What IS the Big Idea?
Defining your authentic spirituality.
Published: January 29, 2013
by Faith Freed
How to connect with your very own personal higher power.
I was raised in a spiritually divergent household, with one parent an atheist and the other a Christian. My parents agreed to disagree, and my dad fully supported us kids going to church with my mom every Sunday. (I remember the smile on his face as we made our exit. He’d found his own path to peace without going anywhere—genius.) Growing up, I learned to ask my own questions and arrive at my own answers, while respecting the range of other possible perspectives. I tried on different styles of worship and engaged in existential conversations with doubters and nonbelievers. Fond of tagging along to services with friends of various faiths, I sang in choir, squirmed in church pews, ventured into synagogues, sipped the grape juice of Christ, and trained in Transcendental Meditation. As an adult, I participated in silent retreats and shamanic journeys, walked labyrinths, communed with nature, devoured sacred texts, practiced mindfulness and meditation, and regularly dropped into the “downward dog” yoga pose.
Although exposure to many faiths led to valuable insights, I found it difficult to buy into any one tradition all the way, and aspects of each contributed to my worldview. If you, like me, are reluctant to embrace the teachings and practices of a single religion exclusively, you may have found ways to appreciate aspects of many religions according to what resonates for you. Perhaps you’ve been clumsily labeled as “spiritual but not religious” by others, or forced to identify yourself as such from a panel of choices on a social network or dating website. Feels wrong, right? Who wants to be defined in terms of what they’re not? What if the gay community had to identify as “sexual but not heterosexual”? It feels like a put-down, yet this backward nonidentification is the inelegant space that so many of us now inhabit.
Maybe there’s not a catchall name for us because we’re not catchall kinds of people. How we might define or practice spirituality is an ongoing creative process, because a relationship with the divine is subjective, intimate, and fluid. Given that, a name is hard to embrace. I’ve tried on the term spiritual maverick, for example, but I’m not sure I can commit to its cowgirl connotation, despite my upbringing in Nebraska. Even when a designation feels just right, that could change in the next moment. Are you with me? Labels are limiting.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist, and Confuscian.”1 And why shouldn’t key elements of different faiths harmoniously coexist? The areas of overlap transcend form and point to the truth connecting us all. We’re free to take what works from each tradition and add our own twist; after all, our beliefs might as well be every bit as colorful, dynamic, idiosyncratic, and fluid as we are as individuals. Whether we embrace the tradition of our ancestors, adopt a different tradition, dabble with some eclectic combination, or create a spirituality of our own design, what matters is the relationship between Self and Source.
I view my spiritual path as something that’s being revealed, rather than a direction I’ve consciously chosen. It works for me, because I find that a life anchored in something bigger than myself keeps me where I want to be: grateful, joyful, and in the moment, more often than not.
To anchor my personal beliefs, I came up with a moniker for the divine that I could get behind. I yearned for a name for my higher power that wasn’t borrowed from a religion laden with institutional baggage. I wanted a name that didn’t imply human characteristics like anatomy or gender, and one that prompted instant connection. Quite certain that the essential energy of “being” doesn’t care what it’s called, I decided on Infinite Source, IS for short. IS serves as an acronym for Infinite Source, and at the same time, it’s the word used to describe the state of being. IS—it’s as simple as it gets and it captures all-that-is, right now.
Faith Freed received her master's degree in counseling psychology and certification in spiritual guidance from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Her mission is to inspire freethinking individuals to enjoy meaningful and fulfilling lives of celebration. Formerly an award-winning writer in advertising, Freed delivers street-smart reverence in her refreshingly irreverent style. She sees clients in Palo Alto and San Francisco, and resides in Northern California with her family.
- Robert I. Fitzhenry, editor, The Harper Book of Quotations, 3rd edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 394.