Expanded thinking for personal empowerment
Hello again and thank you for continuing on this journey and a warm EM welcome to anyone joining us for the first time.
Last time we had a look at the word consciousness and I shared insights from my life’s experience. The energy of the word is incredibly powerful and leads us, well it certainly did for me, to examine our beliefs and our understanding of who we are and what life is really all about. That led me quite seamlessly to question whether consciousness and spirituality were one and the same thing which segued straight into the question: “So what about religion?”
Let me start by recapping what my beliefs are regarding consciousness.
Consciousness is a simple wakefulness, one’s sense of selfhood or soul that is explored by looking within
Now let us have a look at spirituality and see if there is any cross over.
The dictionary definition tells us: noun: spirituality; plural noun: spiritualities – the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. “the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way”
Cognitive psychology offers us: Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all.
Wikipedia give us: The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man”, oriented at “the image of God” as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. The term was used within early Christianity to refer to a life oriented toward the Holy Spirit and broadened during the Late Middle Ages to include mental aspects of life. In modern times, the term both spread to other religious traditions and broadened to refer to a wider range of experience, including a range of esoteric traditions and religious traditions. Modern usages tend to refer to a subjective experience of a sacred dimension and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live”, often in a context separate from organized religious institutions, such as a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm, personal growth, a quest for an ultimate or sacred meaning, religious experience, or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension”.
And there you have it, a veritable plethora of opinion and debate over a concept that is so far beyond our cognition as to be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to define in finite terms. From my experience and based on what I have learned and put into practice I offer you my understanding of the term:
Spirituality is the acknowledgement of the infinite potential inherent in each soul which is beyond our cognition and perception, and the connection of our soul to all that is; this is explored by looking within.
The moment that we acknowledge and accept that there is so much more to our existence than we can define; and that the realm of possibilities lies within the infinite, we can begin to decide for ourselves what version of that infinite potential we wish to live out as our reality. Nothing in the societal structure or religious instruction I received growing up supported this. I am of the opinion that all of the material that was presented and held up to me as The Truth or The Way had been created in the frequency of limitation. The very act of defining the concept of spirituality was to limit its potential. Since we do not have, or perhaps we have simply not yet mastered the art of, understanding the scope and enormity of all that is, that limitation is inevitable. For me the next logical question was, “What does that say about religion”?
I believe that religion is a man-made construct aimed at guiding and leading the masses on a unified path towards spirituality and whatever it is that each religion has adopted as their particular end goal. In my life that showed up as the concept of Heaven. It was the place that I could get to if I lived my life a certain way according to the principles espoused within its teaching. I was required to submit my will to a deity who would intercede on my behalf with God on high and who could ‘get me in’ if I lived right or conversely if I was truly, truly sorry for any transgressions I had made during my lifetime. If that sounds disrespectful, please understand that I do not function well in the complexities of life, I live by the distilled essence of matters and for me that is the distillation of all that I encountered at church growing up.
I have a very traumatic memory of sitting in a youth guild meeting one night in the 1970’s and watching a terrifying movie called The Rapture. It remains to this day one of the most shocking things I have ever seen. I think the intention was to convince young Christian children that life was finite and the consequences for not living ‘right’ were dire. I sat in that dark church in my early teens, watching two terrifying old film reels of people finding themselves abandoned by their loved ones, their friends, colleagues and community, with panicked news readers breathlessly reporting on the mystery of so many people simply vanishing in the space of a moment, and the ensuing chaos and fear. This was followed up by a drive to gather up all the remaining people and mark them with the 666-brand identifying them as loyal followers of the state. Those who held onto their Christian principles and refused the mark, were publicly and brutally put to death. This gruesome and terrifying offering was then followed by an immediate call to the alter, for us children to dedicate our lives to the Lord to ensure that we wouldn’t be left behind when the time came.
Well stuff that for a lark!!! I think it was nothing short of spiritual terrorism. The intention may well have been pure but the execution was a total miss even though we all flocked to that alter rail that night. No child in their early teens has the developmental capability to contextualise something so horrific and no counselling or discussion was offered, simply the emotionally heightened call to the alter. I had the opportunity to discuss that night with a friend recently, over 40 years later, and we both found we held a deep seated terror of abandonment and of not being good enough or acceptable enough to be ‘taken when the time came’. We also agreed that any relationship we had developed with Jesus or God or any other form of spiritual leadership did not begin on that awful night when we both sold our souls to fear and insecurity. As a child who was unwanted by her mother, to find out that she was unworthy to be admitted into Heaven was a devastating blow, it was the final proof necessary for me realise that I had no value whatsoever. On that night I dedicated myself to becoming a walking service industry simply to justify my existence. I promised to do whatever I was told or asked to do and I shut myself down completely.
Each religious order or denomination has their own version of that truth and they all ardently insist that theirs is the only way and the only truth. Wars have been fought over this throughout the ages and if that is not an egoic construct then I do not know what is! I want to state quite categorically, that I firmly believe religious order is necessary for the soul’s journey. I am not anti-religion in any way at all. I believe that people need to feel they are under the guidance and protection of someone or something so much bigger than themselves, so as to feel sufficiently protected to walk through life. Very much as a child, under the protection and guidance of his or her mother/father/guardian, will begin to explore life and discover what and who they mean to be as an adult; I believe that the protection offered by religion is the starting point for the adult to explore and discover what the truest expression of their soul is. The only departure I have from religion, as I have experienced it, is that I do not believe it is a final destination, but rather a starting point for us to discover our unique soul’s purpose and only by doing that for ourselves will we find ourselves enlightened and “made in His image”.
Heavy stuff! Well not really because life is not meant to be lived and understood in one moment and we have an entire lifetime to explore and decide for ourselves just exactly who and what we are going to be in this lifetime and beyond. The only requirement for full expression and fulfillment I believe, is that we live with an open mind and allow for the very distinct possibility that all we know may not be the sum total of all that is. I leave you with this thought: We can’t all be right… or can we?
I’m always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:
“We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another”.
So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but know that I do not tolerate bullying, shaming or disrespect on any level and that is a hard and fast boundary for me.
Listen with EMpathy
EMbolden yourself to dream.
EMerge from your learned way of being,
and celebrate as you EMbrace your full potential.
As you EMancipate yourself from your limitations,
you EMpower yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!
Until next time when I shall discuss mindfulness and how it can impact your life, be kind to one another and honor yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.
© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed