The Being & The Doing EPISODE 26:
Spiritual but not Religious: Yes it’s a thing
Spiritual but not religious (SBNR) is the fastest growing faith category. But what does that really mean? In this episode I’m in conversation with author Anne Bokma about her year long exploration of spiritual practices in search of a more soulful life outside the bounds of religion.
*A full transcript is at the bottom of the page.
[Website] Anne Bokma
You can learn more about Anne on her website.
Her book, My Year of Living Spiritually: From Woo-woo to Wonderful One Woman’s Secular Quest for a More Soulful Life is available in bookstores or on Amazon.
[Blog] How to Create a DIY Meditation Space
Check out this blog with tips on setting up a spiritual space in your own home.
Something to think about:
What role does spirituality play in my life?
Something to try:
Have a conversation with someone on the topic of “spiritual but not religious”.
Is it really a thing or is it simply a way to get away from the discipline of religious dogma?
What practices could be considered as spiritual ones?
It’s a great way to deepen your perspective on this idea. Be open and curious about the other person’s thoughts about SBNR.
You can grab your FREE homework Awareness & Action guide HERE
Scroll on down to the comments section and share your thoughts in conversations….
Can you be spiritual without being religious?
Why do you think the SBNR movement is the fastest growing faith category?
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones. Welcome to Episode 26 of The Being and The Doing. I’m really excited about today’s episode because I get to be in conversation with a very interesting woman on a very interesting topic.
So earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a literary festival that happens here in my hometown of Saint Albert. It’s called Star Fest, and it showcases nonfiction books. And I got to interview as part of Star Fest, a fascinating woman named Anne Bokma and Anne has just written a book called My Year of Living Spiritually From Woo-Woo to Wonderful, one Woman’s Secular Quest for a more Soulful Life.
So, Anne grew up in a very, fundamentalist religious home and when that no longer really worked for her being a part of that fundamentalist religion, she stepped away from that, but she didn’t really step away from a desire to have a spiritual practice. And so, what she did was started to explore, over the course of a year or so, a whole bunch of different spiritual practices, all kinds of things really from Woo-Woo to Wonderful. From things that might be a little bit out there to things that may be a little bit more traditional.
Everything from, participating in a deathbed choir where people come to the bedside of people who are ready to pass and sing. She spent time in retreat in a tree house. She, yes, took magic mushrooms under medical supervision, but that was kind of an interesting experience for her. Gratitude practice, all kinds of different things, goat yoga, many, many different kinds of spiritual practices. Just looking for how is it that we can engage in a spiritual journey that is more secular in nature.
She’s part of a movement that’s called Spiritual But Not Religious, SBNR, that is actually rapidly growing. And so it was my great pleasure to get to meet her and interview her earlier this year. And now to be able to be in conversation with her here on the podcast so that you can find out a bit about this interesting journey.
Welcome Anne, I’m so glad that you have some time to spend with us today. Talking about this great book that you have written, My Year of Living Spiritually. Let’s start with what prompted you to go on this kind of smorgasbord of practices, journey about spiritual living.
Anne: Well, thank you, first of all, Laurel, for having me on your show. It’s a pleasure talking to you, and I appreciate you asking me about my book. So in 2017 is when I launched myself on this here of spiritual discovery and there were a whole bunch of reasons why I felt the need to do this. You’ll recall that was the year that Donald Trump was elected and I found that quite despairing and I did not want to spend the year feeling that sense of despair and wanted to feel hopefulness. So I thought I need to delve more into the spiritual life. And I was also, I turned 56 and had personal issues. My kids were about to launch into the world, they were off to university, I was struggling in my 30 year marriage, I was watching too much Netflix and drinking too much wine, and I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with my life.
I mean a lot of us but there were some things that just weren’t working. I was also still struggling with the estrangement from my family of origin. They were very fundamentalist Christians and I had left the church in my early twenties and our relationship had really floundered and we’d been estranged for the last 10 years, my mother and I. And so there was a lot of stuff going on in my life and I wanted to sort of fortify myself more and develop my spiritual muscle, I suppose. So also, I’m a journalist and I was curious about some of these things. So I embarked on a year of experiencing 24 different spiritual practices.
Laurel: Yeah. Because I know your background. Your family background is from having grown up in a home, practicing a very fundamentalist religion. And was there a piece of having stepped away from that, that you were feeling that you were missing some sort of spiritual experience in your life?
