Continuing my Spirituality Exploration

Part of my big things this year was to explore spirituality. Spirituality means different things to different people. Because of my upbringing, I do associate spirituality with observing the rituals of a religious service, reading religious texts, and prayer. However, I’ve not been a regular church-goer now for a couple of years.  But I am discovering different sides to my personal spirituality – a larger sense of the Universe, a need for connection to something more, enjoying quiet time in reflection, and a need for better understanding of my true self.   Not the self that is “expected” by society or family, but my true self.

The introspection of spiritual exploration is supposed to offer clarity and comfort. I am also hoping that my spiritual exploration will allow my “life purpose” to make itself known. Yes, I can hope!

What practices does my spirituality exploration currently include?

  • Yoga. I love the physicality of yoga – the body strengthening and flexibility. What I need to build into my yoga practice is more breath awareness and more connection to the emotions within.
  • Meditation. The habit creation of traditional meditation (the silent breathing mantra kind) continues to elude me. But I continue to try on 21-day experiences! I’ve found this definition of meditation fits me better: “Meditation techniques include breath work and body scans, yoga, affirmations and visualizations, mindful eating, reflection, and walks in nature.”  Much of that I am doing!
  • My morning journal is a habit I love. Thoughts, dreams, what’s happening, what’s frustrating, what’s worrying, life reflections. I use it to track things and as a source of self-encouragement.   It is the place I take time to be aware of my emotions, do body scans, practice self-love (celebrate my uniqueness and my strengths), and cultivate gratitude.
  • I am enjoying the reading of inspirational writing and the response I’m getting to my summary posts. (Links here: Ageless Soul, Wise Woman part 1, Wise Woman part 2). I’ve got two more inspirational books read and ready for summarizing.  And many additional books on the to-read pile!
  • Mindfulness. A work in progress. I am trying to pay attention to the moment. Appreciating nature – from the beach waves, to the morning sun through the trees, to the slight breeze and bird song on a 90-degree day.  Listening fully to someone speak and asking follow-up questions (versus planning a one-up-man-ship story). Being aware of my thoughts and my conditioned response (often judgmental or self-loathing).
  • Connections. Another work in progress. Some weeks I feel that this is a success point and then others, I feel like this is a failure. A good (local – IRL) friend just moved out of the country for 3 years; another (local – IRL) returned to work full-time, eliminating our regular walk & talks. I know friendships morph and there are “friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for life.” But it’s hard when you know some life-affirming connections are being shifted, and possibly severed. (And yeah, I expect you both will say “No” to the severed when you read this.)
  • Practice kindness. I tend to be critical and judgmental. Years of critical thinking practice have made this my conditioned response, not only towards others, but towards myself as well.   I am increasing my awareness of this thinking, learning my triggers, and trying to switch towards acceptance and kindness.

Maybe I’m not joining a new church, but I do feel a deeper sense of connection to life and others with the above practices.

What other elements are part of your own spirituality practice?

30 thoughts on “Continuing my Spirituality Exploration

  1. You’re doing yourself a great favour by cultivating a deeper bond with life, no matter how that’s called by anyone 🙂 Because of the connection of the word ‘spirituality’ with organised religion, I use the term ‘Being in the Now’ for myself. I’m not sure who ‘invented’ this term, and it doesn’t really matter, but I’ve read about it for the first time in Eckhart Tolle’s book called “The Power of Now”.

    To answer your question: My practice includes being in the Now in every moment of my life, doing energy clearings whenever my soul guides me to. For me that can be anything from going within and clearing out negativity with the guidance of soul, over listening to a music album picked by my intuition and being the watcher of myself to breathing exercices. Nothing fancy, I’m trying to get my voice back, still it opens up my chakras and thereby helps me evolve 🙂

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  2. Thank you, Pat, for another thoughtful essay. I am just getting back to reading and contemplating, after a busy couple of weeks of work, play and travel, and keenly feeling the need to cultivate some un-busyness. My thoughts in response to your thoughts: I continue to enjoy my new foray into yoga. I will never venture the crow pose, the crane pose or any pose that involves standing on my head, but the physicality, spirituality and community of a yoga class is proving to be just right for me. I also continue to start every day with my version of meditation. For me, that’s coffee and the Daily Office of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer followed by the NYTimes crossword puzzle. I’ve also started to take some time at the end of the day for a pause and contemplation, most recently trying out the daily meditation on the Calm app. I just finished reading Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir River of Fire (intrigued by Terri Gross’ interview with Sister Helen on the Fresh Air podcast). She’s a wonderful storyteller and her spiritual journey has much to offer the reader. I note that in the afterward, she describes her spiritual practice which is not so very different than what you and other commenters have described – meditation, time for self, time for rest. “Let me stop and breathe and listen.” Finally, I am now reading Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North. The subtitle is compelling: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. So far, much of it resonates with me, starting with that subtitle.

