What is it about crisis that propels people into a more spiritually mindful life? When people have been shook down to their foundations, they look for the divine in their ramshackle lives to build themselves back up again. It seems natural that when things in one’s ‘mundane’ life are faltering, to look deeper to the divine for purpose, strength or hope. Even when the crisis is self-created through one’s own mistakes, spiritual or religious foundations are an avenue for recourse. One makes a mistake causing upheaval in their own or another’s life and regrets this. This next thing to do is take refuge in one’s beliefs and decide how to responsibly repair the damage done. And finally, refrain from making the same mistake. When the upheaval is out of one’s control, taking refuge in a spiritual life becomes even more central to navigating the crisis.
Some see this natural reaction becoming a startling trend. That religion is becoming a ‘feel-good fill-up station’. Some argue that rather than focusing on the worship of the divine, religion and spiritual traditions are simply the means by which followers find happiness. Where once religion served the divine, it now serves the followers. I am of the opinion that religion and spirituality can and should facilitate both worship of the divine source and purpose-filled, morally responsible lives for followers. Perhaps the emphasis between these two elements has shifted over time, but neither is lost. Religion and spiritual traditions can deliver on both fronts.
Crisis works to bring us back to worship and a spiritually mindful life in two ways: by giving perspective on what is most important in life, and by forcing change. These two things often go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive. The change in our mundane lives may not only compel us to take refuge in existing beliefs or practices, but change and develop those beliefs and practices with the new perspective one has gained through the crisis at hand. This has been noted among New Agers and followers of alternative spiritualities. Currie identifies crisis as a necessary stage of spiritual transformation among members of a Florida New Age center. According to Currie, “… after experiencing some disenchantment with their beliefs, practitioners typically experienced a life crisis that was not spiritual in nature. Some examples of these crises include the death of a family member, financial difficulty (i.e., bankruptcy), a severe medical condition (i.e., cancer), divorce or ending a relationship, substance abuse (i.e., alcoholism), loss of a job, the onset of depression, and relocation” (2009, 36-37). These are the things in ‘mundane’ life that uproot us, force us to gain new perspective and look deeper, or perhaps look in new places altogether in order to build anew. While taking refuge in spirituality, the reprioritization that takes place to deal with the crises in our ‘mundane’ lives may extend to aspects in our spiritual life, sparking a new spiritual path and a new chapter in the spiritual journey.
Currie, Sean E. Sacred Selves: An ethnographic study of narratives and community practices at a spiritual center. Tampa, FL, USA: University of South Florida, Department of Sociology, Master’s Thesis, 2009.