Anne: Well, I think anytime we have a raw relations with someone that we care about it does sort of shake us to our core and that was true for me. I thought I had sort of come to peace with the fact that there’s going to be estrangement with my family, but it did affect me more than I think I was acknowledging to myself. I did grow up in a very strict Dutch reform religion. I had a happy childhood but when I became of age and the scales dropped from eyes, I really didn’t believe the things that I’d been taught. It was a very conservative church; women couldn’t be leaders, it was a homophobic. There’s all kinds of issues.
And also the church I grew up in felt they were the only true church and I just did not believe that anymore. And yet the thing I liked about church life was a sense of tribe and community, I always felt like I belonged. When I left the church, I lost that sense of belonging. I was threatened with excommunication. My family thought I was going to hell and it sent me on a path, I think, of trying to find a spiritual home. I experimented with the Presbyterians. I landed in the United Church for about a decade, and eventually I did become a Unitarian and always curious about the spiritual life.
Laurel: And I think that many people are sort of perhaps questioning. I’ll use that word questioning, maybe the religious tradition that they’ve grown up in or that it’s no longer sort of serves them in the way that they want to. And then this idea of secular spirituality is I think gaining a lot of popularity or people are wanting to talk about this idea of being spiritual but not religious. That has some sort of appeal right now, of Oh yes, I’m looking for this peace, but I don’t necessarily want the dogma of a particular religion. How would you define that movement of spiritual but not religious?
Anne: Well Laurel, it is a very big movement. I have written about this spiritual but not religious, for quite some time. I’m a columnist, I’m a writer for Broadview Magazine, which is the former United Church Observer. And for four years I wrote a column called Spiritual, but secular in which I examine the habits of the growing spiritual but not religious movement. That column eventually led to the blog where I experimented with some of these things myself and then that turned into the book, but I learned a lot about this demographic. It’s 80 million strong in North America about a third of…slightly more Canadians than Americans. But many, many people define themselves as spiritual but not religious. So they’ve abandoned traditional religious life, but still want to have a spiritual life. And there’s a lot of disillusionment with traditional religion, especially conservative religion.
Like I say, not allowing women in leadership roles and homophobic and sometimes denying climate change and not being inclusive of other types of religion and people just don’t really go to religious services anymore. Only one in five Canadians goes on kind of regular basis so this definitely is a growing movement. And just because you don’t go to religious services does not mean that you can’t have a strong spiritual life.
And I think, people often ask me, what is the difference between religion and spirituality? And I’m not a theologian, I’m a journalist. But for me, what I came to see or believe is that religion is really about looking outside of ourselves for those deep answers to our life, a God or a guru or a text or some outside authority. Whereas, I think spirituality is really about listening to our own inner voice and creating a life or habits or practices that allow us to slow down and listen to that, and to find that meaning for ourselves.
You know, the transcendentalists of the mid 1800s, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, they were really the first people to kind of be spiritual but not religious. And I’m really fascinated by these people. And I did go on a pilgrimage to Concord, Massachusetts where they’re from. And their religion kind of died out but they were the first to say, a God or their idea of God is in nature. The answers are not in the pew, they’re in yourself. Emerson said, “Make your own Bible.” So, this definitely is a growing a movement or demographic of people. Some say it’s the fastest growing faith group and I’m quite interested in that and I certainly identify myself as spiritual but not religious or a spiritual secularist.
Laurel: And I wonder too, whether there’s a piece of it, where it’s the shift from perhaps looking for answers within but maybe also about having a more personal relationship. So I would imagine some people that fall in this group of spiritual but not religious belief in God or Mother Nature or an organizing force or whatever it is that they actually believe in, something outside of themselves, but are looking for developing that personal relationship. One that doesn’t necessarily have to be filtered through the tenants of a particular religion.
Anne: That’s so true, right? A lot of people are spiritual but not religious. And Pew Research does a lot of studies on this demographic. And certainly a lot of them do believe in the idea of a higher power or God or life energy or whatever you want to call it and a lot of them pray. So it does not mean that they’ve abandoned sort of ideas that we associate with religion. And it’s just that they’re doing it themselves instead of belonging to an institution. The downside of that is that many people who are spiritual but not religious lose community. Studies also show that a lot of people who go to religious services don’t necessarily believe in the idea an of unseen God or Virgin Mary or that we’re sinful creatures, but they still go because they want to belong to a tribe. They identify culturally or through values.
