9 Spiritual Moments People Experienced Nowhere Near A Church

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
When we asked millennials to define their spirituality this year, each answer was deeply personal. But one idea popped up quite a few times: Being spiritual means feeling like you're part of something larger than yourself, whether or not that "something" has to do with organized religion.
While some people grow up feeling this way, others who believe this may realize it later on. And sometimes, it comes down to a single moment, or a "spiritual awakening." So we took to Reddit to see how real people described their defining spiritual experiences, and the stories we found were as simple as they were poignant. Most notably? Many of them had nothing to do with a church or any religious institution. Whether they centered around nature, death, or, yes, hallucinogenic drugs, these moments were seemingly small, despite the meaning they added to people's lives.
Ahead, nine redditors share the moment they felt they were a part of something bigger. Feel free to share your own spiritual experiences in the comments.
1 of 9

That first breath the day after LSD.

"That first breath the day after LSD. Tantric sex with someone you truly love. Yoga flows that leave you so connected to yourself that you end up crying. Watching the sun rise in the mountains."

-Reddit user RadBenjamin
2 of 9

Looking into my first nephew's face.

"Looking into my first nephew's face the first moment I saw him. In that moment, I felt myself change. I felt myself fall in love with him. I could actually feel myself looking at the world in a different way.

"He's our next generation. He's our baby. The world is no longer about just enjoying myself and finding myself. There's a higher purpose outside of myself.

"Yes, he has parents who I am sure feel that way times 10. And I know I'm only his aunt and obviously its his parents' places to really sacrifice for him. But he's my nephew. I feel a responsibility to him, too. I feel a responsibility to help him have the most amazing life and achieve all of his dreams.

"Another nephew and a niece later, I feel the same thing for each one."

-Reddit user ApricotPickles
3 of 9

Sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of a New Mexico desert.

"Sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of a New Mexico desert late at night, staring up at the stars listening to Pink Floyd. I'm from a big city on the east coast, it's way different from NM. Seeing the west coast for the first time and just staring at the sky and the stars was honestly the coolest thing ever. That whole trip, it was a 19-day road trip across the west coast. Most unforgettable experience ever. Anyway, I just remember looking up at the stars and thinking, 'There must be a God, because somehow everything has worked out for this moment to exist, and without a God, nothing this perfect could ever happen.' It made so much sense at the time. You just have to experience it."

-Account has been deleted
4 of 9

When my grandmother died.

"When my grandmother died, a couple days later I saw her at the wake. Cold, motionless, defeated. That afternoon, she was buried.

"You end up in the ground, and that's that.

"It was then that I realized that Heaven/Hell/Purgatory does not exist. The purpose of life is not to do good things to get in to heaven, or to please some deity that may be waiting for you with open arms because of all the praying you did.

"It's to do great things that make things more amazing for those that you will leave behind. To make people remember what you did with the time you were given."

-Reddit user rodriguezlrichard
5 of 9

The Apollo 10 Command Module.

"The Science Museum in London has the Apollo 10 Command Module. Standing next to that, realizing I was a few feet away from something that had literally been around the moon and come back to earth, felt amazing."

-Reddit user claireauriga
6 of 9

Music festivals.

"Music festivals for me. I go to quite a lot of them, and the way I connect with people there is completely different than how I connect with people in the 'real world.' It's like you just meet someone but bond so well you feel like you've known them for a long time.

"I started believing in some cosmic forces of nature, due to some uncanny things happening at multiple music festivals for me."

-Reddit user nattygrl
7 of 9

Having to put my cat down.

"Having to put my cat down. I was an absolute wreck before going into the vet's office, but holding her in my [arms] while she passed away was the most peaceful thing I have experienced. I am not sure how to describe it, but a happy, loving, and peaceful presence filled the room as she passed away. It felt like her soul was giving me a final and last goodbye. I walked out of the vet's office feeling oddly happy.

"I also felt this while visiting my grandpa just before he passed away and again at his funeral. At his funeral reception, the whole room suddenly went from sad and gloomy to happy and cheerful. The event became more of a happy celebration of his life. Sometimes I will feel this presence. The room I am in will smell like my grandpa or cat, and it will feel like they are in the same room as me."

-Reddit user slytherinwitchbitch
8 of 9

Watching Cosmos for the first time.

"Watching Cosmos for the first time. Sounds stupid, but I cried at least once during every episode. Its just so amazing learning about how the universe started and evolved. How everything is connected and we are just stardust trying to make meaning out of something that's so wonderful that it cannot yet be fully explained. That even the most humbly born of us can someday grow up to learn about a secret of the universe that we had never known about before, whether it was when we learned about how gravity works or how light travels, and that there is an infinite number of things that we still have to learn."

-Reddit user Bellalion9
9 of 9

Seeing the blackened death metal band Behemoth in concert.

"Seeing the blackened death metal band Behemoth in concert.

"A bit of backstory: Behemoth has always been a very brutal band, obsessed with speed and pretty much just a solid death metal act. Their lead singer, Nergal, was just as you would expect the front man of such a band: long haired, sort-of muscular, generally badass looking and quite charismatic. Then, in 2010, he was diagnosed with Leukemia.

"...Then I go to one of the concerts on their first headlining tour since the illness. They have always had a flair for the occult, but this time it's all out. Altars, candles, incense, costumes, face paint, blood, the works. When they started playing, I was immediately struck by how disfigured Nergal looked. He was gaunt, his face was shriveled, and his limbs were barely there. If I had seen him on the street, I wouldn't have expected him to be able to walk. After the first couple of songs, the music stopped. He took down his hood. He was bald. Then he spoke to us, and all he said was, 'It's good to be alive!'

"After that, they played the most energetic show I have ever witnessed. This man who looked like he would be broken in half by a stiff breeze was running, jumping, sliding, screaming, riffing, soloing and just living with this unmatchable vitality. It was the only time where I believed that there might be a God, because I was watching a man who had beaten him. It was a celebration of freedom from divine will."

-Reddit user icos211