Most people think that being spiritual or religious means holding on to something or someone. That's what they think faith means: clinging to unproven beliefs or an unsubstantiated savior.
"Jesus died for our sins." "Guru is God." "There is no God but Allah."
There's no end to religious dogma. An amazing variety of thoughts and world-views are contained in the minds of true believers.
If you can conceive of it, likely someone has faith in it at this moment. So how is it possible to choose which of these countless belief systems is worthy of acceptance, given that they contradict each other and lack evidentiary proof?
My advice: let them all go.
Every single one. Start fresh. Or as fresh as possible, since it's hard to sweep the belief-floor completely clean after a lifetime of religious rubbish has been strewn around.
That's been my goal for the past decade or so – out with the old and in with the new. Which to begin with (and maybe to end with) will be a new that's nothing.
Not an absolute nothing. It's nothing but what is really there. It'll feel like nothing, though, if your spiritual or religious practice used to be founded on ideas, concepts, emotions, imaginings, and beliefs.
Getting rid of clutter, whether physical or mental, can be bittersweet. Bitter, because we get attached to our crap, as useless as it is.
Whenever I'm poised to toss a worn-out shirt in the garbage, or take an unwanted book to Goodwill, there's usually a part of me that says, But maybe I should keep it…
I can't think of any reason to. It just can be hard to let go of familiar objects. And even harder, to let go of familiar beliefs.
Which is where the sweet part comes in, when I do let go. Then I feel the lightness that comes with a reduction in my crap burden. I've gotten rid of something that I didn't need, which means there's more room in my life for useful stuff.
For quite a while I've only been attracted to philosophical or mystical teachings that take the same approach to spirituality: toss out whatever you can.
If it moves, it goes, because reality isn't all the clutter – it's the floor that our mental crap sits on.
As non-Christian as I am, one of the books that sits permanently in my meditation area is Thomas Keating's Open Mind, Open Heart (this is a new edition, which I haven't read, but am confident is as good as the original).
Most mornings I open it up and read a few paragraphs to inspire my churchless soul. Into letting go.
Keating preaches the value of repeating a simple word during a period of contemplation to cut down on the myriad thoughts, religious or secular, that normally fill our minds.
Even that word is to be let go also. It isn't the goal, but rather it represents our intention to reach the source of the stream of consciousness upon which our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perceptions, and what-not float.
The sacred word is not a vehicle or means to go from the surface of the river to the depths. It is rather a condition for going there. If I hold a ball in my hands and let go, it will fall to the floor. I don't need to throw it.
In similar fashion, the sacred word is a way of letting go of all thoughts. This makes it easier for our spiritual faculties, which are attracted to interior silence, to move spontaneously in that direction. Such a movement does not require effort. It only requires the willingness to let go of our ordinary preoccupations.
…The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from Him. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced.
…By training ourselves to let go of every thought and thought pattern, we gradually develop freedom from our attachments and compulsions.
…God's presence is available at every moment, but we have a giant obstacle in ourselves – our world view.
"God," for me, is a synonym for "reality." And that's pretty much the meaning Keating ascribes to the word.
Something remains when all of our ideas and beliefs are let go of. Whatever it is, no name can describe it. But it's real. And here, now.
Just let go. And there, it is.