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Column: Religion and spirituality are labels for feeling that can mutually exist

What is spirituality? How is it different from religion? Column readers have asked the difference. This is my perspective.

Some view religion as limiting and repressive. Others view spirituality as more liberating and inspiring. In reality, you can be part of a religious institution and be spiritual or you can be religious without belonging to an institution. These words are just labels that represent different ways of focusing on what God means.

Although religion and spirituality are distinctly different, what they have in common is belief in a higher power, and both desire to enter into a deeper relationship with this higher power.

Religion requires you subscribe to a particular belief system the church and its authorities have established. Spirituality places less importance on structured beliefs and focuses more on growing consciously and evolving to our highest level as human beings.

Although most religions state God is loving and forgiving, they also teach the concept of sin and the consequences of wrongdoing. Most religions often have a fear-based component, whereas the spiritual approach to God does not. Spirituality is seen as love-based and does not judge actions as right or wrong.

When I am asked, I say I have a more spiritual focus because I resonate with the viewpoints that spirituality embraces. However, more than the label, what is fundamental about spirituality is the awareness and consciousness with which one chooses to live.

Just because someone goes to church, attends spiritual gatherings, participates in prayer groups and can quote spiritual wisdom does not make that person spiritual. As well, just because someone meditates, burns candles, talks about peace and love, listens to angelic music and chants or prays does not make that person spiritual.

All human beings are spiritual. It’s not what we do that makes us spiritual, but what we innately are — the essence of the spirit manifest in physical bodies. We all have times when we are not as connected to the spirit and do or say things that go against our spiritual nature. This does not change who we are. The difference lies in our awareness, how we choose to take responsibility, and the intention we set for life and how to live it.

For me, being on a spiritual path is means to be inspired by life, no matter what challenges I may have. It is unnatural to be automatically thankful for everything in our lives, as there are always challenges that we wish we did not have to experience. However, the commitment I have to my spiritual journey guides me to recognize and trust that there is something to be gained in all these challenges. I know there is an underlying order and that I am a part of this amazing matrix of life for a reason. How do you experience your spirituality?

Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit

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