One of the biggest grievances I’ve heard from both those involved in organized religion and alternative spiritualities is finding time for activities that allow for spiritual growth. While these activities are important, sometimes a lack of activity can be just as important for the mind and spirit. Remember, rest can be sacred. So when you need to rest, cut yourself some slack and know that fallow time can also play a part in getting you closer to your spiritual goals.
Further it may help to reflect on how most everything works in cycles of activity and rest. The natural world reflects this and we need to stop fighting it in the interest of our go, go, go society. If you are finding yourself short on time, or you are never feeling rested, commit yourself to getting things done during periods of activity and truly rest during down time. During active times, write a list and check items off. Don’t answer the phone or text messages, don’t get side tract or take a 20-minute scroll through Facebook. Let yourself be completely absorbed in your tasks, both the mundane and those spiritual in nature. When it’s time to rest don’t watch the clock, be leisurely. Think about turning away from technology. Instead get out in nature or read a book. Bottom line, do something restful that you enjoy.
As far as spiritual activities, start to consider which are more active and which are more relaxing There will be some to fall in either end of the spectrum. That way, no matter what cycle you are in, there is something you can do to feed your soul. Whether it be volunteering to help the less fortunate, or taking a long meditative soak in the bathtub you can contribute to you goal of spiritual growth. Time is not the enemy, it just takes some practice to gauge the cycles and make them work for you.
I firmly believe in and have repeatedly wrote about crafting a lifestyle to accommodate and encourage one’s beliefs. This brings a distinct spiritual flavor to one’s life and aims to breakdown boundaries between the spiritual and secular. Personal growth and happiness awaits the individual that makes decisions to shape their life in such a fashion. However, it is important to remember than none of us live in a vacuum, nor should we try to.
Inevitably we will come across people and situations that are outside or realm of comfort, and even contrary to our beliefs. Rather than shy away from these situations and run back to the refuge we have created, we should stick around and try to learn something new. This doesn’t mean we get angry or seek to spread our way of life, nor should we change our views to match the environment or individual we’ve encountered. But rather be respectful as we try to gain understanding and perhaps a temporary look at the world from a different perspective. Your sanctuary will be there waiting for you when you’re through.
But for a small time, take a walk on the wild side. Don’t let the great wide world shake your foundations but open yourself to a new experience. Close encounters with the strange and unusual will keep you fresh and sharp. When we close ourselves off to learning, we close ourselves off intellectually and spiritually. We become stagnant. At best we become a relic. At worst we become irrelevant. Protect your ability to make thoughtful and wise lifestyle decisions and push the envelope!
When is the last time you got out of your comfort zone? How did it feel? How did the experience help you?
Recent events have sparked discussion and debate on the state of American society as the effects resound in school shootings. While some believe the strong presence of firearms and violence in America is responsible, others cite the lack of religion in mainstream society and public schools. In the wake of Parkland, Florida some demand that we ‘put God back in schools’. At first glance, this notion sounds attractive. I am a spiritual person, the idea of a society devoid of the divine saddens me. But any further consideration beyond a first impression begins to reveal issues with ‘putting God back in schools’.
First, the statement is vague. What ‘God’? What religion’s interpretation of the divine are we calling to be included in schools? Considering our Christian normative society, I assume those behind this statement are pushing for a Christian ethos in schools. Which begs the question, what about students that are not Christian? Do we subject them to a belief system that is not their own while denying the legitimacy of other faiths? Or do we accommodate all faiths by separating children into different schools based on religion? The option to send children to a religious school of one’s choosing is a great freedom to have, but it cannot become a requirement. Such a requirement would institutionalize segregation and destroy the chance for children to develop empathy and understanding for people different from themselves. Lastly, I think there are ways to teach pearls of wisdom from many belief systems in a secular fashion that is meaningful for most, if not all, students.
The notion that re-introducing religion in schools is going to fix the ills faced by America’s children, and ultimately the American populous at large, is absurd. You cannot expect an ideology to be applied in a troubled society and expect it to be a cure-all. The first step is to identify and start stamping out issues like lack of personal responsibility, and ill-equipped parents. Only when we pull out the weeds can we expect flowers to take root, spread, and bloom.
