The ranks of those who say they embrace spirituality but reject religion in its organized forms seem to expanding every day. But what’s a spiritual person to do in order to share and converse over spiritual matters once they’ve rejected “organized” paths such as church, synagogue or other assemblies, along with the leaders or power structures those paths entail? Where do the free spirits gather?
Increasingly, it may be as close as your neighborhood library, café, or bookstore. Books, cafés and conversation go together like daisies and sunshine, and increasingly, the conversation is spiritual. Bookstores and cafés have long been haunts of the spiritually minded. Now cafés and events within libraries and bookstores are providing some neutral ground for people to gather and enjoy company and conversation geared to the spiritual without any of the conventions of religion.
Just how important is this? Well, if current events are any indication — very important.
Anne Rice’s recent defection from Christianity, announced on her Facebook page, struck a chord that continues to reverberate in the media and on blogs around the world. While she’s a famous defector, the reactions from all sides are in excess of what she or anyone else ever imagined, and show just what an essential human concern this is. Anne was first a re-converted soul, after all, having been raised a Catholic and then rejected it as an adult, in favor of atheism. Now she’s rejected the religion she idealized on re-entry, and has followed an increasingly well-trodden path to spirituality free of institutions and dogma. The media around the world have been reporting on it; commentary has gushed everywhere from the Los Angeles Times to NPR, from world news organizations to amateur bloggers. Everyone wants to know where the queen of vampires, Jesus-lit, and angels will go next. But only because she speaks for so many who have already defected, those who are considering it, and those who are panicked at the flight.
As an author, it’s easy to see Rice spending her time in café’s discussing her spiritual path with others. They play quite a role in her books, as a matter of fact, including her recent Angel Time novel.
What’s important for the spiritual and not religious crowd is that they are not mistaken for people with no faith, no belief in a creator. They have that and more. Whether defectors or never-beens, they are deeply spiritual and seek to live life with authentic spirituality. And locally, there are some haunts that provide a home for conversation and friendship over a beverage in an atmosphere of laid back conviviality.
Here are three:
• Scottsdale Public Library’s Mustang Branch presents a Spirituality Café every Saturday morning from 10:30—Noon.
Where: Mustang Library, 10101 N. 90th St., Scottsdale.
And you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
• Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe
Changing Hands has a full calendar of events, many of them involving authors of spirituality and personal growth books, and musicians with a spiritual focus. With an adjacent café and spacious area for events, it’s a great place to meet others, hear speakers, attend book signings and retire to the café to keep the conversation going!
Where: 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe
• Vision Quest Metaphysical Bookstore in Scottsdale
Vision Quest is another bookstore with a full calendar of events encompassing a
wide variety of spirituality topics. A glance at their calendar shows classes and gatherings focused on meditation practice, yoga, group healing circles, psychic awareness, Reiki training, angels, and more.
Where: 2225 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
And if these don’t meet your fancy, start your own café, class, or gathering! The local public libraries offer meeting space for groups, and Vision Quest and Changing Hands rent out space for classes and events. The Scottsdale Civic Center, the Tempe Public Library, and the main Phoenix Public Library branch all have in-house cafes that are great places for small gathering and discussion of spirituality books and ideas. Not to mention all the local Barnes and Nobles and Borders Books and Music stores with their cafes that are all great for informal gatherings. I’ve seen groups gather at Barnes and Noble cafes for everything from weekly Scrabble games to tutoring sessions to Sci Fi fan gatherings. Café’s may just be the new spiritual meccas.
And if it’s the great outdoors that speaks to your spirit — well, this is Arizona. Sedona is a spirituality haven for all comers, and it’s just a short trip from the Valley. Most of all, its very special natural grandeur will feed the soul and spirit of all who spend some time there. And they’ve got a few cafes and bistros too, just waiting for you to relax and enjoy some fresh air and conversation for the spirit.
Know of another haunt? Let us know!
Being spiritual, not religious, is in fact the overarching theme of Angels on My Stage: The True Story of Eddie Benitez, which I co-authored with the musician and spiritualist. It includes emphatic messages that are claimed to be from the Angel Gabriel which in fact, strongly advise people to defect from religion in favor of spirituality without middlemen or hierarchies. An entire chapter, “On Religion,” is devoted to the message that spirituality is the answer to the spiritual needs, not organized religion.