Sister Jenna answers the question:
What is your perspective on the differences and similarities between religion and spirituality?
Watch SIster Jenna’s interview:
Welcome, Sister Jenna.
Hey, Phil, nice to be here with you.
Thank you so much for joining us today. Allow me to introduce you. Sister Jenna is a spiritual leader, author, radio and TV personality, renowned speaker, and founder of the Meditation Museum in Maryland and Virginia. She serves as one of the evolutionary leaders in service to conscious evolution and was selected by Empower a Billion Women 2020 as one of 100 most influential leaders of 2015. She is an advisory team member of the Million Mamas Movement, Conscious Good Media, and Global Women's Network.
Sister Jenna, I'm looking forward to your response to this question: What is your perspective on the differences and similarities between religion and spirituality?
Thank you. It's a great question and it's one that I have thought about a lot — and it has changed as I begin to gain deeper insights along my own journey. There was a time where I thought spirituality was about the beads, the outfit, the robes… living a very pious, a very perfected life, perhaps not being very average in the way that I lived. Then as I kept gaining more experience... I don't want to say “evolved,” but gaining more experience, it started to change. It more felt like spirituality for me, especially right now, Phil, is a person who is paying attention to their thoughts and they're very honest with the thoughts that are emerging as a result of their attention while they're interacting with people.
For example, us having this conversation now, simultaneously I'm thinking about, Am I coming from a pure place? Am I coming from a place within myself that is serving me? At a very private level, my definition of spirituality is a very honest, attentive person who wants to have or be a better version of themselves. I believe that if you follow the path of whatever your religious belief is, my interpretation of religion is that it's basically a very tribal connection. If you're born in a particular language or geography, just an influence of a particular belief system without exploring more about it, you can begin to follow all the rituals of a particular religion. I believe that if everyone actually follows religion and really lives according to the prophet's belief systems, they would be more spiritual. I look at the lifestyle of Jesus, Buddha, Siddhartha, Guru Nanak, and so many others.
It just seemed like all of them were awakened as a result of injustices that were going on in the world. As a result of that, they kept feeling that, I have to become a better person. I'm realizing that today, because of deeper thinking and deeper reflections, and also because of the times that we're in, where we're getting this tapping in our consciousness, in our awareness: Wake up, wake up, wake up.
There is a better version of you waiting. I feel like there are similarities with spirituality and religion where individuals emanate a more sacred expression, something more pure at heart. A divinity. There's grace in their behavior, in their thinking, and the way that they conduct their affairs. I'm talking about religion in the context of, I really do live the life of Jesus, or I do live the life of the Buddha, or I do live the life of Abraham, where I go deep into the soul working of the prophets… the way that they were called to rise up to their particular time.
I feel that if everyone follows their religion, they will be very loving. It'll be very clear that this is a very loving person. When you're a very loving person, I'll consider you to be very spiritual because you've been paying a lot of attention in not allowing the opposite to love, which is attachment or fear, to get in the way. The difference for me right now is that if I look at religion today, it might be a very external effort or a very external focus. When I look at spirituality, it's more of an internal awareness. I find that to be a little bit of an interesting dilemma... or I call it a dilemma because a friend of mine was speaking at a very big church in Texas recently. I appreciate the fervor in which he spoke to the congregation, and then I found myself thinking, But is it transformative?
God is such a silent energy. Do I need to yell for God to hear me? Do I need to be so pure at heart and so at peace with myself that God can hear me? I think that the whole religious aspect where the difference is concerned, there's such an external effort to get to the experience of God perhaps. I think spirituality is a more sincere interior effort of lots of just awareness, just an awareness of Who am I? We're really all in this together; there's no doubt. And, How can I help you? I'm open for you to help me. These are my thoughts just very briefly now, that I'd like to share with you.
That's beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and wisdom with us today, Sister Jenna. I appreciate it so very much.
I appreciate you asking me this question because it's one that I think is important to percolate on now because there seems to be a deep inner calling for all of us right now globally to live a very truthful and a very graceful life. I definitely wish that for everyone who watches this.
There's no question about that. Again, thank you for your time today and for visiting with us.
You're welcome. Thanks, Phil.
Sister Jenna is a spiritual leader, author, radio and TV personality, renowned speaker and founder of the Meditation Museum in Maryland and Virginia. She serves as one of the Evolutionary Leaders in service to conscious evolution and was selected by Empower a Billion Women 2020 as one of 100 Most Influential Leaders of 2015. She is an Advisory Team Member of the Million Mamas Movement, Conscious Good Media, and Global Women's Network.
Sister Jenna also served as a principal partner with the Oprah Winfrey Network and Values Partnerships on the Belief Team, a community of individuals from diverse spiritual, cultural, and faith backgrounds, and was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by St. Thomas Aquinas College for her many years of dedication and service to humanity. She is a contributing author in the book, Mr. President: Interfaith Perspectives on the Historic Presidency of Barack H. Obama.
Sister Jenna’s mission is to decode critical current issues and offer a perspective for folks to find clarity, power, and insight. Her voice of influence is particularly needed in the wake of tragedy and increasing violence in our world.
Sister Jenna has traveled to over 80 countries where she continues to provide practical life tools and solutions that empower people to foster and build stronger relationships. Her wisdom, peace, and compassion for humanity are expressed through the variety of initiatives she spearheads for youth, women, governments, and communities. She has collaborated with Fortune 500 companies on key issues, and her syndicated radio show, America Meditating, is a popular global online show.
Sister Dr. Jenna is the recipient of numerous awards and proclamations including, the President’s Lifetime National Community Service Award, Every Day Hero Award by the Foundation for A Better Life, and the Friendship Archway Awards, to name a few.
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This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 25: Perspectives on Spirituality