A huge component to overall health and wellness is Spirituality. I have struggled with this for many years; since High School. It’s easy to toss it to the side and say: “I don’t know”… because, really, I don’t. For the past year and a half or so, I’ve had a very strong inclination that it wasn’t good enough for me anymore to not know what/who I believed in. I have some ideas, but morally, I can identify with many religions, so what am I?
I was raised Roman Catholic, was an altar server, attended Sunday school, youth group and sang and/or played the flute in the church choir from time to time. I appreciated the community that surrounded me and my family in times of tragedy and I don’t know if we would’ve gotten through those times like we did without that gracious, giving and unconditional community. The acts of kindness were un-paralell to any kindness I have experienced in my life and I am eternally grateful. THAT I feel connected to, that sense of community, but do I need to be Catholic to have access to that?
It wasn’t the religion I felt a connection to, which left me feeling confused and lost and honestly, pretty jaded and bitter. Why couldn’t I just let it go and believe in the church, Jesus, the Bible, and it’s teachings? Everyone else has no problem with it, so why can’t I?
I went to college and studied Eastern religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. I really loved learning about the different religions and was intrigued to learn more, but did I have a connection to them? Not really… there were bits and pieces that I took to heart and explored within myself, in particular buddhist ideology.
It wasn’t until Dance class (yes, dance class) that I felt a connection to something beyond myself, palpable energy that comforted me and made me feel like I wasn’t alone; a powerful force that gave me hope. What was it? Why did I experience this? I had the most wonderful dance professor of all time (I love you, Lorraine!) who taught us about the artistry of dance and performance and about how aesthetically pleasing shapes, movements and actions cause your mirror neurons to fire, which creates a visceral response. A.K.A. how to deeply affect people through ART. It was in learning this, taking part in movement/dance exercises, and meditation, that brought me to this place of, well, this sounds silly, but Nirvana.
But what do you call that? And how do you practice it, except through dance and/or performance? For the longest time, that’s why I wanted to perform, to access that simple, quiet, and powerful space in my mind, body and soul. At that time, I would’ve said that was my religion. It’s something about the mind-body connection that has always resonated deep within me. But totally unconventional, right? I haven’t ever been able to find a word for “it” and often feared it was self-indulgent and narcissistic and not rooted in any sort of spirituality at all.
Then came Yoga. I began practicing Yoga my senior year of college as a form of dance training and exercise. It evolved after graduation because it fulfilled that need for the mind-body connection to myself and the earth. Then I thought: “maybe I’m a buddhist!”. Yoga sincerely helped me through some horrible breakups and major life changes and I got to a point through meditation and yoga in which I felt strongly connected to the universe and most importantly, myself. So, I’m a buddhist?
Ugh, what the eff does that mean?! No, I’m not a buddhist…
And most recently, running. Running can bring you out of your head and into the quiet, powerful, and energetic space where your mind and body just exist, and your soul is what is carrying you forward step by step; mile by mile. That runner’s high feels just like a meditation high, or performance high, or high on life…
So, what do you call THAT?
As I reflect on my spiritual journey and all these experiences that are very dear to me, I wonder: why do we need labels for our religion/spirituality? Because when I look back, the one emotion these different stories have in common is happiness. That feeling of happiness goes far beyond anything I’ve experienced inside a church. (This is my personal experience and I, in no way, am doubting the power of organized religion and how impactful and important it is to the majority of people.) This euphoria, or happiness, makes me feel comforted and connected. To what, I’m not sure. Myself and whatever else… the energy of this insane and beautiful world we live in, maybe?
So, happiness should be enough. If you have something that brings you joy, peace and happiness, cling to it, hold on to it. That’s your religion. You can find a label for it, or don’t, but whatever it is, don’t take it for granted. I’ve spent years taking these experiences for granted insisting that there MUST be something more… until today. Today marks the day where I stop judging myself for the lack of “labels”in my life. I have many ways in which to experience happiness that allow me to feel grounded, peaceful and connected. What works now, may morph into something else in a few months, or a year. But I cherish right now. I don’t need to be labeled an Agnostic, Buddhist, Catholic, or otherwise, because it makes other people feel better to know what I am. That doesn’t matter to me, I know what I am, and I am always evolving in ebbs and flows, just like everyone else.
Go on and connect to your spirituality, whatever that may be. There is no right or wrong way to BE, except to simply be.