GOODBYE

Red curtain in theater.

At the close of Mundane & Divine’s third year, it is time to say goodbye. This blog has been a way to keep my mind active and all I can hope is that it has sparked some new thoughts in your mind as well. I hope that the topics discussed here over the past three years will continue to grace conversation. I plan to do my part in furthering these efforts, but in a new way. Thank you for your time, attention, and support.

NEW AGE: A GREEDY SPIRITUALITY?

One of the biggest criticisms of New Age spirituality is its ‘commercial nature’. The criticism gets the most traction with the assumption that the motivation behind all this is money. In my experience, the prices simply allow New Age service providers to live (and not particularly lavishly).

PAYING FOR SPIRITUALITY

The spiritual marketplace and consumerism are considered by many academics to be main components of New Age spirituality. But even suppliers of New Age goods and services find that their consumers come and go, and business isn’t always booming.

MARKETED MEDITATION

There is no shame in introspection or looking to become a better person, but we need to look past the gimmicks and remember that there are no quick fixes.

INFLUENCE V. CONTROL

The question arose, how one could intend and act to either manifest or remove items from their life, without releasing bad karma and in turn risk bad karma coming back in return? One woman had an interesting way of thinking about it. She argued, that you could work to influence something (a person, situation, etc.) without risking adverse karma, but the moment you work to control something, then you’ve gone too far and opened yourself to bad karma.

4TH OF JULY FREEDOM

Dwelling on either the dark or the light denies another part of ourselves. Without fully acknowledging and working to understand both sides, we risk either fearing ourselves or failing to live up to our potential.

ALIVENESS

When our place of worship does not provide aliveness, or worse, works against it with stagnation and decay, the choice to move on is a natural one.

EMOTION CREATING THOUGHT OR THOUGHT CREATING EMOTION

According to Yogananda’s teachings, the goal of meditation was to cease all thought, which can be achieved by letting the heart be still, suspending emotion.

LIGHT & DARK: A STUDY IN SHADOWS

Dwelling on either the dark or the light denies another part of ourselves. Without fully acknowledging and working to understand both sides, we risk either fearing ourselves or failing to live up to our potential.

DETROIT CHURCHES

Rather than being a part of Detroit’s wonderful resurgence, faith centers aim to cope with the dwindling importance of religion.

SOCIAL ISSUES & FAITH

Brown argues that in addition to reasons such as the overall population reduction in Detroit and wide sweeping changes in our culture’s religiosity, churches’ involvement in conservative social issues may be turning parishioners away.

MANY FACES OF LOVE

I feel that if extraterrestrials were to discover earth and observe us, they would conclude that our lives are centered around love. Or perhaps they would determine that a lack of love or the quest for love is central to earthling life. It seems that any way you square it, we are always looking for love, growing love, despising love, or running from love.

THE ROLE OF FEAR IN MAKING RELIGION

In ancient days, people experienced both death and the mystical or spiritual. They turned to the mystical for comfort and answers.

THE ROLE OF HATE IN RELIGION

Religion certainly plays a role in hate and anti-hate rhetoric, but what role does hate have in religion?

THE INTERFAITH AND NEW FAITH MOVEMENTS

Interfaith efforts and New Age practices utilize much of the same subject matter. Both exist to explore various religious traditions. New Agers do so largely to enrich their own spiritual life. Those involved in the interfaith movement explore faith traditions other than their own to make connections across religious boundaries, facilitate understanding, and promote peace.

AN ADVENTURE OF FAITH

Whether the journey is your way of spiritual expression or only something temporary until you find a place to settle, there are a few things to consider.

RELIGIONIZATION OF BACKLASH

It seems that governments and their policies come in waves. Actions and decisions come… and then the backlash follows. We see the religionization of war, politics, and nationalism through history when our understandings were less evolved. The resurgence of this religionization in modern times is backlash from secularism.

TAKING A KNEE

This is one of the most quintessential American principles, to freely voice disagreement and dissatisfaction with our government. This is the right NFL players are exercising. And it is something that must be permitted.

