991: 5 Reasons Why Spirituality Makes People Uncomfortable

Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


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What you will learn in this episode:

  • How ego is challenged by spirituality
  • How spirituality questions comfort
  • 5 reasons why spirituality is unnerving to people


Good Morning Travelers and welcome to your morning zen commute. I am your host Thom Walters, and this is ZEN commuter.  Your weekday aimed at moving your forward peacefully, helping you live a calmer more satisfying life.

Today’s episode is brought you in cooperation with Love with Food, supplying you with healthy snacks that are free from artificial chemicals, preservatives and sweeteners.  Zen commuter listeners get $2.00 off their first subscription box by going to zncommute.com/zenfood today.  My friends, zen commuter is a meditation podcast, but it’s not just a meditation podcast.  It’s also about helping you live a calmer, more satisfying life…it’s right in the tagline, it is the tagline.  And while meditation can help you become calmer, there are other things that can as well.  For instance, many philosophies has ease suffering and anxieties.  So can many spiritual practices.

But what exactly does the word spiritual mean, and more importantly, why do people get all weirded out when they hear the word spiritual.  That’s what I want to talk about today.  Friday I talked about the difference between religion and spirituality, and today I want to focus solely on spirituality.  And you might be wondering why.  Since I don’t keep anything hidden on Zen commuter, i’ll tell you.  I want ZEN commuter to be your source for meditation instruction.  It’s my goal to help as many people as possible, experience all the benefits from a mindfulness practice.  I want them to develop a consistent meditation practice.  The reason is clear; you will become better than you already are, and you will help the world become more peaceful.  But aside from meditation I want us to explore different philosophies that have the same goal, peace and calm.  And I also want us to explore spirituality, in a way that is casual.

That is the reason for today’s episode.  To help get everyone on the same page when it comes to the word spirituality.  Because frankly, the word spiritual freaks people out.  Today I am going to discuss 5 reasons why the word and concept of spirituality makes people uneasy.

Before we get into that though, I want to take a minute to thank the listeners of the show that help keep it running.  Those people are the ones that support ZEN commuter on patreon with a monthly donation from anywhere to $1 up to $50.  They know that ZEN commuter adds value ti their lives, and accordingly want to help keep it going.  For those of you that feel the same way and want to help support the show that supports your life, simply go to patreon.com/zencommuter and support the show with a monthly contribution, anywhere from 1$ to 50$.  By doing so you will ket access to content that is not available to regular zen commuter listeners.  Content like guided mediations, help with your practice and interviews with noted mindfulness though leaders.  Become a super fan of the show and head on out to patreon.com/zencommuter.  Now lets get on with our topic for today: 5 reasons why spirituality makes people uncomfortable.

#1 It’s not clear what it is

As I discussed on Friday, religions have very set standards and beliefs.  Spirituality does not.  It is not a group practice, it’s the exact opposite, it’s personal, and accordingly, unclear.  If some one was to tell you that they were Catholic, Muslim or Jewish, you would have a fair idea what that meant.  You might not know all the beliefs, but you would have some idea about that person’s spiritual life, and how it enters into their day to day life.

Most peoples minds yearn for order and control, and both those things are easier to obtain when we are able to quantify and label things.  Because spirituality is so personal it doesn’t allow for labeling and quantification.  While that is a good thing overall, it is something that makes many people uncomfortable.

#2 Conversion

As I will talk about in the next reason a little more in depth, many people’s identity is defined by their religion.  Because spirituality seems like such a nebulous concept, many people consider it “religion lite” or don’t consider it worthy of consideration at all.  Many even deem spirituality to be godless and therefor liken it to something dark.  At times, those with a firm religious belief feel that those who are spiritual will try and persuade them to abandon their denomination and embrace spirituality.  This of course is paranoid thinking.

#3 Spirituality attacks the Ego

As I mentioned in depth last week, we create an understanding/misunderstanding of who we are based on a variety of labels.  Our fearful minds create an ego so that we feel able to define who we are, and how we are different and better than others.  This fear based process is a weak attempt to stay in a group, and more so, climb to the top of the pecking order of the group to be able to maintain inclusion in that group and therefor remain safe.  One of the seemingly most powerful labels that is used to determine who we are, is the label of religion or denomination.  Many people who cling to their ego, also cling to the definitions that they believe make up who they are.  All these beliefs, in their minds, are the “right way” to live.  When you surround yourself with those who think like you do, you feel safe.  You are a solid group of people all living life in the “correct” manner.  Your ego finds safety in numbers of people all believing like you do. Therefore, since spirituality is more personal than collective, the ego is put off because it does not share a belief pattern.