So the pull to be part of a tribe is so strong that we’ll sometimes be part of a group where we don’t really buy everything, but we want to be part of that group. I think that was true of the church I grew up in it. The part that was hard was not leaving the church, it was leaving that built in community that buffered you and held you up.
And I think developing spirituality is about not just being connected to yourself, but you’re right, being connected to nature, being connected to other people. Because there’s a lot of spiritual practices that we can do that aren’t just about experiencing them in solitude, right? I mean, community singing, drumming, social protest. All of these things require us to be part of a larger group. So it is about, I think, connection.
Laurel: I just think, for listeners who might be curious about this topic that, I don’t want them to have the idea that spiritual but not religious is complete, like, it’s all about me. It’s not the church of me. It’s really my relationship in a different way as you’re saying to other people being in community or in our belief system, that’s the distinction. It’s not just the Holy Trinity is me, myself and I.
Anne: Exactly, that’s a very important point because the spiritual but not religious have been criticized mostly by religious people or religious leaders. There have been some. One I can’t remember her name right now, but she ended up writing a book about how silly it is to be spiritual but not religious. And the criticism was that it was too self-indulgent and I very much disagree with that. I think that by building our spiritual muscle, by fortifying our own spiritual sense of ourselves, the whole point is to be of greater service in the world, is to be more connected to other people, is to not be isolated, is to find our way to contribute, whether it’s big or small. And so often the spiritual but not religious are dismissed as being too self-focused and that hasn’t been my experience.
People I’ve met who care about spirituality and developing their spirituality tend to be people who do things in the world. Certainly, when I went to the Women’s March in Washington in 2017, I had a real sense of the Holy among the crowd of about 500,000 people. These are people who think deeply about issues and want to do something and want to make the world a better place in some way. So I think that’s sometimes a term that’s thrown out to dismiss this group. I don’t think that’s fair. Similarly, if I can say, the subhead of my book is From Woo-Woo to Wonderful, One Woman’s Secular Quest for More Soulful Life. And the reason I had the word Woo-Woo in there is, again, I think some of the practices that I involve myself with, some of the Reiki and past life regression, crystals, essential oils, none of these things I’d experienced before and I approached them as a reporter, but also as a seeker.
Often these practices are dismissed as Woo-Woo, it’s a derogatory term. And I questioned that because studies show some of these things can be very helpful to people and they also have a long history. Crystals and essential oils are mentioned in the Bible, for example. And I’ve come to believe that they’re dismissed because they’re primarily engaged in by women. Again, the idea of a Virgin Mary, billions of people believe in that and to me that’s a bit Woo-Woo. Not to be disrespectful, but that’s impossible for me to believe. And yet, if someone finds some sort of comfort in one of these spiritual practices that’s dismissed as Wo-Wo. I think it’s a bit of a form of sexism.
Laurel: Well then, when we look at sort of this cornucopia of practices that you were trying on, testing out, experiencing and you’ve referenced some of them, I mean, there is everything from sort of on one side of the continuum as you’re talking about crystals and Reiki and yoga. Although I suppose yoga is kind of moved into the mainstream now, we don’t think of it quite as Woo-Woo as perhaps it was at some period ago.
But there was all kinds of other things like a practice of an unplugging or going into float tanks, Marie Kondoing your home or gratitude practice or getting a tattoo or I mean, there were all kinds of things. What do you think defines a spiritual practice? Because, you know I encourage listeners, I encourage you to read the book and see this sort of huge range of things that Anne decided to dabble in. Trying magic mushrooms and given up drinking for Lent and going to protest march, all kinds of stuff. What makes a practice spiritual?
Anne: That’s a really good question. I think one of my answers to that is that when you have a spiritual experience you know it. You just know it, right? You feel it. It’s hard to explain to other people but you do know when it happens. And some experiences are just pleasant or they make you feel healthier. That’s not necessarily spiritual. And to learn more about this because I had that question myself, what’s the difference between a religious experience and a mystical experience and spiritual experience or just a pleasant experience? And William James who is sort of considered the father of philosophy in America, I think he lived in the early 1900 and he wrote a book called The Varieties of Religious Experience.
