"I Just Want to Start My Life" : Why Spirituality is Essential...
...everyone is just dealing with living day to day within the stress of our modern lives. Who has time to fit in, “investigating the spiritual".
I am quite sure that people often run in the other direction when the topic of spirituality takes the forefront. It seems perhaps that the importance of investigating the spiritual isn’t totally obvious in our society. After All, everyone is just dealing with living day to day within the stress of our modern lives. Who has time to fit in, “investigating the spiritual"... and what the hell does that even mean. I also think that the term spirituality is frequently confused with religion. Organized religion can be a beautiful thing, a lovely compilation of rituals and principals within which individuals choose to live by. Yet, it is not spiritual in and of itself.
Here is a definition of spirituality that is perhaps broader than some; it is to dive into the self, exploring all the nooks and crannies of who we are within that will, in fact, allow us to be more fully who we want to be. Furthermore, it allows us to be connected to something larger than ourselves, relieving loneliness, helplessness and fear while also providing strength and intuition. What exactly do I mean? This is a bit tricky to explain but I will try. Perhaps in my efforts to explain, it may open your mind to a new way of thinking about spirituality, if, thus far, it has been something avoided.
...in those moments of stillness, when thought simply drifts away and there are brief periods of delicious peace, is when we meet ourselves...
Sometimes this topic arises with a client who wonders what it would be like to "be spiritual", yet has never considered or understood that that means. I ask him or her, when do you feel most quiet in your mind, when do you feel like you are totally present? Often it’s when he or she is with their children or other loved ones, taking part in a beloved sport, or hiking into the wilderness. I say to him or her, that is spirituality.
Frequently I get a glance of confusion in response. You see, in those moments of stillness, when thought simply drifts away and there are brief periods of delicious peace, is when we meet ourselves, when we no longer are controlled by worries, rather, we are entirely and utterly present. This is when we feel reality, the reality being that there is no future and no past. There is nothing but the moment you are in. While one might see this as obvious, within our cluttered, busy minds we typically live in the future and the past. Rarely in the present.
Living for the future means you may be living for something that you may never have the opportunity to physically experience.
I can’t count how many clients have said to me, I just want to start my life. I smile and ask, you’re not alive now? Of course the response is, well, yes, but this isn’t where I want to be. Then they describe the future they desire but feel like it will never come to fruition. I shocked a man once by saying bluntly, you might be dead by then. It stopped him in his tracks. I don’t always approach the topic so abruptly, yet at times I must interrupt a pattern of thought and behavior with a pretty obvious slap in the face, if you will.
Spirituality is to stop avoiding the realities of birth and death. Living for the future means you may be living for something that you may never have the opportunity to physically experience. It is in accepting and embracing death that we are compelled to savor the moment, become utterly present. After all, this is all we have within our current physical form. If you are waiting to start your life, when in fact you are living it now, you are therefore, unfortunately, missing it.
We are but perfect moments in time...
Spirituality is to seek greater purpose, deeper meaning, broader understanding. It is to strive for honesty, not only with others, but with ourselves. Part of honesty with ourselves is to recognize that our Earthly lives are finite along with everything, living and inanimate, around us. We are but perfect moments in time. Most importantly, honesty with ourselves means letting go of self hate, rather embracing the fact that we are brilliant and incredible beings no matter who we are or where we’ve been.
Discussing death is depressing you say? Why? It’s reality. Is reality depressing? Why is that? I will offer the most likely answer; I would surmise that the only reason someone might call this view depressing is if he or she is unable to find a purpose in it all. In all likelihood there has never been a deep spiritual endeavor to pursue greater meaning, which can free us from the fear of death.
For many years now I have been on such an endeavor. At twenty-five I began studying the writing of such teachers as Caroline Myss, Eckhart Tolle, and Don Miguel Ruiz. As time went on I turned to Jack Kornfield, Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. Even when my life seemed unstable and out of control, I continued to seek out teachers, I continued to search for deeper meaning.
In grad school I was one of a very small group of students who studied Spirituality in Social Work. I was one of even fewer that sought out an internship within a hospice. At that time I still had a lot of questions of my own about living a spiritual life, yet I knew that it was vital. I knew that it was calling me. I cannot say it wasn’t hard. Facing death daily was frightening, it touched upon my deepest primal fears of losing my very existence and the existence of others I loved. Yet, it also shoved me brutally into the now. It became utterly clear that there is no moment but the present one.
Many years have passed since then. I have suffered greatly with periods of mental illness, at times entrenched in deep depression or anxiety, there have been moments when reality seemed far too painful to be connected to the Divine in any way. Yet, I continued to seek through the vast teachings of Yoga and all of its practices.
Beginning a journey is simple.
As a psychotherapist I have worked with individuals ranging from torture survivors and refugees of atrocities to individuals whose lives have been inundated with death and sorrow and those suffering with profound mental illness. Yet, I can tell you that the ones who resume joyful living, including myself, are the ones who discover a definite purpose. This purpose is found along a spiritual journey.
Beginning a journey is simple. All you need to do to begin is have curiosity... and breathe. Stop the busyness for a moment, sit in stillness, and breathe. Feel the breath moving in and out of your physical body, listen to the inhale and exhale, and notice the raging thoughts that are trying to pull you back into all the busyness. Yet, return again to concentrating on the breath.
...with seeking, freedom awaits.
Perhaps you are wondering how on earth something so simple could be the beginnings of a spiritual endeavor. I will explain. For just a few brief moments, when your focus is on the breath and thoughts become still, suddenly there is no past and no future. Because past and future are only alive in our thoughts as memories, fears, or plans. Even if "thoughtlessness" can be experienced only for mere seconds, the stillness is tangible. Then the door opens to the possibility that there is more. The desire to search for more is the beginning of a journey. It’s as simple as that. From there, if you are willing, your own curiosity will guide you.
I can guarantee you that, with seeking, freedom awaits.
As it is written best by Bill Wilson, “We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny”. May you be blessed and kept until then.
Sarah is a Yoga psychotherapist and life coach specializing in prenatal and postpartum women battling anxiety, eating disorders and body shame. Sarah works virtually with women around the country and in-person in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
However, Sarah is a spiritual seeker and often blogs on issues outside of prenatal or postpartum concerns. She has many years experience as a grief counselor and spiritual teacher. Today she focuses her attention and energy on women during one of the most sacred times in all of life.