I’ve been considering the benefits of raising a child in a defined religion versus letting them find their own way on the spiritual journey. I have encountered many people that have misgivings about the religion they were raised in. Sometimes those negatively affected simply decide to take a different path as adults. Other times their experience is traumatic, and causes lasting damage that must be overcome before any new decisions regarding faith can be carried out happily.
But what about the alternative? What about those raised with less boundaries? In theory, children are free to create their spirituality and determine a central piece of their identity themselves. But the reality is, that they are not given a blank slate to create. No matter how determined a parent’s efforts to remove religious stipulations, they will be introduced by family members, friends, and societal dialogue. Consider the amount of mainstream chatter about America as a Christian nation. Even if it isn’t directly taught to a child, they will absorb religious expectations in some way.
To raise children with more spiritual freedom we need to accept that they don’t grow up in a vacuum. The freedom needs to entail not an absence of information, but an influx in communication. If we don’t issue kids with a set of moral beliefs, then we need to discuss those they naturally come across in the world and help them navigate in a way that still offers autonomy.
If you have any experience raising children with spiritual freedom, please comment below.
“Love people, not things; use things, not people.” – Spencer W. Kimball
This Valentine’s Day, think about what you love most. Well… what do you love? Make a list and begin to breakdown which items on your list are centered around people vs. things, and what financial cost is associated with these items. Try to look at your list objectively. As an extra exercise, try to rank your list from what means the most to what means the least.
Advertisers have sold products to the American public again and again with promises of love and happiness that will follow using the product. We have been trained to believe this, and in benefit of the capitalist system, many work for more and more income to spend on more and more things only to find out this doesn’t bring more and more happiness.
I think most of our lists will be made up of people centered items. Or at least, the people centered items will rank highest on our lists. There is nothing wrong with enjoying material things, but when we put our pursuit and enjoyment of those material things before our fellow man, something has gone amiss. In any case, spend Valentine’s Day looking over your list and hold close what matters most.
If your faith is different from others living in your area or from those in your close circle of friends and family, you may decide to keep your spiritual beliefs and practices under wraps. The reasons for this are numerous, general shyness, fear of being labeled as ‘different’, the desire to belong, to avoid conflict, and protect oneself from discrimination. Furthermore, it can be difficult to follow your faith if it is being criticized or undermined, so keeping your alternative spirituality in the closet may just be a way to keep it out of the line of fire.
Research on the relationship between secularism and religiosity would suggest that keeping faith closeted would reduce followers. The number of members of religious organizations and those who identify with a faith has fallen since religion was largely sequestered to the private sphere. But occult and mystic belief systems have not only survived, but are experiencing some what of a resurgence in recent years under the rise of ‘New Age’.
In my experience, it seems a large portion of ‘New Age’ followers that keep their beliefs quiet if not altogether closeted. I’ve met very few who are completely ‘out’. This makes sense considering the socially conservative area I live in, but it is surprising that alternative spiritualities continue to thrive just beneath the current of mainstream culture.
If you have any stories to share (good or bad) about your choice to keep your beliefs private or public, please share. How did you arrive at your decision regarding your beliefs and would you make the same decision in hindsight?
For years, endless scholars have discussed the relationship between secularization and falling rates of religiosity. Here, institutionalizing the privatization religious and spiritual matters has not only freed up the public sphere of these items but crept into private lives as well. The intention for secularization was to allow people to freely practice their faith. But the effects have been far more widespread in ways we are still working to understand.
Imagine for a moment that we institutionalize fear of the other. If we create measures to separate, alienate, and ostracize those different from us, what the fallout look like? We may only intend to protect ourselves from a perceived threat, but the actual effects will no doubt go further with that. Will our protection outweigh those effects? If we move forward despite those effects, will there be anything left to protect? This is what we must ask ourselves in the face of difficult decisions.