Before we continue with the last two reasons why people feel uncomfortable with the word spiritual, lets take a moment learn how Love with Food is helping you stay healthy.  With the spring here and summer not far away, many people are trying to get leaner and healthier.  They are becoming more active and watching what they eat at meal times.  Do you know where people get tripped up? With snacks.  in between their healthy meals they snack on a variety of foods that are absolutely void of nutrition.  One trip to the vending machine at work and you can easily derail your fitness and nutrition goals by eating highly processed foods that are even higher in artificial sweeteners and ingredients.  Love With Food helps you snack in a way that is healthier for you.  Each month they send you a subscription box with a variety of snacks that are healthy and nutritious, without chemicals and artificial sweeteners.  If you find a snack or two that you like, you can by a larger quantity from their snack shop, at a discount.  Personally, I just like getting different snacks each month.  ZEN commuters get $2.00 off their first subscription box simply by ordering your first one at zncommute.com/zenfood today.

Now let’s get back to understanding the last two reasons why the word and concept of spirituality makes people uneasy.

#4 Judgment

There are people who actually look up to those who are on a path that is spiritual as opposed to religious.  However, for whatever reason, perhaps family pressure, these people continue to belong to their religion.  When they meet someone who self-references themselves as spiritual, the person who is religious, feels judged, because they feel they are following a religious practice instead of creating their own belief system.  They personalize the interaction with the spiritual person and there feel judged.

Another example along the same lines has to do with people who are not religious at all.  Whether you define yourself as one religion or another, many people are not that religious.  They belong to a denomination in name only, they don’t practice many of the religious doctrines of that sect.  When they meet someone who has a strong spiritual connection, they feel judged, incorrectly thinking, that the spiritual person deems them to be less evolved because they do not have a strong spiritual or religious connection.

#5 Uncovers Emptiness

This last reason has to do with spirituality and religion and is similar to the last one.  There is comfort in living life unexamined.  Many people consciously and unconsciously shield themselves from thinking deeply.  They distract themselves at every turn to keep from thinking about their connection to the Universe and, more personally, to their own mortality.  They have no desire to think about these things.  Whether we want to think about our connection or not, it is a basic drive in all of us, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or push it away.  We all wish to understand.  When people who do not want think about their connection or mortality are introduced to religious people or spiritual people, they feel conflicted, and accordingly, unsettled.  They want to believe that life is simply what happens day to day.  They want to stand steadfast in the belief that their is nothing other than this human life.  And yet when they meet someone who is religious or spiritual, it reminds them that there is something else, life is more than the daily grind.  This is obviously conflicting, and therefore brings up anxiety, all from meeting someone who is connect to their spirit or religion.  The interaction has them feeling empty.

Of these 5 reasons, the one I think is the most powerful, is number #3.  For those who live solely in the grip of the ego, their labels are their very identity.  They can’t see themselves as anything other than the categories they assign themselves to, including religion or even lack of religion.  The ego is frail, and therefore wants as many people as possible to believe what it does.  in our case here, its religion.  To an ego, anything that is different, is trying to discredit the foundation of what it is based on.  This perception by the ego is inaccurate and based of course in fear. Anyone thinking differently is seen as opponent trying to weaken the underpinning of self.  This falsehood obviously creates anxiety.

For us to calmly and curiously explore the depth of spirit, we need to realize the reasons why spirituality is perceived as off-putting.  No topic, including spirituality, needs to be unsettling when we understand that people can exist harmoniously even if they are of different beliefs.  The human ego is the cause of anxiety when religion and/or spirituality are brought up.

So my friends, I hope you found today’s episode helpful and thought-provoking.  For our lives to be calm and full, we need to feel comfortable investigating our beliefs.  What you believe now may be different than what you felt earlier in your life. And that’s because something in your experience had you re-examine what you felt.  Think about it.  In the meantime, I am going to have you finish up your commute thinking about the things I talked about.  I will be back tonight with 5 Minute Mojo.  What am I going to discuss there?  Today I am going to be addressing why you get fired from jobs.  As you might expect, it’s not the reason you think.  so come back and listen to that.  But for now this is Thom Walters for ZEN commuter, signing off, saying, make the rest of your day absolutely spectacular.

Thom WaltersComment