FIRST TIME YOGA JITTERS

First-time jitters are fine to have, but don’t let them keep you from your first class or from having an enjoyable experience.

BRIDGING SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE THROUGH UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

It would be beneficial if we had a way of speaking about spirituality so that all could understand and share their diverse traditions with one another.

INFORMAL SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY

In our busy, mundane lives there is a growing desire to communicate, know, feel, and experience the divine personally. Community becomes no less necessary, but its importance shifts to its functionality as human support rather than divine connection.

SECULARISM & FAITH IN THE HOME

While faith communities and their physical presence is permitted and still a large part of Western society, I feel secularism lends itself to a more intimate sense of faith with respect to the individual and the home.

EXPLORE THE FLIP SIDE

In this time of shorter and darker days, when the leaves change color and fall from the trees, as the world becomes more cold, dark, and dormant, it is a great time to ponder and investigate all things dark. Seek out information not just dark in the way of subject matter, but dark because it is hidden from your understanding.

SPIRITUAL & FINANCAILLY VIABLE

The structured nature of religion is often attributed to its intermingled history with government. And rightly so. However, I think there may be another practical reason for the hierarchy that often comes with religion: monetary income.

THE NEW AGE RELUCTANCE FOR STRUCTURE

Last week I discussed the functionality behind the structure and hierarchy often found in ‘World Religions’. I suggested that this highly organized structure would encourage and help guarantee the financial stability and longevity of such organizations. Logic then follows that the less structured and organic nature of alternative spiritualities would be a disadvantage in this area. This week, I would like to touch on a few reasons why this method of organization (or arguably lack thereof) makes sense for the New Age world and is even beneficial.

AWAKENING FROM FEAR

Rather than living in fear of Hell or endless lives of torment, people are waking up to life with a new outlook.

HOW TO MIX FAITH TRADITIONS: A WITCH’S ADVICE

Here, from a follower of an eclectic spirituality, we hear a solution to help prevent faith traditions from becoming watered down or a global spirituality from forming. Traditions remain intact and separate, but there is freedom for individuals to combine principles from various faiths to create something new and personal.

A REASON TO CELEBRATE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

In a secular society should one be able to go completely unaffected by religious observances and holidays? Freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion. Given the extreme limitations that would have to be imposed in order for this to become a reality, I think such a system would end more freedoms than it would create.

RAISING CHILDREN WITH FAITH

Parents make so many decisions for their children. Should the life-long faith children will grow follow be one of those decisions parents make on their behalf?

FINDING MORE IN LESS: SLOWING DOWN TO GET SPIRITUAL

Is it our increasing busyness that has pushed organized religion to the fringes of society and individuals’ lives? Or has the lessening impact of religion simply left a void that our busyness has grown to fill and exceed?

PAVING THE WAY TO SUCESSFUL RESOLUTIONS

I’d like to go farther than warnings about products that are too good to be true. Instead we’ll discuss adding an extra step in your resolution making process to increase your chances of success.

CHANGING STORIES

These stories include myths, sacred scripture, secular narratives, and fables. They simultaneously capture the climate of a specific time and place, and focus on timeless themes.

THE LONE JOURNEY

When we decide to explore or experience a new faith, we may be tempted to bring others with us on the journey. But at least starting the trip on your own may make a world of difference.

NEW AGE: WHERE A SPIRITUAL DIVERSE WORLD MEETS

Despite their diversity, everyone enjoyed themselves and found something to appreciate from the afternoon together. This happy outcome seems all to rare amongst openly diverse groups. So, what makes it work in the ‘New Age’ crowd?

ORGANIZED RELIGIONS & MILESTONES

Why would milestone events hold a closer relationship with identity than more common, everyday actions?

INSTITUTIONALIZING FEAR

Imagine for a moment that we institutionalize fear of the other. If we create measures to separate, alienate, and ostracize those different from us, what does the fallout look like?

IN OR OUT OF THE CLOSET?

