I will be the first to admit... I am a Pastor's daughter. I grew up in the church my entire life. I have had people pray over me, bless me with Birthday, Christmas, and Easter gifts, and acknowledge all the major milestones in my life whether I knew their name or not. My personal experience of church was a combination of living like a local celebrity mixed with having the largest family known to man. My dad knew people everywhere and because he was loved in the community; they knew me. Whether or not I understood the full extent of that at the time, I knew that my behavior was both a reflection of my family and a testament to my relationship to God.
But to be honest, I really had no relationship to God. I sat in church every Sunday and did what I was suppose to do. I intellectually was receiving the messages and could quote scriptures but I really had no idea how they applied to my life. The Bible was boring, overly complicated, and out of reach to what I was experiencing as a teen. So I left to the West for my dreams without looking back. Thinking I could rely on the twenty-one years of my parents commitment to God to supplement my spiritual tank. I had been a "good" girl therefore nothing should happen to me, I would get everything I dreamed of, and I would have a "good" life. Right? Easy!
Then reality came crashing in like a tidal wave. I was sexually violated by a friend, almost evicted from my apartment twice, I was underpaid and overworked, therefore making me basically broke the entire time I lived in Los Angeles. I suffered every possible hardship you can image. So I did what a person with little spiritual development would do. I blamed it on the lack of knowing the right people, not having a support system, being in a big city, the sky, the trees, and everything else I could think of except for my relationship with God. It never dawned on me that all the lessons I sat through for years in church were the road map to surviving all the worry that plagued me.
Although I felt alone in the journey, I know I am not the only one. The current news cycle validates the importance of having mindfulness and spirituality in one's life. Too many beautiful, amazing, and worldly successful people are struggling with emotional emptiness, addiction, and suicidal thoughts. What they are not telling you is that material things don't matter if your spiritual self is devoid. No amount of money, amazing friends, and power is going to take the place of having spiritual fulfillment.
Let's be clear Spirituality and Religion are not the same thing. Being religious means belonging to an established religious order, whether large or small. This includes religions such as Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as, those with a much smaller group of followers such as Bahaism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Spirituality, although a broad term, can be understood as the process of developing a life oriented to the "holy spirit" or something bigger than ourselves. A experience of a sacred journey that involves deepening the values and meanings by which we live. The willingness to allow that "something bigger" to enter our lives and display grace for ourselves and others. Simply put Religion is the culture in which you engage with God, Spirituality is the actual process of doing it.
How you connect to the Higher Spirit/God/Yahweh/The Divine/Allah/Jehovah is not the major focus. It's the fact that you do it at all. Life is hard because we make it hard. We value things outside ourselves, we mistreat others, we judge etc... We are human. Spirituality helps you cope with life's misfortune's better. Believing in something bigger than ourselves, helps us to navigate our struggles, experiencing less suffering through good and bad times. We become more compassionate, live longer, and have peaceful lives.
According to Verywellmind.com, those who have a spiritual practice, have faith, and engage in prayer:
- scored higher on tests of psychological well-being, and coped with stress more effectively.
- they receive greater stress-buffering health effects due to this gratitude.
- Those with an intrinsic religious orientation, regardless of gender, exhibited less physiological reactivity toward stress than those with an extrinsic religious orientation. They were also less afraid of death and had greater feelings of well-being. (Those who were intrinsically oriented dedicated their lives to God or a ‘higher power,’ while the extrinsically oriented ones used religion for external ends like making friends or increasing community social standing.)
So in short Spirituality means...
- Better health
- Less hypertension
- Less stress, even during difficult times
- More positive feelings
- Less depression
- Greater psychological well-being
- Superior ability to handle stress
- Longer life
And couldn't we all use this. Spirituality is a very personal journey. Only you can decide how to manifest it in your life. If we all could shift our lives toward wholehearted, agape love; image what the world would be. We would see everyone as a integral part of the human family. All of us giving our divine gifts to teach, learn, give, and receive. Celebrating our unique differences while honoring our similarities. Sounds like a world in which I would love to be.