Simple spirituality for dogma-shy desperados October 23, 2019 – Posted in: Advice, Personal Development, Spirituality – Tags: acceptance, advice, authenticity, change, control, decisions, growth, happiness, life, mindfulness, peace, Personal Development, positive thinking, relationships
As someone who has come to understand how important ‘plugging in’ spiritually is to her life, I have developed a rudimentary and ever-changing spiritual practice. But, before you run for the hills in horror at how pious that sounds, please understand that the words ‘rudimentary’ and ‘practice’ are foremost in that sentence.
Like a lot of us, I have found traditional religion tricky to stomach and I am tired of other people’s dogma. So, I am not talking about sitting for hours chanting crossed-legged by a waterfall. I am not talking about wearing flowing robes and insisting my partner grow a long, unruly beard. I am not talking about attendance at a specific place of worship or adherence to a religious rule book. I am not even talking about downward facing dogs or the ting of a little bell. All of those things are useful to many people seeking enlightenment and peace, but they are not the only ways to have an active spiritual life.
Putting the spiritual path into practice
The spiritual path is broad and welcomes whoever has enough humility and brokenness to know they need it. So, when I refer to a spiritual practice, I am talking about something regularly cobbled together that reminds me there’s more to life than my narrow perspective of it. My spiritual practice is as unique and ordinary as I am. So it can involve taking a walk in the fields, sitting on my bed listening to rainfall on YouTube, reading something inspiring in my back garden, seeking counsel from a wise friend, writing a gratitude list, taking a nap, prayer, self-inquiry, or simply focusing on my breathing for 2 minutes. I cycle up a long hill home everyday and even this can be spiritual if I decide to make it so. Focusing on each rotation of the wheels can bring me out of my racing mind and into the moment, which is probably the whole point of any spiritual practice.
Quite frankly, I’m not ‘right’ if I’m not plugged in spiritually. In fact, I’m all wrong if I’m not connected to something bigger than myself, in the same way that I’m all wrong if I’m lacking food or sleep or exercise in my daily life. So, I plug in out of desperation, experience and a very real fear that without spiritual food I will be unhappy, unfocused and inauthentic. I am much kinder, wiser and more peaceful when I’ve given my spirit what it needs, just as I am much kinder, wiser and more peaceful when I’m not hungry or tired.
Plugging in to your spirituality
So, what do I plug into exactly? In short, I have no idea! I had some heavy religious influences in my childhood and early adulthood, which left a pretty bitter taste in my life, so I now shy away from the traditional concept of ‘God’. Atheism didn’t work for me either (despite my best post-Christianity efforts) so for a short while when I hit the start of mid-life I was left without bath water or baby. But this left me feeling empty, cold and directionless – I needed to connect to something!
Thankfully, during this time I was reminded of the 12-step recovery suggestion of developing faith in a higher power of one’s own concept. That each of us is fully able to envisage a power greater than ourselves and that reliance on this power (imagined or real) is the foundation stone of a peaceful, contented and serene life. I can testify that this is utterly true. In fact, it’s probably also true that it’s the act of a faith practice that leads to serenity, not the particular thing you have faith in. So, if you want to put your faith in an old tree in the park/the Buddha/the seasons/collective consciousness/unicorns, then go for it! The act of faith in the tree/the Buddha/the seasons/collective consciousness/unicorns will plug you into a deeper, wiser part of yourself, to which you can turn at any point in your life. The more frequently you plug in, the more energy you will give to this wiser part of yourself, and the more it will grow. Spiritual practice is very much like going to the gym – in the practice of spirituality, you grow your wisdom in the same way that the practice of sit-ups grows your tummy muscles.
Letting go and living life
The amazing thing I have found on this very personal, imperfect, messy spiritual journey of mine is that it is ever-changing and ever-growing. The challenges of being human are often the fuel used by Life to deepen my practice and it’s when I’m the most hurt or struggling that my plugging in becomes even more vital and alive.
I am currently grieving the loss of a significant friendship and it’s been one of the most painful experiences I’ve faced in my 47 years. However, by plugging in to something greater than myself (I call it Life these days) I have found a level of acceptance and serenity that has sustained me, despite the pain and grief.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about plugging in is this – I no longer believe I am in charge of my destiny and I no longer try to control the outcomes of my life. I do my best and let Life decide what the best outcome will be. It’s like a dance I do with Life and, since I gave up my misguided sense of being in control of it all, I’ve had more fun, more joy, more love, more peace and more growth than at any other time in my life.
Let go, Let Life and Live.