I wondered whether or not to post this topic as I was worried it may come across as controversial. But I went ahead anyway because I wanted to write from a place of honesty and intrigue, but mainly to discover where my own faith lies. I intend to explore different aspects of Religion and Spirituality that have been bothering me for quite some time. At this point, I should probably say what I’m about to talk about in this post may be quite triggering for some people.
Over time I’ve become unsettled by certain individuals who claim the only way to heal from disturbances of the mind is to begin a Spiritual journey. Go to any bookstore and you will see the ‘Self Help’ section has become infiltrated with New Age books that talk about putting thoughts into the universe or spirit cleansing etc… This is all well and good if it helps you, but what happens if it doesn’t?
I have never been a particularly Spiritual person. I don’t believe in Chakras or Psychic Energies or anything like that etc… it’s not from a place of prejudice or a lack of wanting to it’s more about the fact I just don’t connect with this way of being and that’s ok. At times I would like to be more of a Spiritual or Religious person because it seems to bring people a sense of belonging and a way of life, but I guess it just boils down to what you connect with. I have tried what other people have protested to be the answer and it felt good for a while but if I’m honest deep down it felt inauthentic.
Having said that there’s still a part of me that’s curious and would like to explore Spirituality/Religion on my own terms instead of having it dictated to me. I agree with many aspects of what Buddhism stands for and I particularly enjoy the meditation and compassionate/wisdom part of it, so I guess this would be a good place to start.
I genuinely think there are other ways to heal and find meaning in life without Religion and Spirituality. I don’t believe these are the only two answers.
With that being said let’s explore.
Spirituality and Religion are by themselves beautiful. I think it’s people who can ruin the practices by letting their own ego dictate what these practices ‘mean’ in accordance with them and everyone should believe the same as they do.
We have seen this over the years especially in Religion. People are killed for standing by what they believe in or what they don’t believe in. I believe it’s wrong for a person from one Religion to preach to a person from a different faith that their way is the only way and try to ‘turn the other person around’. I’ve seen people do this with the New Age Movement, the pressure to be ‘Spiritual’. Atheism is also a belief, but somehow people think it’s ok to question or pressurise the Atheist to believe in ‘something’ possibly because their own belief is threatened by the Atheist? But surely this is an invasion of someone’s right to choose?
My family has always raised me to believe in God. I was Baptised under the ‘Church of England’ and went to Church every Sunday with my Dad. My South African side of the family were devout Christians. More so than the English side of my family. My Dad was brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa during the 60’s which was at that time particularly difficult. He feared a punishing Deity who believed is strictness and rules. This could have been a contributor to my Dad’s wild ways later on in life, as we often see with adult children who are ruled with a religious iron fist.
I’d say I picked up on this fear of God along the way, scared to not agree. But when you’re a child you don’t question the information that’s being absorbed by your young brain, it’s just set in stone. But over the years doubt crept in and what accompanied the doubt was guilt. Which it would do as it feels doubt is in the same league as blasphemy. We are supposed to have blind faith.
‘New Age’ Spiritualism has become popular over the last 15 years I’d say. It is now a lot of people’s go-to practise for finding meaning in life and a way to heal a tortured mind. I am prepared to give Spiritualism another chance. I’m hopefully travelling to the Far East for Christmas and would like to find out from the original source what this is all really about.
Sometimes I have to admit I have felt shamed and even bullied by people trying to persuade to believe what they do. At times when I’ve been in immense emotional pain I’ve literally had people (probably well-meaning) override what I was upset about and bombard me with their belief system; if anything this makes me want to run away! One person even told me ‘you HAVE to have a strong spiritual practice’. All this did was make me feel hopeless and isolated as I felt the only answer to stop my pain was something I didn’t truly believe in. I felt like a lost cause.
I also think it’s dangerous when Spirituality or Religion involves itself too much with people’s Mental Health. I agree aspects of it are helpful and can compliment your journey nicely but I really don’t believe it’s a substitute for Professional help. If you are experiencing Mental Health problems or feel overwhelmed with life I would suggest seeing a Doctor ASAP. It’s great to have support from these groups of people but please don’t let anyone apart from a Professional tell you what to do with your medication or anything like that. Sometimes we need more than praying or chanting, we need professional help.
I’ve even felt angry with some of the suggestions people have told me about why painful events have happened to me. But I guess people don’t always know what to say in times of crisis.
‘God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle’.
‘It’s a lesson from God’.
‘It all happened for a reason’.
I understand they are probably trying to make sense of this existence just like I am but to be honest it offers little comfort.
I wouldn’t tell a child who had just lost their Mother that the reason that this has happened to them was that ‘God wanted you to learn a lesson’. If you can believe this then all the power to you, but for me, I think sometimes bad things happen to good people.
