To my surprise, a growing number of kids my age are pursuing a more spiritual existence.
I always thought my generation was characterized by our rebellion against organized religion. Equal parts teen angst and rationalism, this trend towards a more secular youth seems natural considering the increased role of science and technology in our lives.
But now, I’ve found that more of my friends, who previously had no religious affiliation, have adopted spiritual practices as a part of their daily routines. One of my friends left school and joined a yoga ashram, and another became certified as a reiki practitioner (a form of energy healing). By spiritual practices, I’m generally speaking of nondenominational, non-Western means of enlightenment, such as yoga, meditation, reiki, qigong, and holistic medicine.
Our generation’s secular trajectory has splintered off into a group that rejects Western religion and promotes a more Eastern ideal of oneness with nature. It’s not in my interest to judge the validity of these practices, because whether or not they work, they’ve changed the lives of my friends for the better.
As someone who is neither spiritual nor religious, I hate the question but have to ask: What am I?
I was raised Jewish, but I don’t practice the faith. I don’t consider myself an atheist, nor am I agnostic. I don’t believe in past lives and reincarnation, and yet, I attribute some sort of higher meaning to my existence. I believe that life is too great a thing to be experienced only on a physical level.
So again I ask: What am I?
Here’s where I see the appeal of nondenominational spirituality. For me, organized religion presents too many rules that limit personal expression and reduce the importance of the individual. A blog post on CNN argues that the “I’m spiritual but not religious” movement is a cop-out because it avoids answering fundamental questions, such as whether or not God exists. I disagree. It’s not a cop-out but a more free-form way of appreciating the interconnectivity between humans and nature.
And still, I’m not sold. If I wanted to live a more spiritual lifestyle, I would start meditating, practice yoga, undergo energy healing sessions, and read Eastern philosophical texts. But what’s the difference between Eastern and Western philosophy? How is it that you can teach meditation or be certified as an energy healer? As free-form as this spiritual movement is, there are just as many rules to be followed and cultural constructs to be applied as are found in organized religions. This isn’t a criticism of the spiritual movement but an explanation as to why it isn’t for me.
So what am I?
Between my temple-going parents and downward-dogging friends, I feel misunderstood. Just because I subscribe to neither organized religion nor common spiritual practices, doesn’t mean I don’t have beliefs. And just because I can’t name those beliefs, doesn’t mean they’re not important.
Whether or not you enjoyed P.T. Anderson’s The Master, consider the following quote from the film: “If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master, be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world.”
Maybe I should rephrase my question and instead ask: Who is my master? As someone who neither prays nor meditates but still seeks enlightenment, I would like to answer that I am the master of this life, or at least that is what I strive to be.