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Spirituality is Different from Religion

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Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to one another by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that powered to one another is grounded in love and belonging. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.~Brene Brown, Rising Strong

I have experiences at 6 am when I’m driving to work as the sun is coming up, drinking my coffee while listening to music-yes, I’m even a multitasker when I drive. When I can turn my brain off and just pay attention to what is right in front of me- I can feel a sense of peace and tears will stream down my face with joy. I feel a power greater than myself move through me. It’s the feeling I get when I feel connected. Helping others. Listening. A gentle touch. Grounded. Nature. Exercise. I’ve also had powerful ritualistic experiences of connection around organized religion of every denomination. Curiosity is what keeps me seeking and engaged.

Often times when I meet someone in my office for the first time and I’m facilitating a diagnostic assessment, I ask…”How would you describe your spirituality?” Most times, the patient responds either, “Oh-I’m not religious at all” or…”I was raised Catholic but organized religion turns me off.” I’m always enlightened by the opportunity to use this as a teaching moment to explain the difference between religion and spirituality.


  • Where do I find Meaning?
  • How do I feel Connected?
  • How do I want to Live?

Spirituality is the process of personal transformation and exploration. Prayer is talking. Meditation is listening.

There can be an overlap of religion and spirituality, one does not need to exist without the other they can be separate. Some people identify as spiritual, some religious, some both.


  • What practices, rites, or rituals “should” I follow?
  • What is true and false?
  • What is right and wrong?

Religion is an organized structured way to connect with God and put our faith into action. As someone who struggles with rules, I often times felt shamed if I broke the rules. I didn’t feel good enough. I became more comfortable as a Cafeteria Catholic- picking and choosing what felt right and leaving the rest. I identify as someone who has a strong connection to many different flavors rooted in spiritual practice.

The journey of spirituality is long lasting, ebbs and flows, and may be stronger at different points in our life. If we want a spiritual foundation, we need to work at it on a daily basis. Here are some suggestions of activities I engage in to strengthen my understanding of something greater than myself. I hope this will help you get started as you begin or continue to explore your deeper understanding of spirituality.

  • Being emotionally intimate and vulnerable in my relationships.
  • Sitting by the ocean awakening my senses-listening to the waves, seeing the beauty, smelling the air, feeling the sun and wind on my face. This is when I truly feel alive.
  • Traveling, learning about other cultures, serving the poor, experiential learning.
  • Just sitting and breathing.
  • Writing.
  • Listening to music and connecting with the words and rhythm.

I encourage you to ponder these questions and spend some time in meditation. Write your answers down in a journal. What are you longing for? How do you fulfill your spiritual drive? What is your spiritual journey? At one point or another, we find ourselves wondering what is our life’s purpose. Be gentle with yourself, just BE and you will start to have greater experiences of connection. 

Spirituality does not come from religion. It comes from our soul. No one is born with religion. Everyone is born with spirituality. Anthony Douglas Williams-Inside the Divine Pattern

  • Kelley Kitley, LCSW
    Kelley Kitley, LCSW

    Owner Serendipitous Psychotherapy

    Kelley Kitley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice and owner of SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY, LLC in downtown Chicago. She has been a featured Expert Contributor in The Wall Street Journal, Shape, SELF, Huffington Post, Women’s Health Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Parent Magazine, and dozens more. She is also an author for Fitness Magazine. Kelley is recognized as an International Women’s Mental Health Expert specializing in postpartum issues, anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationships. Her autobiography titled My Self is scheduled to be released in March 2017. Her website is https://www.kelleykitley.com/.

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