Do You Think of Yourself as Spiritual?
Let's talk spirituality and how it connects to YOU and the world.
Is spirituality the same as religion?
I notice there are some who have a pretty strong emotional reaction to the word spirituality because they associate it with organized religion. Many people have a positive response. Many people have a negative response. While “religion” is certainly one way to define spirituality, it feels a bit limiting to me.
I notice others who respond strongly because they hear spirituality as “new age” and maybe a little esoteric. This, too, can cause positive and negative reactions. Mostly I sense curiosity. I probably do resonate well with Wikipedia’s definition of the central precepts of the new age movement: “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology, consciousness research and quantum physics.” Nonetheless, I find that while I'm spiritually curious and love the openness of the new age movement, I am equally open about how to define spirituality.
Your personal perspective of spirituality
When you get right down to it, spirituality is probably defined (and experienced) differently by each person on this planet. Furthermore, our definition likely evolves, expands, and changes over time.
While I was raised Catholic and have since converted to Judaism; nevertheless, I'm not particularly aligned with any one religion. I'm intrigued by many parts of many religions and yet I'm not attached to any one philosophy and am very respectful of others’. I'm a curious person by nature and believe that I can learn something from everyone. I've experienced the beauty in organized religion and have experienced and observed the negative impacts of religious dogma. Nonetheless, I remain open-minded and open-hearted.
I like the more general definition: the quality or state of being spiritual, with spiritual being synonymous with the non-physical experience of life. The way I experience spirituality in this world need not include a specific religion. When I think of spirituality it's inclusive, without dogma, holistic (seeing the connectedness of the mind, body, and spirit through universal or eternal energy), and most of all grounded in love, truth, and compassion.
How might God fit into this picture, you ask?
I see God as a beautiful way to explain our connectedness, our collective personality, life force, eternal energy. I experience God energetically as the Universe, the infinite, creator energy. I personally do not experience God as some entity “outside” of me or the Universe, rather more that we are all One. I do not experience God as a rule creator and enforcer with a heavy hand. I experience God as pure love and truth.
Additionally, I cherish the beauty in the spiritual archetypes such as Buddha, Ghandi, and Jesus. It's clear to me how we can all learn from how they practiced and valued love, truth, compassion, and kindness. I particularly resonate with the rabble-rouser aspects of Jesus ;)
Spirituality needs wiggle room
I'm of the mind that spirituality needs a lot of wiggle room. Can spirituality for one be a very strict religious practice and an unwavering belief in God, while for another be breathing in fresh air and appreciating nature? I believe so. Many people have died in the name of God. I wonder, if those people could have been just a smidge more curious, giving each other just a tiny bit more wiggle room to consider the possibility that there are many shades of gray…how many lives may have been spared? How many could be spared today, as people still kill people every single day in the name of God?
Spirited = Full of Energy, Animation and Courage
Some people really cannot see how these non-physical, God, religion references can fit into their lives. It’s not that I'm trying to convince anyone that they need to be spiritual, but I do believe there can be a flavor for everyone. For the real skeptics, I refer to the concept of the “spirited child.” In short, the spirited child is one that knows exactly what he or she wants and goes for it! I’ll bet that if she were left alone, she would experience life fully and with great joy!
The definition (thank you Merriam-Webster) for the adverb “spirited” is full of energy, animation, or courage. Wow! That’s what I want…I want to be full of energy, animation AND courage. Sign me up now! Even more validating is that the synonyms are fiery, gingery, and spunky and the antonyms are halfhearted and leaden. If given a choice between living a spirited life or not, which would you choose? How about halfhearted or wholehearted?
Children and Spirituality
According to Dr. Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Dr. Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace, children who feel that they have quality relationships and find value and meaning in life (measures of spirituality) are happier. If you resist the concept of raising your children with spirituality because of your own limited definition of the the word, I would encourage you to explore a bit. Read this article. Open yourself up to the possibility that there might be other ways to embrace spirituality, maybe even ways you currently do, but you don't label it as spirituality. Often it is just semantics.
My fundamental spiritual principles: love, truth, kindness, connectedness, self-care, seeing possibilities, open-heartedness, living in the moment, showing up fully, giving and receiving, wholeness and openly embracing and experiencing life.
My newest growth edges around my spiritual growth: more deeply honoring my inner voice, taking the best care of my body, and finding new adventures that feel scary but inspire me and allow me to experience life fully and ecstatically!
A few ways that can help you along the path toward living a more spiritually balanced life:
- Live in the moment. This is living in the present, living in reality. Try to stop revisiting the past and worrying about the future. If things keep showing up, do a little inquiry work to better understand it. What's available to all of us is to make the most of this moment right now. Be mindful of your current experience. If you're eating, just eat (don’t read or watch TV for example). When you're washing dishes, experience what the water feels like on your hands. This mindfulness is a form of meditation and it doesn’t take any additional time in your day.
- Feel your emotions. Often we're so busy that we just shove down what we FEEL and just move on. Those feelings are telling us very important things, get quiet and listen. What do they have to say? Is there a boundary that needs to be set? Do you need something that you can provide to yourself?
- Speak your truth. Sometimes we don’t even know what our truth is. By listening to our feelings, we often can uncover our truth. Be willing to give up things that no longer work for you to make way for that which is better for your soul.
- Practice self-care. Take a bath, get a massage, eat well, exercise, go for a hike.
- Strive for self-acceptance and self-love. Notice when you are judging yourself (and others). Look for ways to be compassionate instead. Forgive yourself and others.
- Stop Playing Small. The world needs you and your unique gifts and talents. Stop being who you believe other people want you to be and, instead, show up fully as YOU.
- Get quiet. Find tools to relax – deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, meditation, etc. Stress gets in the way of peace and harmony.
- Slow down. Slow way down. Spend time around trees and nature. Take things off your to do list.
I believe that if you become more self-aware, self-accepting, and loving (loving yourself, loving others, loving what “is”), you'll be changing the world. If we are indeed connected to one another and we're governed in part by the law of cause and effect, is it possible that changing yourself does, in fact, change the world? When we're overwhelmed with fear about the future, worried about how awful and bleak things look for our children and future generations, stop for one moment and appreciate that your thoughts and actions have a direct impact on the future of this Universe. Do you stand for the environment? Act accordingly. Do you worry about the emotional well being of our children? Clean up your own emotional house and you will be contributing to the emotional well being of all.
Change yourself…change the world.
You, the perfectly imperfect you, are here because you have unique gifts and talents that the Universe needs. Do not play small, live life big! Find what life means to you! Love fearlessly! Model for your children how you can step into your own power and change the world.
How are you going to make small changes today that will impact our amazing world tomorrow? Maybe that's what spirituality is all about :)
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