I don’t consider myself to be a particularly religious person. I was raised to be. My parents are, and even my 95-year-old grandfather is still a regular at weekly services. I guess I would fall into the category of a “casual goer,” one who goes during holidays but not so much during the rest of the year.
It’s not that I don’t have beliefs— I do. I still even remember the prayers, the songs, the hymns that I learned in religious ed as a kid. As I got older, though, my sense of religiousness began to change into what I now consider to be more of a sense of spirituality than anything else.
I know that there are some who wouldn’t separate being “spiritual” from religion, but to me at least, there is a difference. That’s not to say that the two can’t go hand-in-hand, and in the case of many religions, they do. To me, but it’s similar to “a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square.” Spirituality is tightly woven into the fabric and the teachings of many religions, but one can be spiritual without being religious.
By definition, “religion” is defined by terms that include “service,” “worship,” “conformity,” “system” and “observance,” whereas the definitions of “spiritual” recognizes a connection with religion, but is more about the recognition of an entity or entities outside of one’s body, whether it be a spirit, a soul, a deity or supernatural being. Many religions recognize these entities, but it is possible to believe in spirits without subscribing to a particular religion.
To me, spirituality is the essence, religion provides a structure.
Regardless of how your beliefs about this topic are similar or different from mine, we both have our own understanding of, and appreciation for the things that are the most meaningful to us. It’s not all that different from other areas of health, really. Some of us swear by exercising as the means to being healthy, some of us subscribe to nutrition as the key to our optimal health. Some of us rely on therapy to find perspective, while others of us feel best when surrounding ourselves with family and friends.
What intrigues me most about my own personal spirituality is that it was a bit of a surprise to me that I found myself finding meaning in it. I always expected that I would exercise more, eat better, utilize therapy, and seek out my friends. These things always were meaningful to me. With spirituality, though, I didn’t expect it to take on the meaningful role it has taken on in my life— it kind of just happened.
As you may already know by now, OCD has played a large role in my sense of health and well-being. As you might expect, the anxiety that accompanies the obsessions and compulsions doesn’t exactly feel “good." I have learned to manage, and even appreciate my OCD to a large extent and have done so through all of the methods I mentioned before.
I have been a person who has sworn by exercise, subscribed to nutrition plans, returned to therapy, and sought out social connections to feel well. I have turned to these things when I’ve felt challenged or facing a struggle. At various points in my life I have found each of these things to be helpful to me in my efforts to feel healthy, and lately, spirituality has been particularly helpful to me as well.
The beautiful thing about all of this is that we don’t necessarily have to agree because we each find different things to be meaningful. I believe that we can’t do anything for ourselves before we have the idea to do it— if we believe in an idea, we’re more likely to act on it. We embrace what we feel works for us and makes us feel good. In that way, spirituality is no different.
Now, I’m not going to be the person who comes to your house to convince and convert you to believe in any one particular thing or another. I won’t be the person standing on a street corner handing out pamphlets, or the person yelling into a crowd through a megaphone (for those of you who have never been to New York City this may sound bizarre to you, but these are common sights to see here). I am, however, a "sharer" of stories.
I hope that my story presents an idea to you that you’re able to find meaning in for yourself. If it does, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too. But again, being open to an idea allows us to explore it and understand it better, whether we wind up adopting it for ourselves or not. With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to continue reading this mini-series as I share how spirituality has helped me find peace at times when it eluded me.
"Peace of Mind: Finding Mental Clarity Through Spirituality" continues on January 31st, 2018.
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