What is spirituality anyway ? (no. 3)
Caroline Postlethwaite continues her search for herself
Well it’s pouring with rain outside again, but I’ve had another fantastic day. As I was about to walk our dog Fluff this afternoon, I looked out of the window at the rain & thought to myself “ Perhaps I’ll do a bit of dancing & yoga first!” Recently I’ve taken to doing yoga daily & dancing & I’m loving it.
I’m very lucky to have a room that’s just mine. In the corner I now have a little shrine of things that for me are very beautiful & meaningful, a large salt lamp with a glowing warm orange colour, a special plant I was given & photos of my family including one of my parents when they sat happily together. This was not a common occurrence but it is lovely to see them that way. My mother is no longer alive, so it’s a heartening reminder of her. I also have a Buddha fountain, a clay heart Oscar made, a painting of an angel my brother did & some beeswax candles.
Beeswax candles apparently give off negative ions & purify the air. Well, I just love the energy of them & they smell heavenly. Recently I found out paraffin candles actually pollute the air so it’s really put me off them. All I know is I am really drawn to having beeswax candles around me. They are expensive but they burn for ages, so as far as I’m concerned they’re worth the extra.
Anyway back to dancing. I’ve taken to putting on some music & then allowing my body to move, as it wants to. I first did this at school when I was very young & I came alive with the freedom of moving as I felt to move without being judged or marked. I love just moving to move, it creates a real feeling of joy & freedom in me. As a by-product it also keeps me fit. If I feel tired I put on gentle relaxing music. On the other hand if I’m edgy I put on something more bouncy. Anyway I love it & hope to start something with Marian to do this in a group soon.
As I walked out later with Fluff it was still raining & I found myself saying to her, “what horrible weather”. I caught myself & rephrased it, thinking, “ It’s great the plants are loving it.” After that reframe I really enjoyed the walk. With wellies, a mac, warmth & no wind what problem did I have? As I walked I had loads of wonderful insights as I thought back to meeting Amy earlier in the day. I had met Amy once through a friend. She runs Riverchurch here in the PO. www.riverchurch.fr
I had a little voice inside saying meet up with Amy, so I contacted her & we agreed to meet. Since getting more connected to my spirituality I wanted to connect with other truly spiritual people, whatever that spirituality or faith may be. Amy is Christian which I am not, but though today was only the second time I’ve met her she exudes a wonderful peaceful energy despite being mother to 5 kids, all at home. She is truly beautiful inside & out. An embodiment of God if there ever is one. We had a really connected discussion together & I realised we had so much in common.
Though I don’t want to join any organised religion it reminds me that there are some truly spiritual people to be found in there. I realise it’s not a good idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. I feel in a very accepting point in my life & do not want to remain closed to anyone or anything. Christianity is not really in fashion at the moment but that is no reason to close the doors to it completely.
For me outside religion, it’s so easy as all I need to do is follow my heart & intuitions. For me Source, higher power, God or however one names it are always with me if I choose to see & feel it, I don’t need a religion to get in touch with it, but I realise that others feel they do want a religion & I respect that too.
If I choose to connect deeply in the now I feel it, we all can. For me that’s it. I don’t see this as something separate to me. I can disconnect with it, which usually has detrimental consequences, but it’s always there for me & for everyone including you, whatever religion you may or may not be. No religion is necessary at all. The only requirement as I see it, is to allow the connection by creating stillness & consciously touching my heart with whatever I’m doing in the now. I feel so free nowadays, as I can just follow my own path pretty much totally. Being part of organised religion could easily place constraints on me resulting in me closing my eyes to certain things, which in turn could lead to a closed heart, so at this point it is not where I want to be.
The churches sadly are so filled with Ego & Ego as I see it is probably the polar opposite to spirituality & openheartedness.
What I now want to do is to get in touch with who I really am, the essence of me, the spirit of me without all the crap conditioning that’s created an inauthentic ego self of me. I can feel when I resonate from a higher place & I want to do that more & more as it feels so good. In fact I’m succeeding as I feel more & more joy, peace & love as time goes on. I feel so grateful for what I have & who I am & truly happy to be alive. I can honestly say I have hardly any negative thoughts most days. I always start the day with gratitude & remind myself of what wonderful things & people I have in my life. I then go through my list of things I would like to manifest. I am also doing my best to see the good in others & to visualise a future that I would like to see. I saw a great film called ‘The Secret’ which inspired some of this about the laws of attraction. It’s a brilliant film.
