Religion is crowd control. To be involved in a religion requires adherence to its dogma, in action, word, and deed (and usually dress). Religion requires a belief in someone else’s experience, and discourages you having your own. It’s about following rules, and coloring inside the lines. At best, religion points us in the direction of a higher power, as worst, it insists that higher power can only be reached through its methods or clergy, thus completely denying a personal connection with the Divine.
Spirituality is a personal relationship with the Divine, without a middleman. Yes, you can be religious and spiritual at the same time, but it’s not common. Why? Religion focuses outward for the answers (Holy books, messiahs, rituals), whereas spirituality focuses inward (be still and listen, know thyself). In spirituality we learn to determine right from wrong using our own inner moral compass, instead of following an external list of directives. If we all developed and relied on this internal compass, many interactions would be quite different. We all know war feels wrong, yet we follow orders of an outside source instead of listening to our own inner truth, primarily because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.
Metaphysics are principles of reality that we currently have no way to measure. As science advances we will develop ways to measure subtle energy, and metaphysics will become physics. Quantum physics is well on its way to uniting the scientific and spiritual realms by studying, measuring, and documenting metaphysical principles.
Mysticism is like spirituality on acid. It takes the personal relationship with the Divine to a whole new level. After you’ve experienced even a glimpse, poems by Rumi and Hafiz start to make sense in a whole new way. Words can’t even approach the experience. I think mystical experiences just happen; there’s not much you can do to encourage it, except maybe develop your own spirituality.
Developing your spirituality is like developing anything else, it takes time and commitment. No, this isn’t about drudgery and discipline (that’s religion), it’s about developing a new relationship with your own soul. If you get a new puppy, take it home and play with it for a week, then just leave it in the backyard and ignore it, you will never have an actual relationship with that dog. If you spend time with it on a regular basis, care for its needs, and play with it, the relationship grows into a loving bond. Forming a relationship with the Divine takes your active participation, as does any relationship.
Active participation will look different to everyone, as we are all very different people. Maybe it’s a silent prayer of thanks before each meal, maybe it’s a long walk in the woods each week, maybe it’s meditation three times a week, maybe it’s a regular yoga class, maybe it’s writing a gratitude list in your journal every night… there is no “right” way to connect, but you have to make time for it somewhere in your life. You must be present to win.
If it still seems daunting, start with your breath; conscious breathing brings your attention inward, and reminds us that every breath is sacred. Try this: Inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath in for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold the breath out for 4 counts, repeat sequence for at least three minutes. If you take the time to breathe consciously a few times each day, your life will begin to shift. And if you do this three times a day you’re setting aside time for this new relationship with the Divine. Best 9 minutes you’ll spend all day. It doesn’t take a huge commitment, just a willingness to connect and grow.