How to Look for Genuine Spirituality When Your Religion Can't Give It to You

10/11/2011 11:59 am ET | Updated Dec 11, 2011

The question is how to look for genuine spirituality when your religion cannot give it to you?

Through interactions and interviews with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, I have come to notice that many of them have one theme in common. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious background, many people have specific spiritual questions that are similar in nature.

Why is it that sometimes I feel like my religion is giving me junk food for the soul? Why does my religion confuse me about God, give me a sense of mandatory optimism and encourage me to deny my truth about how I really feel? And why do I sometimes feel like these confusing messages are encouraging me to betray myself?

When it comes to the major religions of the world, and the time and place they came to be, historical facts indicate that all of them brought a major shift in collective consciousness. They may have differed in the way they brought about this shift depending on the situation they were in, but all seem to have had the same intention.

While all of them had a priceless wisdom that they brought into this world, this wisdom seems to have lost its connection to the world and some of the intended messages appear to have been misplaced along the way. Nowadays, many are misinterpreting and struggling with the implication of the message, and this is creating a confusion and conflict, to say the least.

Sometimes, it may feel like we are burying our head in the sand and we can't get our basic religious facts straight. Yet, other times, it may seem like we are focused so much on the stories that we forget the real message. We can't even agree on the key concepts, like when Jesus is going to be resurrected, whose Islamic figure is going to come back to earth and what role Moses is going to play.

We seem to be using religion as yet another tool to feel superior, to separate ourselves from others, to judge, to violate other people's rights, to give ourselves a sense of righteousness, and to find excuses for creating conflict and tension. But we can't forget the fact that a knife is not bad because a thief uses it to rob people. The same knife can be used by a surgeon to cure the sick.

Then comes the subject of spirituality. The concept of spirituality is evolving and we see more and more people categorizing themselves as spiritual but not religious. When it comes to spirituality, who are the spiritual people? Do they have a certain look to them? Is there anything specific about them, or do they just blend in like any other? Or do we have to exclude ourselves from normal life to become spiritual?

Isn't the point to be able to make spirituality practical under the circumstances life throws at us whether living in a well developed part of the planet or an under developed? Then there are other questions: How to define God? What is the difference between a "just" God and a "loving" God? What is the definition of loving and where does the element of accountability play into the love? Is God like a good parent that loves us but at the same time disciplines us and gives us free choice to learn from our mistakes?

Why is it that more people seem to be suffering? Is it because collectively and individually we continue to make more bad choices than good ones, and with the population of the earth increasing, naturally, more pain will come out of that? If so, why do we blame God? And until we stop blaming God and take individual and global responsibilities, is the pain going to decrease?

Then other questions, like which one is it -- creation or evolution? Can it be that these two are not separate? In other words, can it be that evolution was created and creation is evolving? These are questions that we need to keep on asking ourselves since the cure against ignorance is becoming critical thinkers with curious minds that are thirsty for knowledge. Healthy critical thinkers find a balance between having faith and having reasonable skepticism about things.

Now, for those of us who want to know how to find a genuinely spiritual path, here are some tips that may be helpful. Genuine spirituality:

1. Encourages a balance between individualism and collectivism. It is not based on blind imitations but a sense of self awareness.
2. Supports unity while teaching people to keep and value their individual self.
3. Does not allow any form of a group-thinking modality that includes radical views.
4. Finds similarities, respects differences and tolerates others.
5. Encourages seeking wisdom and knowledge and having a curious mind.
6. Makes self growth a priority and promotes finding a balance to become more of one's whole self.
7. Helps bring about meaningful connections with others, not just people from the same group but more on a global scale.
8. Does not give a feeling of superiority over other beliefs.
9. Does not encourage judgmental behavior and thought toward people who are different.
10. Supports an individualized self reflection, meditation and prayer.
11. Does not encourage an idealization of any specific entity or human but acknowledge that we can all get to our fullest state of being.
12. Focuses on finding a bridge between ancient wisdom and today's science.
13. Does not poison one's mind and heart with invalid information.
14. Encourages an unconditional sense of global compassion, empathy, responsibility and accountability.
15. Helps individuals to get rid of outdated thinking patterns and destructive behaviors and to replace them with more constructive ones.

More and more spiritual teachers need to focus on articulating and expressing the concept of spirituality and what it means in today's world. They need to focus more on how to fit moral laws to become practical and to make sense to the modern human so that he is motivated to follow them.

Finally, for those of you who are seeking your spiritual self, ask yourself if you want to become a congruent human being? And if so, what does that mean to you? Does your belief match with your everyday life and behavior? What are your spiritual truths and are they working for you or against you? Only you know your purpose in life, therefore, make sure you distinguish between what is real and what is an illusion. Make sure you check to see if you self betray. Once you make a choice about what your truth is, stepping over it is self betrayal.