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    1. Liz, I’ve put that podcast on my list to try. I’ve recently added strength training into my weekly routine and am listening to a podcast while doing that… I’ve tried a few and am not really liking anything that much (yet). And added those books to my reading list. Of course my reading list at the moment is a bit long… but who knows what the winter will bring… cool days to bundle up and read?

      I laughed at the comments about crow pose and headstands… I’m with you! I’m also not able to do a bind. But a nice series of sun-salutations and warrior poses makes me feel so strong and alive.

      Thanks for sharing your ideas with me!

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  3. Your spiritual list is just like mine. I long ago left organized religion, although I do like showing up for a good 11pm Christmas Eve service when the lights are dimmed and Silent Night is sung. There is something deeply moving about that one particular ritual for me. Other than that, most days, you’ll find me on my mat practicing some form of yoga and meditation. I once sat next to a woman who was trying to tell me how yoga and meditation were bad and against the “Christian” religion. I told her that my meditation teacher said that praying was talking to or even at God and that meditating was listening for God. I was surprised when she sat back and said, “I’ll have to think about that.”

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    1. Jennifer, I’ve felt more welcoming, warmth, and acceptance from some yoga instructors and other yoga attendees than some priests or church goers. Ah well… I’m glad you made her think. I still sometimes find the ritual of mass soothing. We’ve not often attended Christmas Eve services as that was always the family gathering time. The one we did attend a few years ago was amazing, so I can understand your comment.

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  4. Pat – thank you for sharing. I’ve let go completely of religion in all shapes and forms within the last few years after 50+ years of religion being very intertwined with my sense of self and how others have always identified me. The feeling is odd. I’ve never struggled with spirituality as separate from religion — but in rejecting so many tenets of the religion that defined me, I am now finding myself exploring how to embrace spirituality. Nature has always been part of that for me and still is – as is walking. I love labyrinth meditation when I have the chance; water – oceans, lakes, etc speak to my soul as do the woods. I spent the summer building patios and a little haven in my yard. Even cooking and dishwashing is a meditative, spiritual experience for me. Anyway, I’m rambling! I’ve been away from blogging since May but feel myself inching back in. Thanks for nudging my reflection.

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    1. Janet, it’s interesting how many folks mentioned nature connection as part of their spirituality. I’m in Florida at the moment and spending more time outdoors… and loving it! I’m going to have to add nature as a bullet point in my next spirituality exploration update. I also understand how cooking can be meditative… I’ve always said cutting up veggies in dinner prep was stress relieving for me. And welcome back to the blogosphere!

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  5. Spirituality is a big one Pat – I think it’s an intrinsic part of ourselves (a God shaped hole is how I’ve heard it described – and we all fill it differently if we don’t put God into it I guess). We all have a soul and it needs to be nurtured or we wither up and become bitter old women. I love seeing people who have a full and abundant spiritual component in their life – there’s an inner warmth and care that is lacking in others – and I’m aiming to be one of those people. It doesn’t come from attending a building, or a worship service, for me it comes from a genuine desire to know God more and to be the type of person Jesus was.

    I’ve been listening to a podcast series called “Exploring My Strange Bible” by Tim Mackie – great teaching about what Christianity is really about – less religion and more “Christlike-ness” and I’m finding it really helpful (compared to a boring Sunday sermon!)

    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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    1. Leanne, I’m putting that podcast on my list – thanks for the suggestion. I love that your aim is to be a “person of inner warmth & care”…that sounds so lovely! I’m personally working on being less judgmental and more kind. It doesn’t feel as big as your inner warmth goal, but it’s a start!

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  6. I really like your list. I don’t think of those things as “spirituality,” maybe because the word is often connected with religion. I’m not sure what word I’d substitute (I’ll have to think about it), but certainly the connection with mind/body, nature, and others is so important to health and happiness. Have you read any Joseph Campbell? If not, you may enjoy The Hero’s Journey and The Power of Myth (among his other books).

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    1. I just finished The Heroine’s Journey (Maureen Murdock) which references so much of Campbell’s work. I read Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey so long ago, it might be worth another read now. I’ll definitely look into Power of Myth as well.

      I also at first attributed spirituality to religion, but am coming to see it a bit differently now.

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  7. I remember when you first mentioned spirituality as part of a list you had, and I made a mental note that I was interested in that also. We actually tried some local places of worship here, but ultimately none spoke to us. I do like your alternatives, particularly the reading of inspirational writing; I hadn’t thought of doing that, and it might just fill that void for me. Many thanks for some good suggestions. – Marty

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    1. Marty, you are welcome! We have not explored any churches and now with our possible full time move (no timing yet), I’m not sure I even will at this point. A friend just gave me 4-5 more books to read to help my exploration – most are feminine focused though. But I just put the Gnostic Gospels on my to-read list. I’m not sure who/where the suggestion came from! I guess you need to see what sparks your interest … I’ve found that most inspirational books will reference others to read, so your list can grow quickly.