Amy was saying that she found having her faith has given her so much & certainly she does not look like a stressed out mother of 5 so it must be doing something good! She is also pained by how conventional Christianity in many ways has lost it’s true connection with God, but she has a vision to change that & certainly she is truly living her faith as far as I can see. She is well aware that spirituality & religion are dying in France & her vision is to give people the choice to connect with God here.
I suppose it’s true that without religion in schools, & churches loosing people in droves, it leaves France with a big lack of spiritual input. As I see it now I agree that no spirituality is probably a dangerous place to be. Having said that, having heard some of the awful thing coming from the church recently like paedophilia, organised religion can bring with it many problems as we are all too aware of.
True Spirituality however is important. It would be great if children could be given some help here, if it was true spirituality that is. Now in schools it’s really all about performance, marks, ego & comparison. So many other qualities go unnoticed. I know Oscar my 16 year old is really suffering. His school hours are far too long & he’s exhausted & drained. He’s up at 6am & comes home at 7.15 pm with 2 hours homework except for a half day on Wednesday. He then gets ill a lot & bad tempered & really doesn’t feel like he has a life at all, as there’s so little time & energy to do his thing. When he does have time off he just catches up on sleep! He goes to Bon Secour which is a private school in Perpignan. Academically it’s good & better than most but I really wonder who thinks these timetables up for teenagers, who we all know need their sleep. At least Oscar gets good marks & gets his homework done quickly. It must be even worse for those children who are not very academic.
On the issue of schools again, yesterday my kids were reciting a joke made towards Arab children on a daily basis. Here it is in English. “ What is one Arab in the sea?” Pollution “ What are all Arabs in the sea?” A solution.
Imagine for a minute that you were Arab hearing this day in day out. Though Miles does not say this himself, he says he’s going off his Arab friend a bit as he gets too easily angry. In fact his friend’s reaction to this is to get angry & punch the child who said it. That is probably better than just feeling horrible inside but it’s not a great way to feel or be. However it’s not that surprising is it? This way of being is very much from the place of the lower self, all fed by the school system of somebody’s better than somebody else. If children don’t know how to come from a higher place this is what they do & for that matter it’s what we all are capable of without a lot of conscious awareness of our judgements of ourselves & others. This is inequality that stems from a lack value for all of us as equals, though each of us has our own individual merits of course.
I think on a bigger scale the danger in the church comes when we make people too powerful, also inequality. There is often too great a temptation for the ego to grow of those in charge of the faiths. In Christianity in particular the heads of the Churches are given far too much power whilst the attitude of following without questioning by the people is encouraged, leaving people feeling powerless.
True spirituality is not about being powerless & handing our power to others, it is about owning our power & using it to create good. We as people must always look into our own hearts & see if what is put before us feels right. Keeping an open heart & open mind I believe are essential qualities to strive for, but we must also open our eyes to the truth of what is going on in front of them & not walk around blind to that which is uncomfortable, in either ourselves or others. We also need to realise that none is better than us or less than us. I know that’s easier said than done.
We must keep in touch with what intuitively feels right. This is what I admire so much about the Dali Lama & Thich Nhat Hanh. They are well respected leaders but with their constant awareness of themselves & their belief that all people are equal the power they have does not go to their heads. They treat everyone with respect, love & kindness, whether that be a cleaner or a political leader. They are humble & human even in their greatness. They look for what they have in common with that person rather than what is different in order to create unity rather than alienation. They know from this place, true co- operation can occur. This is so important for us to learn. Their example is so important & what a wonderful example they are. With this way of being they have created an atmosphere of trust & understanding that allows for true miracles to happen. These are truly great qualities. They have nothing at all to do with Ego.
I really believe we are entering a new era of peace, respect & love. Everything we think & do effects others. The concept of interbeing put forward by Buddhists makes total sense to me. Our life if we choose to live it consciously or unconsciously is a series of choices. Each choice we make has an effect on everything else. If we eat factory-farmed meat we are adding to the terrible inhumane suffering of animals. We cannot be of the light & do this if we see what we are doing. This month I decided to become mostly vegetarian though I eat some wild caught fish. It has not been hard as it feels right deep inside.