And he talked about these incredibly moving or profound moments that we have. That there were four sort of markers of a spiritual experience. And this is also true of a religious experience. However, if you’re not, if you see yourself as more spiritual, I think these would apply to you. And one of them was that they’re transient, they’re temporary, you can’t make them happen and they’re brief moments. And another is out there ineffable, which means they can’t adequately be put into words. I certainly found this when I did the magic mushroom trip. I had never done them before. I did a very heavy dose under medical supervision because I wanted to ensure that I had a mystical psychedelic experience. And I could tell you it was out of this world. I had never experienced anything like it. It takes up about 10 pages in my book.
But trying to explain that experience to somebody, you come off as very trite. I always say, if I could have, if I believed in God, I would have seen God. But when you’re in it, it was very, very transformative and answers did come to me. But it’s hard to explain it to other people. The other term you used is Noetic, which means that you feel you’ve learned something. You feel you’ve taken something away, it’s not just, Oh, it was beautiful to look at the stars but it’s more like I realize how insignificant I am when I look at the stars or I wonder if my grandma’s up there in the stars. Or you take something of meaning, away from it.
And the fourth factor he said is the tend to be passive. The experience happens to you largely without your conscious control. So that’s kind of the technical term for spiritual experience. But I always say, you know it when you feel it. And again, I would say this sense of connection, whether it’s a connection to yourself or to the world at large or to someone else. I mean, I felt a lot when I did the chapter on singing. I experimented with a whole bunch of different kinds of choirs. I went to Newfoundland and sang on the edge of the Atlantic with a bunch of strangers for a week. And then we put on a performance, it was a very professional choral group. I learned I was an Alto. I mean, it was a kind of a technical musical experience, but then I also sang in a deathbed choir at a hospital to people who were dying; very, very profound experience. For me, one of the things is if I cry, if there’s tears involved, it’s usually a spiritual experience. But I think a big thing too is that you do walk away learning something, something stays with you so it’s hard to explain. But those were some of the things I learned about how to kind of define a spiritual experience.
Laurel: And I would imagine with practices, again, like some of the things that you’re talking about in the book are what I would characterize as experiences. A thing that you go and you do when you had that experience and then perhaps had a spiritual experience. And some of them fall into the category of when I’m thinking about practices, which are something that become sort of a ritual for us, something that we are doing and practicing over and over again. So like the keeping a gratitude journal or some sort of a gratitude practice is something that we don’t just do it once and have that experience and now we’re done with it. But it’s something that we do over and over and over again. And perhaps it’s that repetition of the practice or the ritual that begins to create the experience. Does that resonate with you?
Anne: It does, and spiritual practices. So I mentioned going on a pilgrimage to Henry David Thoreau Walden Pond. I mean, I do consider that a practice. It only happened once and it probably will only ever happen once, but it was a deep spiritual experience for me to swim in Walden Pond. So the experiences that I had, the witch camp for five days or the forest therapy or floating in a tank, those were easier to do. The hard part is to make things a practice. And I know that a lot of your coaching is to help people, develop practices because that’s where it takes effort and dedication. And by nature I am, I wouldn’t say lazy, but you know, I do work hard but, making something a practice is harder.
Laurel: It is. I mean, you’re right. When I’m working with people, I mean that the thing, being consistent with something long enough that essentially we’ve retrained our brain to think of this as a habitual way of doing something. And I think popular culture would like us to think, oh, we could do that with relative ease, you know, 21 days and you’ve got that nailed. And as you found, and I found, and most other people have found, no, it’s actually darn hard because the novelty of it wears off and then it gets sticky to keep doing it.
Anne: So true. It’s so true. And what I’ve learned is that, one of the things I changed in my life and the first chapter of my book is called Waking Up. And I wanted to change how I started my days. So I was super ambitious. You know, I’m going to journal for 15 minutes, I’m going to do yoga for 10 minutes, I’m going to do my gratitude practice, I’m going to light a candle, I’m going to set an intention, I’m going to drink lemon water instead of coffee. Yeah. That lasted for about a month.
Laurel: That’s a lot, that’s a lot, Anne, to make a lot of changes.
Anne: I was writing a book too. So I knew that I had to really be honest and true and stay on this path and it was hard. I’m like, I do not like lemon water. I want my coffee. So I adapted things and sort of narrowed it down a bit, made it more realistic. And when I did fall off the wagon in terms of practices I’d beat myself up, but then I would get back on and keep at it. So my morning routine now is, it’s not super ambitious, but I do my gratitude practice which literally takes me 30 seconds. I use the Happy Tapper Gratitude app on my phone. I top out five things I’m thankful for. I never have a trouble coming up with stuff, they’re very simple. Often, you know, it could be my soft bed, the birds at the window, the smell of coffee, I just type whatever’s on my mind.
