Are you religious? No? Me neither, honestly. I like the idea of religion and I sometimes feel envious of people who get to have a community that they feel part of, and I even often envy the idea that other people have an obvious purpose bestowed upon them by their belief in God. But one thing I don’t feel envious of religious people for is their spirituality – because I have it too. Spiritually is often portrayed as being inextricably linked with religion: you can’t be spiritual unless you believe in some kind of higher power. For me, this argument is about as persuasive as the argument that people can’t be moral without religion. That is to say, it doesn’t persuade me at all.
Spirituality is, at its core, about finding meaning in your life. It’s about believing in the important of something beyond your own self-interest. It’s about introspection and quiet moments of reflection. These moments of reflection can take the form of prayer to a God, but they can also take the form of meditation or just taking some time to think about what you’re doing with your life and how you’re planning to get to wherever it is that you want to be.
One of the best ways to find some kind of spirituality is by figuring out what you believe the end you’re pursing in life is. What I mean by that is, to figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing in your day to day life. What is it that you’re pursuing? You might be living in order to provide a happy home for your family, you might be living in order to alleviate worldwide poverty, you might be living in order to make great things that other people can enjoy. It doesn’t much matter what it is, and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t immediately seem supremely important in the context of the world, what matters is that you’re able to say: this is it. This is my purpose, and I’m living to accomplish it. This is what religious people have in their religion, and you can find in something else.
Meditation is also important when thinking about how to be spiritual. Taking that time to focus on yourself and your experiences and your feelings accomplishes roughly the same thing as prayer, and that’s so important for your mental wellbeing. Meditating is a way of taking some time out and being with yourself.
Another aspect of spirituality that’s important in the lives of religious people is community: when a religious person goes to Church or Synagogue or whatever it is, they have a community of people who they know care about them and are interested in their lives. Non-religious people can find communities of friends in the form of societies, clubs, interest groups, etc. Finding a community that cares about you is a great way to bolster your mental health.
Being spiritual is important for everyone. Finding a quiet moment to reflect, finding a purpose in life, and finding a community that cares about you and loves you. If you can do these things, you can have all the benefits of spirituality that religious people have without having to become religious yourself (if you don’t want to!)