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What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual?

I have a new therapist. I like her. She's more aggressive and less focused on my past and more on my future. Yesterday, without any preamble and within a context I didn't understand, she asked: What Is your spiritual practice?

The question elicited an immediate bodily reaction. My spine stiffened, my heart raced, and I felt an almost uncontrollable desire to either run or lash out? Why did I react that way?

How do I answer that when I didn't even understand the question? I am absolutely NOT religious. But spiritual?

Religious Phases

My religious background occurred in very distinct phases:

  • Birth to age 12 – nothing at all
  • Age 12 to 20 – my parents 'discovered' religion, and we went from nothing to a Southern Baptist lifestyle. Church twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday. My father even became a deacon. It felt schizophrenic, but I bought in lock stock and barrel.
  • Age 20 to 25 – too much partying to be religious
  • Age 25 to 45 – back to lock stock and barrel. The church I chose described themselves as 'non-denominational,' but the back of the chairs was stenciled "Baptist".
  • Age 45 to now – I believe in a creator but not the "god of the church". The human church has irreparably hurt me, and that has altered my view of GOD, God, god and left me with no religion.

If I have no religion, can I be spiritual?

I learned that 'spiritual' was a 'new age' concept and therefore, 'bad'. Spirituality, in contrast to religion, was counter to following Christ. When I think of spirituality, I think of incense and kumbaya. I think of crystals and weird chants around a fire.

When I researched spirituality, I found this:

The religions are like the separate fingers, he [Bede Griffiths] said, and are quite distinct from each other. For example, they have different revered teachers, sacred texts, dogmas, and rituals. But, Griffiths continued, if you trace each finger to its source, the palm of the hand, you see that the religions all come together in their depths.

Spiritualityandpractice.com

For someone who was taught that the ONLY way to GOD is through the Baptist Christ, this statement is counter-intuitive. For someone who was taught that unless I said certain verses in a certain order, I was going to hell, the concept to "religions all come together" can be frightening. I was taught that only Baptists knew the path.

I no longer follow the Baptist or probably even the Christian path, but that fear took root. I'm scared to delve into other practices. After all, what if that fire-brimstone preacher was right. If I light a candle and sing kumbaya, am I damning myself? And if I have no construct for GOD, God or god, what exactly am I seeking? And how will I know when I've found it?

Some of you are reading this and laughing at me. Some of you are getting angry at my naivete or what sounds judgmental. I am not judgmental. I am searching, but I'm not even clear what I'm searching for.

The Goal?

Spirituality and a spiritual practice feel abstract and too big to understand. If you google 'spirituality' the number of sites is impressive and daunting. Who do I trust? Some of what I read is just too funky for me, too outside my comfort zone.

I think part of my problem (besides being scared of it) is that I don't know the goal of a spiritual practice. And because of that, I don't know where to begin and/or how to be brave enough to try.

The article I reference above can be found at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/about/what-is-spirituality. The first page can't even give a concise definition. It's confusing and upsetting to someone who likes to 'get it'. I rooted around the site, and it's fascinating, even exciting. They have several courses (as do other sites) but who do I trust?

Try What?

My therapist would like me to develop a practice. She recommended the book Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss. Oh my – it's about 'past-life therapy'. I can barely handle 'this-life therapy'. I'm officially freaked out!

If I find the courage to delve into a spiritual practice, what the heck would that look like? What does a successful practice mean? Please don't suggest meditation – been there, done that -- have the t-shirt but did not find it helpful.

Several people in my life profess to be 'spiritual,' but when I ask what that means, I get blank looks or defensive posturing. My therapist said that for her being spiritual means a belief that all things do happen for a reason, and she will see her mother again. She went on to say that she 'feels' her mom's presence. What the heck does that mean? Is that the goal – to feel my mom's presence?

Now What?

Is this something I need to do? Can someone talk to me about this in a way I can understand (something more concrete and less 'woo-woo')? Can anyone make suggestions for a former Baptist who has roots in that dogma? Can someone recommend a practice for someone who is not sure she wants to a practice?

Click HERE to download the journaling activity that accompanies this blog!

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