And the beautiful thing about that app is it keeps a running tab. So I now have thousands of things on my phone that I have given thanks for. Studies show gratitude practice, the trick is write it down. When we write it down, it just sets it in our mind firmer. So that takes me 30 seconds. And one of the things I do as self-care, is to allow myself to read in the morning before I get out of bed. So I don’t know about you, but if I read at night, I fall asleep so I don’t read.
So I have a stack of books beside my bed constantly and I give myself the gift of reading in the morning. A neighbour woman told me that’s what she did. And I thought, that’s what I’m going to do because I love to start my day with words. I’m a writer, I want to see what other people are writing. I didn’t take enough time to read before; since the digital world, my reading has waned.
So I have reclaimed reading as almost a spiritual practice in a way. And I spend a lot less time on my phone in the morning. I used to go my phone, first thing, I don’t do that anymore. So small changes. Right?
Laurel: And I mean there’s a whole topic that we could talk about, how it is that we begin to create the morning, the beginning start to the morning. Actually, I’ll tuck that away in my head. Maybe that’s a new podcast episode.
Anne: And how we end our days.
Laurel: And how we end our days. Exactly.
Anne: I end my days now, I have one of the things, the essential oils I looked into that I’d never used them before. And I put essential oils in my diffuser every night before I go to bed. Again it’s a small gift to myself to drift off to sleep with the smell of lavender and it’s very pleasant and peaceful and it just contributes to creating an environment. It’s conducive to being more at rest and at peace. It’s a small thing, but it works for me.
Laurel: Yeah. And I think the other important thing is that there are many, many things that we can choose as practices and it’s about finding the ones that resonate. Not, well,I’ll just grit my teeth and get through my lemon water because someone said I should. And it’s like, no, no, really, there’s nothing wrong with a nice fresh roast in the morning.
Anne: That’s right. I felt that way a bit about yoga. I felt like I should really be doing yoga all the time. It’s the ultimate spiritual practice, it’s thousands of years old. And I was like, I’m just really not that motivated. Although, lately I’ve been doing yoga with Adrian on YouTube. She does a 30 day yoga challenge. It’s very simple and I have to say when I do it, I feel really good after, I mean yoga has been proven to help us in all kinds of ways.
Laurel: That’s right. Yeah, its own sort of spiritual practice. I wanted to touch into one of the practices that you talk about that was really intriguing to me and that was the practice of the six minute memoir. And you talk about the importance of story and how this idea of the six minute memoir had sort of grown out of a six word memoir, which is about being able to sort of make a story with just six words, a compelling story. There’s that very famous Hemingway one, right? For sale baby shoes, never worn a very, very, very famous one where it’s like, Oh, geez, like, I really want to know that story. But you sort of morphed that into something else. The idea of this six word memoir, can you share a little bit about what that’s about?
Anne: A storytelling, in the chapter of my book called Finding My Tribe, I looked at a bunch of things in that chapter, but one of them is the rise of storytelling. Why has it become so popular? We’ve got the moth, we’ve got all kinds of…every community in Canada, if you Google storytelling and you live in a midsize city, there’s someone running a storytelling workshop. I live in Hamilton, a city of 500,000 people. There’s about four different storytelling events that go on. And I run the six minute memoir, three or four times a year in which 12 people get up. They tell a tale on a specific theme, and then the audience gives a voluntary donation to a local charity. And it’s one of the most joyous things I do.
And it’s just a pleasure and very profound stories have been told on stage. There was one last Thursday night and the theme was, I Never Thought it Could Happen to Me. And we had someone, a young woman who got up and talked about being an addict. People got up and told, harrowing stories from their life, but also hilarious ones. And I think the power of storytelling, it’s almost like the new sermon which fits very well with the spiritual, but not religious. This need for connection, but not wanting to buy religious dogma.
So people gather and they hear stories. And for the storyteller, it’s a way to share a truth, to reflect on something meaningful in their lives. A lesson they learn to impart some wisdom to engage an audience. And for the audience there’s always this, it’s almost like a sacred act to listen. And I feel like these storytelling events, it’s like a Holy place where people are connecting on a profound level because often they’re relating to what the speaker is talking about. We’ve had a storytelling sessions about death, about love. I did one last a Valentine’s Day, Queer Love Stories. Where queer people got up and talked about some of the joys and struggles they faced and loving the people that they love. So it’s a profound way for people to feel connected by sharing their personal truth.
