“Ekstasis,” the Greek word from whence comes the English word “ecstatic,” means displacement or trance. It literally means being “beside yourself.” Notice that the word includes the term “static.” Meaning, the same; autopilot. “Ek” is a Greek preposition meaning “out” or “from.” Ek-static is being out of our stasis. This state is a central focus of religious and spiritual practice.
Definitions can be slippery, but the difference between “religion” and “spirituality” is important.
“Spirituality,” as I see it, is the impulse to awe and wonder in the face of human reality. We do lots of things with this impulse, including art and philosophy, dancing and hiking. Lots of things. Anything that pushes our impulse of awe and wonder toward what we call transcendence—toward getting outside our static, autopilot selves—is “spiritual.”
So. . . where does “religion” come in? A particular religion proposes (and sometimes requires) a particular set of actions and beliefs that a particular tradition has developed over time. For example, Hatha Yoga in Hindu practice leads to “yoking” with the divine. It also can be, even when divorced from its religious roots, very good exercise. Union with the divine is also the aim of many of the sacraments practiced in Christian traditions. In religions, the spiritual impulse is harnessed, if you will, to a set of predetermined practices. The end is, ideally, the same, however: turning off the autopilot. Transcendence.
Spirituality is the impulse; religion is the technique. So, when someone says, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” chances are that person likes to paint, dance, play kazoo, hike, or what-have-you, to find the sense of awe and wonder that leads to transcendence. Or perhaps the person mixes two or three or more religious traditions.