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  8. Hi Pat,
    My most recent attempt at Meditation has been focused breathing…and, yes, there is an app for that…and this, at least, I have been moderately successful at. I really am making a sincere effort this time in an attempt to naturally lower bp and anxiety. I’m fighting the medication route tooth and nail. And I do think it is making a difference.
    Being outside, walking, camping, boating, etc. makes mindfulness easy and natural. I try to take time each day at some point to think about gratitude as well.
    Today I am grateful for, among other things, all the inspiration and learning I receive from your writing.

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    1. Nancy, thank you!

      So many folks are commenting on being in nature. I’m going to up my outdoors time this month for sure… we are in Florida, so beach yoga, beach walks, bike rides… it’s so easy to be outdoors here. I know that my morning journaling helps me with anxiety…I often journal gratitude. It’s amazing that your breath work is impacting your BP! I believe it, but it’s still amazing.

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  9. For me it is walking. I especially love it in the mornings when the sun is coming up and there are no sounds of traffic. It is so stress relieving and I get some of my most creative ideas doing this. I’ve not been able to latch on to meditation for some reason and I’m an inconsistent journal writer. However, I recently started reading The Artist’s Way and joined a local discussion group for it. I’m starting to enjoy the “morning pages.”

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    1. Tracey, I loved The Artist’s Way and that is what started me on morning journaling. I don’t follow her “3 pages” anymore, but starting the day with pen on paper for me is so soothing. Kinda like your morning walk I expect. How fun there is a local discussion group to engage in doing it! Are you reading the original or the one specific for retirement? (She has 3-4 variations – one for work, one for parenting).

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      1. Tracy, the original is great for introducing the basic tools she uses in all the books, so I think it’s the best one to start with. The retirement one uses a “memoir” approach for the 12 weeks.. thinking back over your life in chunks to try and identify forgotten dreams and passions, to remember accomplishments and talents, etc. I found them both interesting… read them about 2 years apart.

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  10. I love your list, Pat. My spirituality is closely tied to the natural world and being out in/appreciating it. People joke I’m turning into a witch and I don’t mind that at all. If not a witch, definitely pagan then. I like to honour the natural world and the seasons/solstices. When our artificial human world gets me down, I know I can walk into the woods and be brought back to what is real and true about being a living being on earth.

    Friends – they do come and go, and not always on our schedules. Imagine that! I’m contemplating moving from the community I’ve always lived in and starting completely over, which includes making new friends. I’m not someone who needs a lot of friends but I do need and seek deep connections with people. Not everyone needs that, so I know it will take some time to find those one or two special people in my new location. Or maybe never. But, thanks to technology, I can keep up with those I am leaving behind. And hopefully guilt them into visiting me regularly (as I hope to visit them). Hah!

    Deb

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    1. Deb, I’ve noticed I am following the moon phases more lately, and the solstice/equinox seem to be moments of deep reflection too. I’ve not yet come to that close a link with the natural world, but I admire those that can connect to nature in that way. On the friends note, thanks for sharing your insights. The two that I mentioned were the closest I have to deep connections… I know technology helps, but for me, there’s nothing like a good Walk & Talk or Whine & Wine.

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  11. Hi Pat! Love the post. I started going to Adoration every Saturday morning, 6am about 15 months ago and has really changed my spiritual life. This past Lent I also added stopping at the chapel on my way to work for 10-15 mins just to help set the tone for the day. I can tell a difference when I am running late and decide not to go. I end up regretting it.

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    1. So wonderful to see you commenting here!

      I don’t do anything at 6 AM anymore! But my morning journal is definitely my quiet time….and pen on paper works for me. I can also tell if I miss a few days of it (because sometimes I will do something at 8 AM!).

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  12. I like your Spirituality List. It all makes good sense to me. I have tried meditation. Other than surrendering my mind when walking, I’ve never deeply connected with this. I’ve signed up for a local one-day Meditation workshop to see if I can discover any missing pieces. I’ll keep you posted.

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  13. This is a tough question. I think my spirituality is becoming more and more closely entwined with nature and walking and being in nature. Appreciation of the moment. I’m rarely judgemental and my family jokes that I can see way more than just 50 shades of grey in between the black and white of a situation. I’m not, however, very aware of my body and often feel quite disconnected with it & out of balance – both physically and figuratively. Yoga is something I really want to do more of to try and ground me & work on that lack of balance.

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    1. Jo, I love how you talk about being entwined with nature. I think one of the reasons I enjoy being in Florida more is that I am outside more – the beach calls me. Yoga on the beach, beach walks, looking for shells. I am also more aware of the moon and tides when I am here. Also, I just started yoga about 4 years ago and I really enjoy it. It is about finding instructors that you “like”, so if you don’t at first, try others. Different people teach it differently, and different people like to be led through a class differently as well!

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