Laurel: Right. And I would imagine too that even just the act of you writing your six minute memoir down, even if there isn’t an opportunity to share it at a public event, like the kinds that you host, that there’s value in people sitting down and just writing that very short memoir for themselves. Because as you said, just like the gratitude practice, when we put it onto paper it’s now, it’s almost like we’ve made it more real. We’ve given it a life outside of just rambling around in our heads.
Anne: It’s so true. And that’s one of the reasons this year, I’m launching a couple of writing workshops to help people tell their story. Because I’ve heard hundreds of stories over the years and that each one I tried to tell a story of my own as well. And that’s so true what you say Laurel, about writing it down. Writing this book, that I did, I thought I knew what I was going to say and I had these experiences that I wanted to relate but it’s the very act of writing that becomes illuminating in itself. You’re writing about something and the act of writing makes you…when you reflect on something in the past, you go back there, you sense things, you smell things again, you remember visions of where you were and what it was like when you were 14 and in love with the boy next door or whatever.
And by writing it down, more memories come to us. With the distance of time and wisdom and age, we can look back on that memory and see how it impacted us and what it means today. We have that sort of distance. So I am a big believer in writing things down and this is why journaling and keeping a diary and also for history, just briefly but part of the story in my book is about losing my biological father who left when I was young and I never saw him again. And I did go on a journey to find out more about him. He’s dead now, but I found a brother I never knew I had. And I went to visit his brother and his brother who had also passed away, his wife pulled out a 20 page sheaf of papers and said, Oh, my husband wrote this story about your father. It was gold.
He had bothered to write down stuff about my dad that I never would have known. So writing down our stories for our descendants and for the next generation. I mean maybe we would don’t want to share everything, but this can be so wonderful for the people that are in our families that we leave behind. So there’s a lot of power in writing down our stories and our stories are meaningful. Now people say, Oh, it didn’t mean anything, but the things we remember are meaningful to us and chances are someone else has had a similar experience. I mean that’s what AA is all about, right? People go there, they tell their story of being an alcoholic. Everyone in the room’s an alcoholic, they’ve heard the story. But that’s the power of healing for them is that they share their story.
Laurel: Yeah. So in a six minute memoir, like when someone is writing that down how long is that? I imagine there’s some listeners thinking, Oh my goodness, six minutes. Like how long would that be if I was writing my…?
Anne: It’s about a thousand words.
Laurel: About a thousand words. And that in and of itself, people might go at a thousand words, but it’s actually not that long.
Anne: Maybe three pages.
Laurel: Three pages.
Anne: And it’s amazing what you can convey. I mean, one of the most profound stories that was told was about a man who now in his 50s, recalled going on a camping trip with his father when he was in his 20s. His father had set up the tent, they were in Algonquin Park, they were admiring the stars. They went to bed, they were about to go to bed and his father had a heart attack and died in front of him. And they were in a remote, very remote…they had portaledge with a canoe, they could not get help. And he slept in the tent all night with his father’s body outside the ten covered in a tarp. I will never forget that story and just how profoundly it affected this man. And also how he told it with great love and sadness.
I mean these are stories that need to be told. Not every story is dramatic like that though. Sometimes stories are very simple but it’s in sharing them that they increase in their power, I think.
Laurel: So having had this experience your year of spiritual exploration, shall we call it, what’s changed for you?
Anne: Well, I’m not a Paragon of spirituality. I can’t read anyone’s aura. I’m still on a journey. I’m still very imperfect.
Laurel: It sounds like you’re human.
Anne: I’m no guru or anything like that but I did change some things in my life, some habits. Certainly, how I wake up and how I go to bed. One thing that’s changed is I haven’t watched TV. I don’t watch TV anymore. I maybe watch 10 hours of television in this whole past year. I love TV, I love Netflix. And I can get hooked on a show just like anybody else, but I was wasting too much of my time doing that. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever do it again but for me it was a time suck. And I also like to drink wine while I watch Netflix. So those two habits hand in hand weren’t so good for me. So by cutting back on Netflix, I cut back on that. Just sort of reward at the end of the night with wine because I was also drinking too much, which I talk about in my book.