The number of members of religious organizations and those who identify with a faith has fallen since religion was largely sequestered to the private sphere. But occult and mystic belief systems have not only survived, but are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence in recent years under the rise of ‘New Age’.

WHAT MATTERS MOST

Advertisers have sold products to the American public again and again with promises of love and happiness that will follow using the product. We have been trained to believe this, and in benefit of the capitalist system, many work for more and more income to spend on more and more things only to find out this doesn’t bring more and more happiness.

WITHOUT RELIGIOUS ROOTS

Consider the benefits of raising a child in a defined religion versus letting them find their own way on the spiritual journey.

PULLING OUT THE WEEDS

You cannot expect an ideology to be applied in a troubled society and expect it to be a cure-all.

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Inevitably we will come across people and situations that are outside or realm of comfort, and even contrary to our beliefs. Rather than shy away from these situations and run back to the refuge we have created, we should stick around and try to learn something new.

A TIME FOR THE SPIRITUAL

It may help to reflect on how most everything works in cycles of activity and rest. The natural world reflects this and we need to stop fighting it in the interest of our go, go, go society.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SPIRITUAL PRACTICE IN IDENTITY & SENSE OF SELF

The self evolves and changes. Our day to day experiences often drive that need for change. But spiritual practice can manifest that need into a reality.

THE AMERICAN DREAM: FAST TRACK TO SUCCESS OR ILLNESS?

While religion often promotes the balance, our secular ideologies often do not.

AMERICANS & HOLIDAY OVERLOAD

Australians enjoy their holiday. They do many of activities we do, but on a much smaller scale. They will get together for a special meal, but much of the hustle and bustle is missing. Both are Westernized, secular nations with disposable income up for grabs, so what is the difference?

SPIRITUALITY IN THE INFORMATION AGE

While our current methods of gaining information may keep us up to date on current events and the political climate of our nation, they do not foster spiritual growth.

THE SECULAR DIVIDER: POLITICS

It is far more difficult for people to ‘opt out’ of politics than religion in our society

THE DE FACTO FACTOR

In Australia, I have encountered far more couples in their 20s and 30s electing for a de facto relationship compared to their American counterparts. Let’s explore some of the factors contributing to this difference.

PRODUCTIVITY FOR THE AVERAGE JOE

Our obsession with productivity has lasted and if anything amplified in the digital age. It isn’t just corporate big wigs interested in productivity. It has become a topic individuals are concerned with.

SMALL TOWN MEDITATION WORRIES

What is it about our area that makes it less ready for meditation? And what is it about meditation that is so difficult to accept into the community?

THE GIFTS & TRAILS OF SECULARISM

While secularism has its challenges, we should be thankful for the choices it provides. It allows for the interplay of the mundane and divine to play out organically, ready for the individual to navigate at their will.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE GIFTS & TRIALS OF SECULARISM

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Secularism offers the opportunity for many religions and spiritual traditions to be practiced by citizens. While the opportunity exists, it does not guarantee equal influence of visibility in the wider world. The spiritual inclinations of the majority will still be prevalent in the mainstream culture. And it may be difficult for those practicing less prominent traditions to escape the shadow of the majority. But with freedom and choice as a constitutional right, it is possible with dedication.

Citizens get to practice freely because no official religion is designated by the government, which also provides that religious institutions do not intervene in government affairs. In this way government is not intertwined with any religious body, but spiritual notions still have influence over government proceedings. While we have ‘separation of church and state’ regarding institutions, people carry their spiritual beliefs with them in how they work with others and the decisions they make. We must remember that people and governments don’t operate in a vacuum. There is plenty of informal mingling between the mundane and divine.

This is not a flaw of secularism. People should integrate their personal beliefs into their entire lives. The fact that the spiritual inclinations of individuals can and will affect public policy is okay because of our democratic system. We choose what individuals influence will be a factor in government decisions with our votes. We define and redefine our world on an individual level and elect representatives to do so for the collective. This is the world secularism offers us. Not absolute separation, but distance and the means to choose what elements get the most influence.

