I grew up in a rather religious household and had the unusual opportunity of experiencing a few Christian denominations: Catholic, Baptist, and Evangelical. I stopped ascribing to the Christian religion somewhere in high school and by college was out in the world exploring other religions and communities.

In college, I attended services at a mosque, a Jewish synagogue, and a Hindu temple. I traveled to the Vatican and sat in some of the most exquisite churches throughout Europe. I studied regularly in Buddhist temples. Even today, I find myself sitting in meditation at the Buddhist center here in Chicago and longing to check out the Bahai Temple not too far from where I live.

It is safe to say that I am officially spiritual and not religious. Those years of seeking—and my continued curiosity—give me opportunities to feel entitled to connect with myself in a deeper way. The aesthetic and energy I enjoy inside of religious temples evoke a level of centering, calm, and connection that allow my inner voice to speak so loudly that sometimes I feel moved to tears. YES, I have a mindfulness practice, but there is something about the energy in these places that is pretty special.

While I feel drawn to the physical aesthetic, sense of community, and acceptance that organized religion offers—at the same time, I feel repelled by the rules and the “gatekeepers” that many put in place.

I’ve awakened to the fact that what I’m inclined to is this: spirituality and caring for my inner temple.

So what are the differences between religion, spirituality and your inner temple?

Religion focuses around the belief that there is something outside of yourself guiding your fate that will grant you connection to something bigger than yourself. You can deepen the connection through services, ceremonies, or rituals. Most of our beliefs around religion are inherited from those around us.

Spirituality revolves around the belief that you can create a connection to something greater than yourself without having to go through a gatekeeper to do so. You can deepen that connection to others and yourself by defining what spirituality is to you.

Both religion and spirituality have a component that asks us to look beyond ourselves in an effort to feel connected to something “greater” outside of us.

But, there is a third idea I want to introduce you to. It is the idea that you have an inner temple. Your inner temple is your true connection to yourself. (It actually IS your physical, emotional, and spiritual self. You can’t escape it.) Ignoring our inner temple leads to fear, depression, anxiety, self-loathing, exhaustion, breakdowns, failed relationships, poor health, and disease.

Exploring your inner temple focuses on being conscious of what we put in our brains and bodies and using what we believe to better ourselves (and hopefully our experience of the world around us). Regardless of what you believe and how you believe it, there are ways to build your temple…and ways to destroy it. A few examples:

Temple Builders:

  • Quiet time
  • Happy, healthy media
  • Conscious food and alcohol choices
  • Positive self-talk
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Healthy relationships
  • Internal reflection
  • Sense of greater purpose
  • Physical exercise
  • Putting yourself first on a regular basis

Temple Saboteurs:

  • No focus on the inner temple/self
  • Unconscious media consumption
  • Unconscious food/alcohol consumption
  • Negative internal dialogue
  • Carrying out unhealthy self-fulfilling prophecies
  • No down time
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • No internal reflection
  • No greater sense of purpose
  • No connection to something bigger than yourself (spirituality, community, etc)
  • Physical self-care routine is lacking
  • Everyone comes before YOU

Bottom line: I’m not judging you and hopefully you’re not judging anyone else for what they are inclined to believe in and practice. What I hope for you is that you awaken to the fact that we each have an inner temple and we choose what goes in it and how much we nourish it. You get out what you put in. Garbage in. Garbage out.

The choice is yours.

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