Religion, spirituality and faith are words we all know and are familiar with. To some of us, they are simply words. To others, they are a way of life. Something we do and practice every day. Being ‘in touch’ with something is implied. ‘This feels like a very spiritual place’. What does that mean? Most of the time, I have no idea. It implies there is some kind of unusual or comforting feeling we experience.
Usually, people have a sense that there is something quite powerful and wonderful at work when they feel a deep sense of spirituality. Many people feel incredibly peaceful and calm when they are in these places. If you have ever stood alone silently in a church or cathedral and just allowed yourself to sense those deep feelings, you will know exactly what I mean. It is the fabric of existence I suppose…whatever that is.
Growing up in N.Ireland, I saw life from a very strange and surreal perspective. I was brought up as a protestant which has as much meaning for me now as advanced physics and quadratic equations – I don’t have a clue what it means anymore. I was very conscious of neeing to ‘belong’ to a particular sect of belief though. Religion had created a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. In all honesty, I hated it. I didn’t feel like I belonged to any tradition really. I was a musicican (flautist) and so was immeresed in the flute band tradition. So -there I was at the tender age of 13 marching on the 12th of July, proud as punch. (Not because I was so proud of my protestant heritage but from the sheer amazement I could play a wind instrument and walk for miles on end – with very sore, hot feet I might add!)
Music was the only thing that had real meaning then for me and so it remains today. For me, music gave me that connection to something real, something much larger than my little self. That’s when my own discovery and journey to the inner me began – through music. To me, music was a pleasure that had the ability to open up doors into a completely new world of understanding.
I remember going to church every Sunday when I was about 7 or 8 years old and being completley bored out of my head. I was fidgeting, giggling and on some occasions, humming to distract myself from what seemed a mundane and very complicated sermon that simply went over my head. I didn’t want to be there, but HAD to be there. Oh the joys! I couldn’t have been less interested in what was being said. I was thinking (dreaming more like) of other places, other things I could be doing – anything to take me away from having to sit on what was becoming after an hour of lecturing, an increasingly uncomfortable church pew!
This is not to say that spirituality is confined to being in church. Far from it. These feelings can be sensed anywhere. It doesn’t require you to go to church (although that can certainly help). It is all so very abstract and defining it is not easy. If you have ever sat in meditation and sensed feelings of happiness and gratefulness for no apparent reason, that is how I would describe it.
It is something that reminds us who we truly are. The joy of simply being is found within the essence of spirituality. Nothing is dependent upon it, simply your awareness of anything that arises from worrying thoughts and distressing emotions that causes you to lose that inner sense of grounding. When I first started this blog, I was thinking about happiness and how so many of us make our quest for happiness in life the ultimate goal. It is the goal but I think too many people are dependent on other people and other things to make them feel that sense of happiness and contentment that can quickly be lost as soon as our circumstances change for the worse.
The vast uniqueness of human experience allows us to explore every facet of aliveness. The good times and the bad. The ups and downs. The laughter and the tears. Good decisions and bad decisions. You could call it ‘free will’. The many cycles of life that come and go are there to remind us always that there is a deeper message behind it all. What that message is… only you can know. That is the most wonderful part. Your own life, your story is yours and yours alone. Your journey, your lessons and your time. To me, that is what spirituality means.
Everything that happens to us, whether we interpret it as good or bad has a lesson in it for you somewhere. A lesson that cannot just simply be found by going to church every Sunday. Repeating the same routine over and over again without questioning it will not give a true insight into who you are. Conforming to beliefs that you do not really understand is not a belief.
Having faith is an active, not a passive experience. Who you truly know yourself to be is an instrinsic part of actually having a living experience of faith. Be right here, right now and you begin to feel what it means to experience true spirituality which is of course….your infinite connection to all there is.
© Christina McDonald 2014