While secularism has its challenges, we should be thankful for the choices it provides. It allows for the interplay of the mundane and divine to play out organically, ready for the individual to navigate at their will. The commentary on these choices and the journey they provide is an interesting one, one that I hope will continue.

SMALL TOWN MEDITATION WORRIES

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At the yoga studio I teach at, we recently had a teacher meeting to go over the studio schedule, summer changes, etc. We currently offer a class that consists of ‘gentle yoga’ with 15 minutes of meditation. There has been some desire and discussion amongst the teachers to offer a class dedicated to meditation. So naturally, this class came up in conversation and the question if it should become a class solely for meditation. The studio owner chimed in that she didn’t think our area was ready for a full meditation class. None of the teachers disagreed, myself included. After all, the owner is better acquainted with trends and attendance in the studio, and we’ve all experience closed minded people in the community. The general consensus is that our area is fairly conservative, and that poses a problem when it comes to offering a dedicated meditation class. But that ruling got me thinking. What is it about our area that makes it less ready for meditation? And what is it about meditation that is so difficult to accept into the community?

Our area is conservative with respect to the fact there is little diversity concerning race or religion. Every place of worship is some variety of Christian and white people make up the clear majority (94% of the county). With such a lack of diversity, anything different or alternative to the norm is seen as evil or dangerous. And meditation is so different, mainly because of its association with and its role within Eastern religions. There is nothing unconventional about the practice itself. But its associations give it an exotic flair. People are not ready for meditation because of how they imagine it, not due to first-hand knowledge. I feel that if people gave it a try, this area would be ready for meditation to have a bigger foothold in the community. Nothing can replace the value of first hand experience. But until people are brave enough to give it a try and operate under their own experience rather than collected misconceptions and myths, there will not be a place for a standing meditation class in the community for another generation. Time and the shift of generational trends will be the only vehicle for change.

PRODUCTIVITY FOR THE AVERAGE JOE

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The industrial revolution got the world thinking about productivity in a new way. American ingenuity seemed to go a step further with the wide application of the assembly line. Our obsession with productivity has lasted and if anything amplified in the digital age. It isn’t just corporate big wigs interested in productivity. It has become a topic individuals are concerned with. I recently read a magazine article written for mothers looking to boost their productivity. While some of the article was geared toward working mothers, much of the content was on boosting productivity concerning home and family. The emphasis was on finding a way to achieve all professional, personal, and family responsibilities and goals.

Productivity is no longer just a concern for shareholders looking to increase the bottom line or ambitious workers looking to climb the corporate ladder. Regular people are looking to do more in hopes of not just gaining financially, but to make gains in satisfaction, peace and happiness. Making the most of our time is widely seen as the way to achieve these things. I would agree with that… to a point. I think these things can be achieved through increased productivity, if it means one can truly rest during down time and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Increased productivity during working time means nothing if it doesn’t provide a deeper sense of rest and peace during down time. It is also worth considering the reverse relationship: with increased restfulness during down time, our working time will be more productive as a result.

Curiously enough, the importance of rest and relaxation in regards to increasing productivity was not mentioned in the article. This reflects the wider trend in America to ignore half a principle, and over exploit the other half. Something that was not inherently bad to begin with, becomes tainted by a lack of balance.

THE DE FACTO FACTOR

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In Australia, I have encountered far more couples in their 20s and 30s electing for a de facto relationship compared to their American counterparts. I’m not talking about couples that cohabitate for a few years before getting hitched. I’m talking about couples that live together without getting married for a decade or more. Many never get married. But that doesn’t stop them from living a full life together. They buy homes and have children together, these acts are not seen as taboo by the general populous. They are celebrated events, supported by family and friends. So why is this de facto phenomena not as widespread in the U.S.?

The first reason is the higher rates of religiosity amongst Americans. Religious morals often dictate rules on cohabitation. And it is often left to parents to teach these morals to their children through vigilant policing and even condemnation when the child chooses not to follow. American parents may choose a more neutral approach. Here the, ‘not under my roof’, principle comes to mind. Choosing to neither condemn nor support packs on less guilt, but it makes for some awkward moments to say the least.

