relationship with the numinous, times when we inhabit liminal space. Liminal space is in-between space shifting between the concrete and the ineffable. And the numinous is that which is mysterious, too deep to speak in words, usually captured only by a feeling, an intuition, a flutter of insight at the edge of one’s consciousness. We hear it in our music and see it in our art. We know the numinous when we feel that something is true for us. Sharing our experiences of liminal space when we apprehend the numinous is the most deeply spiritual experience we have. That is when we answer questions like, What is the meaning of life? Do we have a purpose here? Is death the end of existence? What is our relationship with the earth, growing, living, dying, and living again in its cycles? Are we alone?
So spirituality is fluid, differing from each individual to the next but not so different we can’t talk about it, and in the end, it is what motivates us to get up the next morning and set forth on our journey again. It is the heart of who we are and what we do as a fellowship.