I was raised Catholic and truly enjoyed going to church as a kid. I would walk to my grandparentsâ house on Sunday mornings and drive with them to St. Raymondâs Mass. I would sometimes be invited to read passages from the bible to the congregation. I always sat front and center with my grandmother who sang the hymns like an angel. However, as time went on I eventually stopped going to church because I began noticing parishioners gossiping about other parishioner in the parking lot…immediately after mass had ended! Not that I was a saint by any stretch of the imagination, and I too engaged in gossip from time to time; but right after church…in the parking lot…is nothing sacred?! Although I enjoyed the feeling of being in a holy building I was realizing that I was not getting spiritual fulfillment at church.
In school I enjoyed learning about God and Jesus, yet I often got this feeling that there was something even the priests didnât know. I often questioned the Catholic teachings because I had a desire to truly understanding the lessons. Even at a young age I could sense that I had spiritual needs that were not being met. However, I was often scolded for my questions; for being “obstinate” and the teacher or nun would then move me (desk and all) out of the classroom into the hallway. One time during sixth grade religion class I asked why God would punish people and send them to hell if he was, as the teachings go, an all loving and all forgiving father. Those two points seemed contradictory to me and I felt as though I was missing some critical information. This did not bode well for me as I was sent to the principalâs office for disrupting class. Another time, during confession at my Catholic high school I explained to the priest that I spoke to God each night and told Him my sins before I went to sleep. I was again reprimanded and told I was not allowed to speak directly to God about my sins; only a priest could do that! I inherently felt that this was incorrect but who was I to argue. I began to keep my personal practices to myself and soon stopped going to confession all together.
The point of that story is this: We all have a spiritual starting point…which is just that…A STARTING POINT! It may meet your spiritual needs for life…and then again, it may not. I am not suggesting that you leave your church of affiliation even if it isn’t meeting your spiritual needs. I am simply suggesting that you choose a spiritual practice that lifts you up; with or without religion. As a mature and spiritual being I can easily walk into any Catholic Church, Jewish Temple, Mosque, Ashram, Sweat Lodge, or Wilderness and feel deeply connected. I have been blessed with many opportunities to engage in religious and spiritual rituals of all kinds. My spirituality allows me to connect on some level with every faith and path that is loving, respectful, open, and accepting.
The first spiritualÂ lesson is this: Some of us are born into a particular religious faith and others are not. Either way it is simply a spiritual starting point. It may be that the religion in which you were first exposed serves to last you a lifetime and that is great. However, the opposite could be true for you and that too is great. The religion or spiritual path you were first introduced to is simply the first step; a starting point. As we grow and learn, we may discover that the ways in which we were indoctrinated (or not), aren’t meeting our spiritual needs. As we mature it is beneficial to reflect, explore, and decide a spiritual path. Once on the path you will learn that every day is a new starting point. But for today let us stick with the first starting point in your life.
Reflect on your spirituality; is your spiritual path working for you? Do you feel a connectedness to something greater than yourself? Are your relationships fulfilling? Do you feel at peace when you’re alone? Do you bring other up or down? Are you generous with kind words or deeds? Do you regularly express gratitude?
Explore possibilities. Discuss spirituality with someone you admire. Learn from spiritual and/or religious leaders. Read various spiritual and/or religious books or sacred texts. Be open to hearing about the spiritual practices of others. Be mindful not to judge. Keep an open mind.
Decide to practice something of a spiritual nature (whatever that means for you). Make a decision to be proactive about spirituality in your life.