There have been times where I’ve felt connected to something greater. I remember being at Church in South Africa when I was 16 years old and it was in a particularly powerful service. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion my eyes welled up and I started bawling. Thinking back to it, I could have been connected to a divine power or it could have been the atmosphere of devoted people, the beautiful setting and/or the promise of the ‘answer’ which can all contribute to a powerful emotion that a lot of people correlate to feeling closer with God.
I had this feeling again quite recently in Australia until the subject of gay marriage came up. Previous to this I felt peaceful with a high level of compassion. As soon as the Minister mentioned that Homosexuality was wrong I immediately turned off and felt disappointed that I’d allowed myself to be swept in by something that can breed hate towards a person just for how they choose to live their life.
Another instance came when my niece was hysterical not long after her Mother passed away and asked me ‘Why would God do this?!’ My mind went blank. I couldn’t think of an answer apart from ‘It’ll all be ok’. Why would something that is all-powerful and compassionate let something like that happen to a child?
I recently experimented with being an Atheist. I felt huge amounts of judgement from people wanting to ‘save me’. This Atheism phase didn’t last long as I didn’t really connect with being this way either. I admire people who can break the mould and say they don’t believe, despite the ‘consequences’. I realised by admitting to not believing in something you won’t be punished. There are many people who live happy, successful Atheist lives… Bill Gates and Richard Branson just to name a few.
The thing that scared me about Atheism is the belief that when we pass away, we just cease to exist and that’s it. My mind isn’t fully prepared to accept this. From a Religious point of view when we die, we are judged. And it’s ‘decided’ if we will live in luxury and peace forever or pain and damnation. Or if you believe in Buddhism your soul is reincarnated into another living being, as they believe one lifetime is not enough to learn all the life lessons we need to. There are obviously pros and cons to all these different faiths. For example, if you’re an Atheist you may be inclined to live life to the full because you only get the one chance. If you’re a Christian you believe your deceased loved ones are in Heaven watching over you etc… I don’t believe people just disappear. I believe in the soul and the essence of us continues after death.
What I’ve heard from a lot of people is that they tend to pick and choose what resonates with them, and I guess that’s what I am doing in a weird way. For example, they may be really into chanting and believe in manifestations from the Universe. But don’t believe in Reincarnation, opting to believe in Heaven and Hell instead. I have to admit this confuses me slightly as I don’t hear about people preaching the word of a Catholic God and then sticking to a Kosher diet, for example. Maybe because there’s been a lot of conflicting theories about whether Buddhism/Spirituality is a Religion or a Philosophy?
For now, I’m ok with being Agnostic. I’m not a devout worshiper nor am I an absolute Atheist. I read this article because as a Millennial I find whenever I ponder life’s big questions ‘Google’ is one of my first port of calls (thankfully I’ve learnt not to self-diagnose anymore). I read an interesting article here that explains the differences between the believer, non-believer and everything in between. I’ve figured out that right now I identify with being an ‘Agnostic Theist’. This means I believe there is something out there but I don’t claim to ‘know’ nor would I put my life on it like certain support group members would have me do. I think often it’s a case of people being unable to accept the unknown. There must be a reason we are here, or why things happen the way they do?
As I write this I can see that any resentment I may have had seems to come from actual people rather than the belief system itself. I definitely need to do research and experience things for myself before I rule anything out completely. Some Religious and Spiritual Cults are a good example of people getting in the way.
Brainwashing people who are vulnerable and in desperate need of help has always attracted people who claim to be Spiritual or Religious Guru’s. People are desperate for guidance only to ripped off by a cowboy or even worse a psychopathic killer.
I think faith is a very personal thing. I feel connected to something but right now I couldn’t tell you what. It’s certainly not a white-bearded man in Heaven dishing up rules and punishment. It’s something that is gentle and light, something that reassures me everything will be ok. Maybe it’s the spirits of loved ones I’ve lost? As I’ve got older I’ve realised most of the things people tell me to do or think, I don’t need to listen to. It is most often a projection of what they are dealing with. And also it drowns out the ability to listen to your natural voice that may be quiet and faint from years of being ignored.
I guess my point is it’s ok to believe what you believe. It’s ok not to believe. I don’t think the only answer to healing from trauma is finding a path a Spiritual and/or Religious path, but if it helps I urge you to continue you with what your heart tells you to do. Understanding how the mind works in a clinical way has helped me in times of need instead of resorting to something that didn’t quite convince me. But that’s me.
Also, something that works for someone else might not work for you. Taking inspiration is great, but you can only be you and you need to do whatever works for you, even if this means going against conformity.
If you do consider yourself a Spiritual or Religious person that is wonderful and all the power to you. Even if you don’t have faith in a Higher Power some of the obstacles people have overcome in life because of what they believe in is remarkable, no one can deny that. At some point, my beliefs may change but for now, I’m settled.