Today in Auchan I found an empty container in my trolley. Rather irritated I wanted to put it down somewhere, anywhere, but as I became conscious I realised I must look for a bin. This is a tiny example of respecting our world.
I have made a point of smiling at people. It’s a small thing but it makes a difference & a smile back is often a bonus, though I don’t to it for that reason.
I have become aware of how many of us give from empty as I did for many years. This is draining & exhausting. We must first give to ourselves in order to give to others in the right way. For me the exercise I mentioned doing in the morning helps, yoga, dance, eating healthy yummy foods, meeting friends & giving myself space all help. They also make me a much better mother & wife!
I have been watching & reading an awful lot about spirituality & happiness & these are the qualities that seem to be pretty much universal to cultivate in oneself. They might interest you & they have nothing to do with brainpower.
Loving oneself by taking care of oneself first , through mind, body & soul & giving to others from a full cup.
An attitude of gratitude
Humility, an ability to keep learning.
Learning from obstacles & growing through them
Getting in touch with the dark side of oneself & others with compassion & moving towards the light.
Doing a job that we are really passionate about & love.
People who manage this much of the time resonate at a higher frequency & that frequency affects all those around them to lift them up too. These qualities create happiness in our lives.
Now going back to Christianity. I have one big problem with it & that is that they have in my opinion a false belief that the whole world should become Christian for it to be a better place. Only their way is the right way. This is the one size fits all approach to life that is simply wrong & drives people away. Many people I know are frightened that they are always on the look out to convert people instead of just accept who they are. Christians need to get off their high horse & face this truth & really look at their arrogance. They are not better than anyone else. Their being Christian will not help them when they’re dead. This is a myth. It’s what you do & how you are that matters. There are many paths to God, source, higher power or whatever one chooses to call it & Christianity is only one way of many. Lets face it it’s not surprising so many people want nothing to do with it, looking at what it’s famous for!
Everyone can come to their own form of spirituality in their own way be that other religions, yoga, working closely with the land or here’s a challenge for you witchcraft. James has a Wicca friend who he’s lost touch with recently, but he is a Herbalist very much in tune with the earth, spirituality & healing. Now most of us have images of witches on broomsticks & think of them as somehow evil but the truth of the matter is they have been very persecuted & badly portrayed mostly by jealous Christians. They have a right to their spirituality too.
Thich Nhat Hanh has seen people first hand being stripped of Buddhism & forced to become Christian. This left a huge impression on him as he saw how those people suffered as a result. He does not ask that people change their religion only that they deepen their own faith in healthy ways. Ironically this is probably one of the very reasons people turn to & trust Buddhism more than Christianity. Christians can really learn form this. He’s written a wonderful book called ‘Living Buddha, living Christ.’ Which finds so much positive common ground. That is the healing root.
Having said all I’ve said I am well aware that no everyone Buddhist is perfect just as not every Christian is out to make the rest of the world Christian, but I do think there is an attitude of self questioning in Buddhism which is very healthy. I am heartened by talking with Amy as I see that she has that questioning attitude, as does Oprah Winfrey who is a Christian with a really big accepting heart that has brought so many people back to Christianity.
In fact I have mentioned Amy’s ‘Sacred Space for women’ to quite a few people as though Christian, it’s open to all & it sounds great. Look on www.riverchurch.fr for more information. I am saddened however that so many people because Christianity has really turned them off, do not want to go, but on the other hand I totally understand why. Amy has her work cut out to reach through this natural resistance people have.
There are really wonderful signs that we in the world really are prepared to use the intelligence we’ve been given to unit love & grow, rather than pollute & destroy ourselves & also the world around us. The financial crisis has helped in that process.
We can all do our bit by making conscious all our decisions actions & words to see if they are for the greater good of all. When you are shopping shop consciously. Think about what will help our planet as well as your pocket. For me this means buying organic produce that is locally grown. I no longer eat meat but the rest of my family does, so I buy organic meat for them. Realise that everything in your life can be a conscious decision & you will become more true to who you are. Picture what you want instead of what you don’t want. I have been visualising releasing factory famed animals into freedom & grass. It’s my little way of visualising a better future for them. I feel a unity of more consciousness in the world which gives me a feeling of hope for the future, though we make our future by what we do now.
Well better get that dog out again now, can’t keep harping on for ever!
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