The other reason is secular in nature and focuses on things more practical in nature. Housing costs are dramatically higher in Australia. It makes far more financial sense to share costs with a significant other despite marriage status. In some cases, it is necessity. With cheaper living in the U.S., it is much more realistic to maintain sperate living situations. Healthcare is another consideration. Australia has universal healthcare (though not a single payer system) so that every citizen is guaranteed affordable care. In the U.S., affordable care comes from insurance provided through an employer. Either through your own employer, your parents employer (if you are under 26 years of age), or your spouses employer. In this scenario it is often a necessity to have insurance through a spouse, perhaps encouraging marriage. Where this necessity would never arise I Australia.

While the differences in religiosity between the two countries is dramatic, the logistic factors are too strong to dismiss and I believe they are the primary reasons for more de facto living in Australia. The different secular structures of each country provides different climates for their citizens to navigate. Though both are developed Western nations, their subtleties create different patterns of living.

THE SECULAR DIVIDER: POLITICS

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There is no doubt that spiritual inclination and religious membership can divide Americans. But as Americans steep themselves in the divine less and less, polarizing moments due to spiritual beliefs become less frequent. Also, our exposure to the global world and its diverse faith traditions makes us more apt to live and let live when it comes to religion. Disagreements surrounding politics however seem to be growing in frequency.

It is far more difficult for people to ‘opt out’ of politics than religion in our society. Religion is often seen as a matter of preference, but attitudes toward those uninvolved in politics are often more damning. In many cases, the lack of an opinion or the refusal to fight for that opinion makes you an irresponsible citizen. Currently, politics is the biggest hotbed for polarization. Divisions amongst citizens are drawn by party lines, by candidate, by what bills and budgets. By these trials, amicable family relations become strained and friends become foes. When they can, people often hide within groups of like-thinkers. This allows them a fertile place to justify the conclusions they already have, avoid conflict, gain confidence, and brainstorm on how to further the shared agenda.

None of these things are inherently bad. But spending large amounts of time with like-thinkers cuts down on time interacting with the wider world and their various viewpoints. In extreme circumstances, our extreme selectiveness in terms of the company we keep can thwart our ability to interact with anyone that isn’t just like us. When that happens, we endanger our ability to think critically and logically as well as our ability to ‘get along’ with others. These are the same elements conventional religions are often criticized for. Regardless of the subject matter, blinders should not be required or encourage for any allegiances, political, religious, or otherwise.

 

SPIRITUALITY IN THE INFORMATION AGE

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Never before have we had access to so much information. But it hasn’t made us better informed or deepened our understanding. Instead we know a little about a lot of things. We catch headlines here and there. We might read an article or watch a video of interest. But gone are the days where everyday people spend great time finding information and devote ourselves to studying it. That is something left to largely to scholars. This affects many areas, but I believe it has been especially detrimental to people’s spiritual life.

While our current methods of gaining information may keep us up to date on current events and the political climate of our nation, they do not foster spiritual growth. For that we need regular practice, both in solitude and with the support of others on a similar journey. The information age does little to encourage either of these methods. With mobile phones and social media, we are expected to be plugged-in as producers or consumers at all times. Alone time must be fought for. Further, videos, blog posts, and forums rarely produce close knit, spiritual communities needed to foster growth. Not to say these things can’t be helpful or play a part in spiritual life, but there is an innate meaning in human interaction and dedicated study that is missing from our digital means.

If we are to be active citizens in today’s world, technology must have a part in our lives, including our spiritual lives. But it should not be the answer to our most critical questions and deepest desires. Instead, the tools of the information age should be utilized as a directory to seek out interesting groups, meaningful relationships, thoughtful works, and intriguing events rather than a buffet for our spiritual appetite. Five-minute videos and blog posts may peak our curiosity, but they alone cannot sustain a spiritual life. Technology can be an aide and supplement to tried and true methods of quiet study, introspection, collective practice, and respectful discussion.