What is the purpose of religion and spirituality? Ask a dozen people and you may get a dozen different answers, but three major themes come up again and again: 1. To cultivate a right relationship with the Divine, 2. To become a better person on a deep level, 3. To become better able to serve in the world.
When I was growing up as a devout girl in a non-denominational Protestant church, these three aspects of spirituality were presented as interlocking parts of a complete system. Through cultivating a right relationship with God, I became a better person, and a result of that I was inspired to behave ethically in the world. But when I got older and found myself outside the church, I seldom found those three aspects presented in such a neat package. In fact, it was rare to find all three elements in one place, which confused and sometimes frustrated me. It has only been during the past few months that I have come to understand that they are in fact distinct areas of focus.
Each of these elements and the practices which support them are complex and rich enough to take a whole book to discuss them. I don’t want this post to be too long, so I’m going to provide some introductory thoughts for now and address each in more detail in future entries.