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- Spirituality and Relgion
Spirituality and Relgion
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (scientist, theologist)
Spirituality has been inseparable from religion for a long time, but now it encompasses everything from personal worldview to esoteric or religious traditions. Even those who are not (or think they are not) spiritual, usually have their own opinions about it. When we learn about people who are spiritual, religious, atheist, or “not interested in all of this nonsense”, do we assign the same qualities to all of them? Or do we see some of them as conservative, others – as curious and bizarre, some cynical, and others – as dull and uninteresting? Which ones would we like to be? How would we like to be seen?
There are many definitions of spirituality (if you have one of your own, keep it in mind when you compute your personal formula), but here let us define it as a system of inner beliefs and values that transcends the relatively limited and self-centred perception of the world, helping us comprehend this world and our place in it more broadly. Some may practice this through religion and prayer, others – through meditation, and for someone else, it may be connecting with nature.
According to research, spiritual individuals are optimistic, feel more supported, and experience more inner meaning, strength, and peace of life (whether this correlation is also a causal link remains unclear) but as David J. McNeff, the author of The Work-Life Balance Myth, observes, they have another considerable advantage: faith. The belief is that, despite failures, disruptions, disasters, and interferences, they will be able to return to normal life and achieve their goals – everything will be fine sooner or later, and all it takes is time.
People are spiritual or religious for different reasons. Some grew up in a religious environment and continued practicing into their adult years. For others, spirituality comes after major life events, such as finding out that they have a severe illness or when someone close to them dies. Others (and this is typical of a modern, super busy human being) spiritual quests begin when they fail to find joy and meaning in what they do every day. The work they once found enjoyable may lose its purpose in the face of harsh criticism, love, and relationships – after breaking up or getting a divorce, and the constant consumption of things – when they notice that as the number of purchases increases, happiness does not. Spirituality and religiosity are areas without rivalry or condemnation. Inner peace comes from being able to explain to yourself why the world is as it is and why things happen the way they do. What is your philosophy of life, what do you believe in, and what is right or wrong? These questions can only be answered when you stop and spend time with yourself. In most cases, a person stops and changes something drastically when they are close to breaking point, but you can take preventive measures and uncover this area of your life before.
How to find the time, and where do I start?
Start with silence and time for yourself.
Disconnect from the outside world, from showing off, comparing yourself to others, and rivalry, from the never-ending stream of news, films, videos, emails, and messages.
Explore different religions and spiritual practices. Choose a book about religion, its characters, faith, and spirituality. If this is completely new to you, consider going to a church or monastery, and talking to the clergy and its followers. Keep in mind that religion and faith are often not the same as the actions and behaviour of the institutions that represent them (such as financial or sexual misconduct). Look for information online on what your religion or their representative institutions and individuals say about topics and issues that are relevant to you.
Devote your time to practicing religion and spirituality. Depending on the religion practiced, dedicate time to visit a church, mosque, synagogue, or a house of worship once a week. Celebrate important celebrations of the year, perform rituals and other spiritual practices.
Find the time for daily prayer or a moment of focus.
Practice self-awareness. Perform a daily practice of conscience accounting (a brief review of yourself, your work, thoughts, and feelings, assessing how Christian principles of life reflect in your daily life) and personal prayer, or practice of gratitude (naming what I am grateful for today, what lessons can I take from today) or any other form of reflection about the day (writing in a diary, walking outside, etc.), during which you would honestly assess your actions and behaviour with yourself and other people, and reflect on how you reacted to different situations.
Try meditating. Even 5 minutes a day, but every day. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time. Plenty of apps can help you learn and guide you through this process (you will find several recommendations in the resources section).
Try yoga. Learning to put your foot behind your head is not the objective here. Yoga is a way to feel the harmony between your body and soul and to learn how to listen to and feel your body. Learn more about the philosophy of yoga, not just the asanas.
Go on a spiritual journey. Go to a meditation camp in Lithuania, India, or any other part of the world. Complete a pilgrimage route (for example, Camino de Santiago in Spain or Lithuania), and participate in spiritual exercise retreats (their goals, duration, and location vary, so you should ask the church you visit about possible opportunities), a yoga camp, etc.
The Religions Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained, DK). “Is there only one God? What happens after we die? What forces and ideas have driven the world religions forward?” A compelling and accessible read on world religions. Apart from finding out how religions became such an important part of the human experience, reading through history, you can find applicable ideas that reflect our inner worlds and worldviews.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works (Dan Harris, 2016). After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out. Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. Research suggests that meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain. Dan Harris was sceptical about meditation, so he decided to write a book about it. If you also look at meditation with suspicion, this book is for you. Recommended to all beginners.
Shinrin-Yoku: The Art of Japanese Forest Bathing (Yoshifumi Miyazaki, 2018). The author talks about the healing power of forests (and nature in general, even city trees or house plants), and provides practical tips on maximising the health and well-being benefits of being in nature.
Think Like a Monk: The secret of how to harness the power of positivity and be happy now (Jay Shetty, 2021). “Who can help you find the meaning of life better than a monk? Jay Shetty’s experience and wisdom are priceless to those who strive for a better life and want to make the most of the opportunities they get.” 26 thousand 5-star reviews on Amazon say a lot about this book and its author. First and foremost, this book presents the wisdom of Buddhism in an accessible and comprehensive way.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams, 2017). In the book, Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu share their personal views and scholarly research on what are the inexhaustible sources of joy and how to find them in the constantly changing world. Serious conversations are followed by humour and fascinating memories of love and loss. These spiritual leaders examine countless complicated, painful, and complex topics and share their wisdom on living happily among inevitable hardships and transforming this feeling into a constant state of being.
10% Happier: https://www.tenpercent.com/