Author’s Note: This post is not singling out any religions or non-spiritual backgrounds in any way. I truly respect all forms of searching for God or not searching for God. This post is to illustrate my personal journey and how it might be relevant to another person who is looking for spirituality beyond their religious upbringings. Please read with an open mind, and understand that this post comes from 100 percent love and acceptance that I might be completely awesome or completely full of crap. I’m okay with either outcome.
These days, it’s easy to find articles about finding inner peace in order to be more Spiritual and balanced.
A lot of this content tell us we must have ‘self love,’ we must be grounded, we must realize that we are not alone, etc. But it is hard to find content that provides general information for those who have only known organized religion or no spiritual practices at all, whose teachings no longer align with the way they feel about life.
“I don’t feel right inside.
I’m not happy; something is missing.
I no longer align (or never aligned) with my spiritual upbringing.
I know there’s more out there; I want to feel true connection.
I read articles on spirituality everywhere,
but I still don’t know what to do next.”
Trust me, I’ve been there.
These feelings are intense and extremely confusing at times, especially if one’s upbringing was filled with a lot of empty rituals or ideologies that stunted creative and Spiritual potential.
I attended a workshop the other day with a smart and sassy group of ladies. We worked on creating goals for 2015 and beyond. One woman brought up something very dear to my heart, as well as lot of other people, about the link between her religious upbringing and how to fill her internal spiritual void.
She used the words: “spiritual void,” and it made my heart sink. I was like, “Oh my God, I completely forgot about this feeling.”
I come from a family with (what I would consider) strict religion. We were taught to adhere to many teachings and rituals relevant to our denomination. Growing up, I enjoyed being with my family and sharing the belief of God, but I still felt that something was missing. Today, I know that these teachings and rituals weren’t relevant to how I felt inside and didn’t teach me how to connect with my inner peace, much less my spiritual surroundings.
It is so hard to express this type of feeling to a room full of women you’ve just met, much less express this feeling to yourself with authenticity and a powerful use of words.
This was a safe space for everyone in the room. I was excited to listen to the women around me embrace her with supportive advice; what she could do to begin exploring her Spirituality again. This inspired me to share what the group had to say.
Here is a list of the topics we covered in our response to her beautiful question.
1. Read. A lot.
What do you do when you want to know about something new? If you haven’t been in school lately or aren’t required to read for work, we can often forget that books (not blog articles) are some of the best resources to begin understanding concepts about the world that you’ve never heard of before.
I say books and not blog articles because the nature of online articles sometimes lack context of a concept’s origins and extensive critical thinking around the concept, especially if the article is less than 800 words. What books allow us to do is explore topics as if we were exploring a new city for the first time. Articles represent the Tinder of that city, one and done…we want more than that when it comes to understanding different traditions, concepts, authors, and how these concepts help shape what we are essentially looking for in our definition of personal Spirituality.
Try not to be too focused on books that only talk about Buddhism, Yoga, Christianity, or Astrology, etc. You might not believe it, but even books on ‘neuroscience’ or ‘healthy eating’ can contribute to your definition of personal Spirituality. Go with the flow, and allow books to speak to you when you are browsing and purchasing. The right ones will always come.
2. Practice stillness.
I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but I will totally say it again. Practice stillness as often as possible!
We are a society filled with busy schedules and technology attached to our hips. Happiness is found when you can allow yourself to slow down and start perceiving the world around you with all your senses, aka ‘feeling all your feels.’
We are trained to mostly use our vision and our analytical mind to perceive this world and we forget about everything else, the cool part where our nervous system expresses serenity in the feeling you get when you walk with nature, where we start to feel when someone is in need of a hug, where we understand the future in terms of what we do in this moment now.
Stillness can mean anything that requires us to accept that our problems don’t mean anything, so that we can enjoy the now. Sit down. Use your lungs. Close your eyes. Put your arms in the air as if you’re embracing the sky, look up, and breathe.