So those a couple personal habits that change. I am a major extrovert I love being around people, I come alive when I’m around people. I needed to experiment more with solitude and I have a chapter on that in my book. I am more comfortable now with my own company. I can stand myself for a few days in a row. That was difficult for me before. And a couple of major relationships in my life changed because of some realizations that I came to. And so people can read about that in my book. But my marriage and my relationship with my family shifted because of this year that I went on.
And I think we’re all on a journey, we’re on a spiritual journey until the day we die. I did think a lot about my own death. I have a whole chapter on death where I purchased, picked out a coffin for myself and went to a green burial place where I hope to have my body laid to rest. I hosted some death dinners with friends where we talked about our last wishes. I became more conscious of the idea that I am going to die and really confronted it. We’re all going to die. We don’t like to think about it. We live in a death denying culture. But I think by regularly reflecting on that, whether it’s reading obituary or going for the occasional walk in a cemetery. But really thinking that we’ve got an end date, I think that helps us live our lives better. So I reflect more in that sort of thing. Not in a morbid way, but in a way that says, how am really living my life and what are the choices that I’m making that are going to enhance my life?
Laurel: So Anne, if people are, I hope, now intrigued to want to read the book, where’s the best place for listeners to get a copy of your book?
Anne: My book is available across Canada. You can purchase it at independent bookstores, they should stock them If not, you can ask them but it is in wide release. It’s also available on Amazon.ca and Indigo if you order your books that way. I always think it’s great to support local, independent booksellers if you can. And I am doing some speaking engagements, so if people go to my website, I might be coming to a community near them and also available to come and talk about my book. But it is in wide release and it should be quite easy to get. And I hope it makes people think about their own spiritual journey, gives them some ideas for things they might want to try. And for anyone who feels stuck in a fundamentalist type religion, I hope it will inspire them to realize that they can get out and find something else. With right support they can get out and find a spirituality that’s nourishing and not sort of fearful or guilt inducing.
Laurel: Well, thanks for spending some time in conversation with me today. It was a delight to meet you earlier this year. It was great to read the book, like there was lots of really good reflection and just good interesting meaty tips and things in there, and just a great story. The story of what it is that you experienced along that journey. So thanks for sharing that with me and my listeners.
Anne: Thank you so much for having me, Laurel, it’s a real pleasure to speak with you.
Laurel Oh, great. Thanks, Anne. So lovely ones, wasn’t that an interesting conversation about our spiritual journey and can you be spiritual but not be religious? And what do spiritual practices look like? So I do encourage you to read Anne’s book and of course, I’ll leave all of those links in the show notes for you and a link to her website.
So as always, let’s extend our engagement with this topic a little bit. Something to think about and something to try and remember. This is just a way for you to take what you’ve listened to and expanded a little bit. So that you can translate it into something more personal for you. So something to think about, here’s the question; what role does spirituality play in your life? So take that question out for a walk and just kind of rumble that around in your mind for a while. It’s a great journaling question. What does spirituality mean to you and what role does that play in your life?
And now something to try; have a conversation with someone on this whole topic of spiritual but not religious. So you know, whether that’s your spouse or partner or a friend, just have a coffee, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, and just let’s deepen our understanding about that. Now, of course when we’re in conversation it’s about wanting to learn more about what do I think about, when I’m talking with someone else, I get to learn more about what I think, but I also get to learn more about what the other person thinks. So remember, this isn’t a debate on the topic of spiritual, but not religious. It’s really a conversation. What does that mean? Can you actually be spiritual but not religious? Or is that just some, I don’t know, you know, feels like a Woo-Woo idea or not very disciplined idea?
Just take that conversation and expand it a little bit. So also in terms of conversation, I encourage you invite you to visit the show notes on the podcast page and let’s continue the conversation there. You’ll see where you can scroll down and post some comments. And I’m always there, if you post a comment, I will be back being in conversation with you. So please, take time to do that. I would love to hear what you have to think about this particular topic. And as always, I’m grateful when you share the podcast with other people and there’s links and ways to be able to do that from the podcast page in the show notes.
So until next time, lovely ones, I invite you to take a breath and pause and really enjoy the beautiful day that you have in front of you.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and the Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this podcast, stop whatever you’re doing, unless you’re driving and hit subscribe, leave a review. Then share this episode with a friend. Thanks for your support.