A Healthy Spirit Part One
I’m getting ready to break the number one dinner time cardinal rule. You know the one: Don’t discuss religion or politics and everyone will have a great evening . I think it's necessary to break the silence in an effort to promote inner harmony. When people start to feel alienated, apathetic, hostile, edgy, guilty, ashamed and worried, I can only suspect that there is a spiritual crisis; one that upsets the 3 part balance of spirit, soul and body. See, there are so many people who at the first mention of the word religion put up there antennas sensing danger and either attack or retreat. I argue that these people have had a traumatic experience with this word resulting in judgment, shame, unrealistic expectations and or punishment.
If I haven’t lost you already, you will hear me make distinctions between religion, faith and spirituality. As the Contentment Coach I feel that one of the main reasons that people are not content or unable to commit to being the best version of themselves is because there is a disconnect or avoidance of making one’s spirit healthy.
If you were to interview me as a youth about what spirituality looks like, I would have recounted the following: a daily morning devotion followed by biblical commentary from a popular religious FM radio station in the car on the way to school every morning; a continued spiritual regiment of Bible study on Wednesdays, family devotion on Thurs, Sunday a.m. school, Sunday afternoon services and Sunday evening services. I can see why people who grow up like me and even more regimented swim far away from this current. It can feel inauthentic and ritualistic and out of touch with reality. But in my later life when I have reflected on my upbringing, this regiment was a hope that religion, an institutionalized set of guidelines, practices and duties practiced as a way to be a good person, would help spark faith and give me tools to care for my own spirit, intellectual and emotional core or essence.
I don’t believe faith can be taught, so religion was important in giving me a foundation just like elementary school, teaching disciplines, introducing concepts, relating accounts of key players and settings that helped construct a picture book in my childlike imagination. My parents and others would take the time to share with me their own rich narratives of how they put their faith in God and the value of that commitment. At this point there was little they could do but watch and trust, just like one does when planting any variety of seeds in a garden, that those words and disciplines wouldn’t just fly away in the wind, but activate a magnificent pop-up book impacting my life forever. They wanted more for me than an unintellectual piety because it wasn’t religion that they wanted me to inherit, but a consciousness and worldview that they believed would protect,guide and strengthen me on my quest; faith. They wanted to send me off with my bags full of the essentials, so I’d be prepared for whatever life would bring.
There’s an 80s movie called the NeverEnding Story in which the main character, Atreyu, goes on a quest to basically save a princess. When he reaches the Magic Mirror Gate, Engywook, an elderly astronomer, warns the over confident Atreyu that he will have to face his true self. While Atreyu boasts of his previous successes Engywook cuts him off and says,
“ But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men find out that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away, screaming!”
Much like Amish parents and communities, the VIPs in my life wanted me not only to be able to pass the test of facing my true self, but embrace my own spiritual uniqueness and be able to use that uniqueness to impact the world, or at least others on my journey.