THE BLOG
09/02/2014 03:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sam Harris, Waking Up, and What I've Learned about Spirituality

Sam Harris' new book is entitled...

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion. That's the title to Sam Harris' new book.

Now, this should be interesting. For those curious, as I am, about spirituality but who have abandoned organized religion (and, according to the 2012 Pew Forum the number has grown to 20% of the adults in the US - the fastest growing religiously-unaffiliated group in the US), self-proclaimed atheist Sam Harris has written a new book, already a bestseller and the book is not scheduled for release until later this month.

Spirituality and What I've Learned


Here are a few things I've learned about religious experience...about spirituality...

1. The experience of spirituality goes by many names.


The longer I live, the more convinced I become that there is a religious experience which, if you have yet to figure this out, goes by many names...salvation, enlightenment, transformation, awakening, expanded consciousness, or, as Sam Harris describes it, "waking up." It appears that the descriptions used are tied more to one's cultural milieu than anything else. I cannot say this, however, with certainty, but it does seem to be the case.

2. Though spirituality goes by many names, the experience itself is quite similar.


One of the most enlightening books I've read in recent years was written by the French philosopher Andre' Comte Sponville.  Interestingly, he, too, is a self-proclaimed atheist and his book is entitled, The Little Book of Atheistic Spirituality. If you have not read it, you should.

Spirituality, or spiritual experiences, share something in common and that commonality goes something like this:

"I cannot explain what it was that happened to me but, for a moment, maybe many moments, I felt something, experienced something, so transcendent, so amazing, so joyful and unifying, I felt completely free, unburdened, and in unity with everything..at one with all that is. The whole thing defies explanation, but the consequence of it, has changed me forever. Now, I see things, even life itself, so differently...so fresh.  I feel toward all people differently, too. I feel a sense of oneness with everyone, the likes of which I've never ever felt before. I doubt if I will ever be the same."

Speaking of "I doubt I will ever be the same..." that, too, appears similar.

3. This experience of spirituality, or whatever you wish to call it, does seem to change people for the better.


They become more self-aware, self-accepting, self-forgiving. They seem to be more at peace with themselves, with the world, and, equally as important, more at peace with others. They seem more committed to living and leaving a legacy that changes the world, too.

Spirituality...the Most Important Lesson I've Learned


The most important lesson I've learned is this...

4. Whenever you seek to limit spirituality to your group and then demonize anyone else and their experience, you only limit yourself.


How do you know if you are limiting spirituality to your kind...to your group...to only those who follow your rules for a genuine experience of spirituality?

How do find yourself reacting to this analysis of the spiritual experience?

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, leadership coach, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, an adjunct Professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky, an interfaith activist, spiritual teacher, and an inspirational speaker. But not always in this order. On the university campus, he teaches students the art of communication. In public talks, however, he teaches people the art of leading and living...so that... when you come to the end, you will have experienced real freedom...accomplishment...happiness...the inner knowing that your brief journey is leaving this world a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable place. Visit his website for more information: http://SteveMcSwain.com