You can do this while sitting on your couch; while brushing your teeth; at your desk, or in the bathroom. You can do this anywhere. If time is your enemy, you may only need three minutes…as long as your only expectation is to be here now, you will walk away feeling lighter (Now, that’s not to say something doesn’t piss you off 10 minutes later. If this happens, have no fear! We can’t always control what happens in our lives, but we can control how we act after it happens. In these instances, I make sure that I practice stillness before I go to bed so as to restart my tomorrow).
3. Go to Church.
‘Go to church’ means, go to your church…whatever you want that to mean. Stillness, as we know is an important element to slowing down and allowing ourselves to stop being always-on. Church, on the other hand, speaks to how we maintain and grow from these moments of stillness—it is the time to come up with new and creative ways to express our spiritual nature as well as time to allow our ideas of this world mature in a way that is influenced and connected to the greater whole.
‘Greater whole’ also implies that there is more to this than just you or your experience. The greater whole can entail our family or the many communities we spend time with. Church allows us to take the ideas we are exploring and apply them to our community so we can teach others about new concepts in life as well as continue growing as an individual.
What could Church look like? To me, my Church means spreading the word of spirit and healing. My Church is writing. It’s Reikila. It’s energy healing and it’s education—participating in workshops and courses – to learn more about healing so I can continue spreading the love.
4. Find a personal version of Spirituality.
Spirituality, like all other words, can have many meanings, and you can make this word mean anything you want it to. What makes you feel good in life? This could be a way to access your inner peace. What might make you feel guilty but still oh-so-good in life can still be a way to access your inner peace.
For those of us that were brought up to feel guilty about simply existing or not accepted as humans who make mistakes; we have a very hard task to unlearn those associations.
Practicing Buddhism for one person might be Practicing Skiing for another person. Your spirituality and how you express your love for this world and the people in it will be exactly what you want it to be. Just realize that this definition of personal Spirituality wont come as an ‘aha’ moment, but will come with a process of dedication towards the first three items on this list.
5. Realize that we are alone.
This is a very powerful statement. Some of the women in the workshop declared, “You are alone in this world when you are born, and you are alone in this world when you die.” While it might seem harsh and a little pessimistic at first, upon reframing your perception, this statement is completely true in the sense that you, yes you, are responsible for your own life.
We are alone in the responsibility of making sure that we are happy and consistently growing, no matter what the circumstances are. Because if we’re not happy and growing, we are not operating at our highest potential to be in service to your family or your community.
So when we are sitting in our rooms, feeling terrible about a life situation, this is completely normal to a certain extent—after we’ve taken time to heal, it is our responsibility to ultimately use this experience to grow and apply that healing energy towards something powerful and useful for our lives and others around us.
6. Choose to believe that we’re not alone.
The concept of having a Spiritual void implies that we think we’re missing something and will find it somewhere in this world. Through many years of experience longing for the connection to myself and Spirit, I believe that our body, our minds, and our souls inherently know that we are connected to the greater whole. This means that our energy is connected to all others: people, animals, nature, and ultimately, whatever It is that created all of this.
Many religions don’t teach us how to find God within ourselves because doing so often contradicts the very foundation of their teachings, and this goes along with not having a concept of God in your life at all. If we can effectively explore Spirituality in all her manifestations, we can be smarter when it comes to discerning between ideas that have been taught to us and what truly feels right.
Ultimately, having all of this new Knowledge accompanied by Spiritual practices will allow us to understand that the All is inside of us and allows us to connect to everything at all times; we can realize that this void has been created from ideas with someone else’s meanings attached to them. We don’t have voids, but others including our own ego tricks us into thinking we do. Don’t listen to it, I say.
If this post speaks to you, try to explore this list over time. Don’t feel bad if you sometimes feel like you’re going in the wrong direction because the process isn’t supposed to be smooth. Just know that while you will be held accountable for your thoughts and actions, you truly are never alone.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lauren Peters
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons