My question is, is it ok to pick and mix religion?
Now that everyone who knows my usual responses is thoroughly surprised, I'll explain.
There is a difference between what you described with the month-long whirlwind of "picking and mixing" from the grab-bag of spiritual/religious/mystical experiences offered by all the world's cultures, and serious study and contemplation to find one's right path. I believe that it is disrespectful to the religions and cultures in question to pick and mix without thoroughly studying them, attempting to at least grasp the basics of their belief system and practice, the reasons behind the practices and beliefs, and the traditions therein. I've worked with Native American tribes, for example, who are always dealing with "pick and mix" New-Agers disrespectfully cheapening the shamanic experience, using sweat-lodges without any idea whatsoever of the point or traditions surrounding them, even arguing to use things like peyote to ehance their inner sight- all without the cultural and religious background to integrate these experiences into the mythology and history of a people or to understand their purpose. Complex and deep traditions get lost in a quick-fix marketing ploy to give people some ephemeral sense of peace at best and some illusions of enlightenment or salvation at worst. Often, these poor folks just go round and round, picking up this and then that, never getting truly involved in any tradition or finding any lasting sense of themselves, their place in the world, and their connection to the Divine.
Furthermore, "picking and mixing" can be dangerous, at least in my opinion. If you superficially choose, without any real depth of knowledge or experience in any tradition, you can really mess yourself up. The most dangerous and classic case I know of is people who attempt to use hallucinogens as traditional shamans do to soul-journey. If you're a shaman of an indigenous people, trained for years under the careful guidance of another shaman, you're likely to be OK. If you're some dude from LA that headed down to Brazil for a week-long "spiritual" quest, you're likely to blow a few brain circuits and wind up with some mental problems. Certain types of meditation aren't to be taken lightly either, and I also think dabbling in magic is a problem. The stuff that comes to one during meditation and shamanic type endeavors is not always happy- it can be downright scary. And, if you believe in that sort of thing- there are reports of negative consequences of pushing yourself in awakening energy or power. I've heard a lot of stories about bad "kundalini" experiences, though I personally have no experience with the practice or consequences.
People need to carefully study traditions to understand the context in which they have their experiences before
trying out the more experiential parts (except the relatively immune stuff like going to a public service at a place of worship). I suggest reading up on at least the basics of any faith in which one is interested, then meeting with an experienced practioner to ask questions and get some advice- for any faith or practice, Buddhist, Wicca, or Christian. Not only will you be more informed about the meaning and purpose behind the traditions, and the overall integration of them, but in some of the more mystical practices you'll gain a sense of what you're getting into.
Now, most who know me here now know that I am a hybrid of sorts and also study many/most of the world's religions. So I'll get to why that is different from "picking and mixing" like the TV show demonstrates.
Are there any of you that do this already and if so what effect does it have on your life?
My path is primarily based on what resonates with my own experience of God/the Divine. I read from many/most of the world's religions to gain a sense of the different traditions informing people, to gain inspiration from the common quest of humanity's reaching out to the Divine, and to gain concepts and practices that resonate with my own experience.
Before practicing anything, I am careful to study the religious tradition from which it came- in some detail. If at all possible, I either read discussions from long-time practioners about the benefits and any problems or directly discuss. The two traditions I embrace- Christianity and Druidry- I study intensely from a variety of sources and am always careful to pray over my decisions and ask God to lead me. I don't do anything I feel at all compelled by the Spirit to avoid. While I academically study other traditions, I do not take up their practices lightly. Many terms get thrown around, like "meditation." There are different types of meditation, and different ways to meditate, and some are in accordance with my sense of what is right for me and some are not. It is very important to understand the history behind each type and what it is supposed to produce in the practioner before just trying it out. This helps oneself and shows respect to the religious tradition and culture from which it came.
A final thought- the Dalai Lama actually was asked about the pick/mix way of doing religion, and about switching religions in general. He said that for most of the people in the world, it is pointless. One would learn much more by picking one tradition or path, and sticking with it. Generally, the tradition into which one is born is the best. Overcoming the cultural barriers to truly understand another religious tradition is very difficult for most people. I think the Dalai Lama was very wise in such a discussion. The time to search for a right religion for oneself, to me, is if one's personal experience of the Divine doesn't at all resonate with the religion in which one is currently, or if there's a big "something missing," and through study you find another tradition substantially addresses it.
Do you feel contented or is there still something missing?
This finding a big "something missing" in a tradition is what happened when I stumbled through academic study upon modern Druidry (of a particular flavor- there are a few very different kinds of modern Druidry). My own spiritual experience had always been very much oriented toward nature, I felt nature was full of sentient beings, I'd had many mystical experiences involving nature and the nature of Reality. Unfortunately, Christianity doesn't typically do much with this. I had no framework in the tradition of Christianity (at least not in the churches I went to) to understand and relate to this manifestation of God. I had no traditional/cultural guidance on this path. I recognized, even as a child, that the animistic and shamanic Native American religions were similar to what I experience, and I longed for a tradition, a heritage that made sense of this part of myself. I also knew, however, that it would be disrespectful to take bits of Native American traditions when that is not my culture.
I had the Spirit to guide me, but I longed to be able to study a tradition that had a framework of mythology and practice to better understand my own experience. I had built some personal beliefs on my own spiritual experience, and then stumbled upon modern Druidry, the flavor of which embraces the same beliefs I already had. They had a framework that fit with my own heritage and culture, and my own experience, and so I added this tradition to Christianity. Utilizing multiple traditions in this way is not easy like the "pick and mix" version of the reality-show world. Seeking a deep understanding, and an even deeper experience and embracing of the mystery of God, and desiring to be faithful to God and true to the teachings of Christ is hard work. To unify the two traditions requires constant study in both, prayer over what is and is not beneficial to my path, and the willingness to put aside the desires for warm-fuzzies in order to gain greater spiritual growth. It isn't about finding some vague short-term peace for me- it's about a life-long journey to bring me closer to God and nature, and to bring my life in line (as much as I can) with Christ's example. Hard work, but now I am content with the traditions I embrace on my path. I encourage all who are seeking to find the right path for them to not shun the enormous work and responsibility involved, to be careful and honest in study and self reflection, and respectful of the cultures and peoples who have graced us with their collective wisdom and spiritual experience over the course of human history.