How do you feel about faith?
To quote Jen Sincero...“This God/spirituality crap is for suckers…”. I used to feel that way. And I've gotta ask...do you feel that way too? And you know what? It's okay if you do!
I think one of the biggest things that we can do for ourselves, that will benefit us from the perspective faith & spirituality is just sitting down and asking ourselves, how do we feel about spirituality and faith? What role has it played in our lives? Are we okay with that? Or do we want more? Do we want less? Are we living a "spiritual" life because our community or our parents want us to, not because we want to?
Getting real about the role spirituality is playing in your life currently and the role you want it to play is really crucially important as a starting point from the perspective of spirituality! And what's also important? Having a completely non-judgmental and honest evaluation of this for yourself! Maybe you want spirituality to haven o role in your life and maybe you're as atheist as they come! That's fine. Maybe you want to go to church, read the Bible daily, etc., but you haven't been! That's fine too!
For me, I'm not a church-going person. But, I still found myself wanting to have a definition for spirituality and an act that would encompass a spiritual practice in my life. The more I wondered and thought and journaled about this, I realized the following:
- My definition of spirituality is my own integrity and moral compass. My "God" is the voice in my head that is judging by actions and my life by what I personally deem to be right and wrong. It's like that quote from Eat. Pray. Love. "God dwells within you as you." My God was mine and I was going to be the sole judge of myself. Not some Gandalf looking dude watching me from the heavens. Myself.
- My spiritual practice would be a daily meditation to give myself some peace and quiet in my over-analyzing brain and to help me get more separation from my thinking brain and my observing brain
- I have a desire to be educated in world religions. Not necessarily to practice any, but to understand the major religions of the world because I have a desire to learn and to know where my view fits into the world.
I want you to take a moment and define what spirituality means to you. What faith means to you. Maybe you'll take my approach and determine a definition and a couple actions, daily and long-term, that fit into your view. Whatever approach you take is find. I just want you to take a moment to define it.
Mindfulness & Presence
I loved this article from Illinois State University called "10 Reasons to Practice Mindfulness". Check out the original for additional resources, but to recap...
- It benefits our minds by increasing positive emotions and reducing negative emotions.
- It boosts our immune system's ability to fight off illness.
- It benefits our brains by increasing the density of gray matter, which is linked to learning, emotional regulation, empathy and memory.
- It Can encourage healthier habits.
- It helps us focus by helping us tune out distraction, improving memory, attention and recall.
- It helps regulate emotions.
- It helps us to exercise more compassion, including self-compassion, and altruism.
- It increases satisfaction in our relationships.
- It decreases pregnancy-related stress and anxiety and helps parents be happier with their parenting skills.
- It helps veterans with PTSD.
I am a BIG fan of meditation. HUGE. But I don't think I've ever fully been able to put into words the benefits that I felt meditation was giving me. I knew that it was giving me a dedicated time every single day to really try to calm my constantly over-thinking mind, but outside of that, what is the real benefit? I think that the Self-Discipline Blueprint, a book by Patrik Edblad, really painted this picture the best!
Basically, in the realm of meditation, there are two aspects of our minds - the thinking mind and the observing mind. They work just how they sound. The thinking mind is the one that is constantly filling our brains with our inner monologue, feeling, emotions, thoughts, etc. The observing mind is able to disconnect from the thinking mind. It is able to watch our thoughts, feelings, etc. without over-identifying with them. Meditation as a practice strengthens your ability to separate the thinking mind from the observing mind. This is important because the better able we are to distinguish between these two parts of our mind, the more we're able to regulate our emotional responses and to be level-headed about things in our life. It also prevents us from over-identifying too much with our thoughts and emotions.
There are so many types of meditation. I think some of the biggest and most well-known are transcendental meditation, guided visualizations, Qi Gong meditation, and Mindfulness meditations.
I think the best way to go about meditation is to a) build it into a routine (morning or evening, preferably), and b) use an app or a guided meditation video on YouTube.
Some great meditation apps include Calm (my personal favorite meditation app), Headspace (a great tool for Beginners), The Mindfulness App, Insight Timer (very simple app to use!), Omvana, among others!
Check out some of the example meditations below...
Cultivating Intuition & Tuning into You
“Eat Pray Love” is one of my favorite movies/books. Mostly because I used to fantasize about traveling like she did in that movie! But also because she says something in that movie that totally speaks to me and how I feel about faith.
“God dwells within you…as you.’ God’s not interested in watching a performance of how a spiritual person looks and behaves. The quiet girl who glides silently through the place with a gentle, ethereal smile…who is that person? It’s Ingrid Bergman in ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ –not me! God dwells within me…as me.”
I’ve always really struggled with the idea of God as some dude – yes I said dude – looking down upon us from heaven, watching our lives as if they were a movie and intervening when we need help. I’ve struggled with this because I’ve seen too many people lean upon this idea of an external God, using it as a crutch so that they don’t have to put in the work. They have this idea that God will intervene and help them get through things like exams and interviews and presentations – and I’m not joking I’ve seen and heard people use their faith as their reason for not preparing themselves for something like this. They’ve approached an exam with the attitude of “If God wants me to pass, I will.”
I’m all for faith. But I don’t believe that God ever wants us to use our faith to not put in the work to create the lives we want. I believe that God believes in lessons and work ethic just as much as our teachers and parents do.
That’s why when I heard this quote in Eat Pray Love, I knew that this was exactly how I could describe my faith.
Faith and spirituality to me is internal. To me, it’s like that moral compass inside you; that gut instinct that we turn to tell us what the right choice is for us. There are a lot of experiences and lessons I haven’t had to learn in my life because my heart, my mind, and my morality – my “God” if you will –told me that these weren’t things I should do to begin with.
So whether you ascribe to this notion or not, I think it's worthwhile to spend some time exploring what your own rules are. And that's what I want you to take a moment to do.
- Which things do you deem to be unbreakable rules for you and your life?
- What are your opinions on drug use, drinking, extramarital sex, etc.? These hot button issues are usually things that people have strong opinions about in terms of what is right or what is wrong. These are good places to start when considering what some of your rules and exploring what you deem to be right/wrong in your own life?
- What behaviors in yourself are you not willing to tolerate? On the contrary, what behaviors are you flexible about?
- What behaviors are you not willing to tolerate in others and what behaviros are you flexible about?