Image courtesy of A Home With Soul
My daughter recently shared a New York research study with me that looked at the opinions of one thousand 13 to 34-year-old women. The insights were indicative of a generation of women who are independent thinkers and unafraid to be true to themselves. The finding that interested me most was that 70% expressed a belief in the ‘non-physical realm’. These open-minded young women consider themselves spiritual – but they want to be spiritual on their own terms.
For a long time, I’ve wrestled with the idea of claiming spirituality as a value of my own. Maybe it’s the people-pleaser in me, not wanting to appear flaky to the business people I work with. But in recent years, I’ve discovered that almost all of my clients (even those you’d expect to be sceptics) share my fascination with the things we can’t always explain.
I’m certainly no expert on the subject but I have come to believe that now, more than ever before, we are experiencing the need for deeper meaning in our lives. We are seeking purpose and connection, we’re looking for ritual and inspiration and we’re more open to explore the possibility that spirituality might be able to offer these things.
If, like me, the idea piques your interest, you might be curious to consider your own version of a spiritual life.
Here are my thoughts on what that means to me and some practical ways to embrace these ideas.
I don’t personally believe in a ‘higher power’ and I’m not religious at all, but I do believe in the connectedness of all things. I’m respectful of everyone’s individual beliefs and feel that religion, although the cause of great divisiveness and pain, also has much good to offer. The ritual, the community, the music, the stories and the beautiful places where people come together to worship, are all elements we could use more of. I love the idea that we might be able to embrace these things without dogma.
Practice #1 – Embrace ritual at the start of your day
If you’re drawn to the beautiful aspects of traditional religion but a non-believer like me, try creating a morning ritual that will help you interact with your day in a more conscious way. You might start with a meditation on waking, a few sun salutations, writing Morning Pages or noticing what you’re grateful for before your feet hit the floor.
Because I’m more inclined to a scientific explanation for the unexplained, my leaning is toward the viewpoint of physics. While the science of ‘connection’ is still mostly unproven, it seems reasonable to me to assume that energy comes in lots of different forms.
One of those forms is mental, and one that interests me most is learning about the mental energy of ‘intention’. In my own life, there have been many unexplained ‘coincidences’ occur when I have ‘put something out there’. I’m still somewhat gobsmacked about the fact that almost ten years ago, I drew a precise floor plan of the house we now live in, including the site’s orientation to the sun and the sea. If I hadn’t sketched this myself, I doubt I would ever have believed it.
My sense is that when we’re seeking to create change in our lives and we set a clear intention around that change, it has to be deeply heartfelt, not just a material want. As those with more experience in this realm suggest, we need to hold onto the outcome of our intention lightly while expressing thanks, as though it were already real. As with much of the spiritual advice you hear, this seems somewhat contradictory. Regardless, it worked for me and many clients tell me it has worked for them too.
Practice #2 – Set an intention for the change you’d like to see in your life
There are lots of different ways you can do this but my personal preference is to start by writing descriptively, in the present tense, as though you’re living that life already. If you feel stuck, start like this, “It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m at home with…”. Describe where you’re living in the world, who you’re sharing your life with, the kinds of friends you have, the kind of house you live in. Look back at the week you just spent at work and think about the kind of work you were doing and the contribution you are making to the world. Write in as much detail as you possibly can and once you have a clear picture in your mind, create a visual representation of that vision as well. Try Keynote (if you’re a Mac user) or Powerpoint to gather a collection of images that represent your ideal life. Pinterest works beautifully too and if you like to be private, you can easily set your board to ‘secret’.
I’ve found that places (even individual rooms) also have an energy. I feel this instantly when I walk into a space and I know with great certainty if it’s an environment that will energise or drain me. This intuitive sense has been the most important influence when I’ve been choosing where to live or work. It’s also an ongoing focus for me to take care of the energy of our home and in particular, the room where I see my clients.
Practice #3 — Find the right physical spaces and keep the energy healthy
If you’re living or working in a building that seems to be depleting your energy, take notice of that. It’s likely that you’re not imagining it. In an ideal world, if there’s a strong negative feeling, consider a change. If a space feels mostly ok but a little bit off, try diffusing essential oils or using a space clearing spray (or if you’re more open-minded, ‘smudging’ the space with sage). Including personal items in your workspace can help and you might want to talk to a feng shui consultant about easy remedies such as adding colour or a wind chime at home to help shift the energy.
The other thing I’m certain of is that individual people have their own kind of energy too. If I’m grounded and calm, I feel it intuitively and instantly when I meet someone new. The only times I’ve run into real difficulties in relationships are the times when I’ve ignored that intuition. I’m better able to read my intuition and more likely to include the right kind of people in my life when I’m taking care of my own physical and mental energy – which for me means meditating, eating well, doing yoga, resting and finding time for creative pursuits that fill my soul.
Practice #4 – Keep your own energy right
If you feel that you’re attracting the wrong kind of people into your life, look to your own energy first. If your instinct is that you’re a bit out of alignment, start by implementing small amounts of change such as eating more plant-based foods and drinking herbal teas rather than too much alcohol or caffeine. Move your body in ways that feel supportive and nourishing rather than pushing yourself to do harsh forms of exercise. Meditate, do yoga, swim, have a massage or try an energy healing qigong sequence for a few weeks.
If you still feel out of balance, talk to loved ones and consider visiting a kinesiologist, a Chinese Medicine practitioner or an energy healer for extra support. If you’re facing more significant challenges, seeing a psychologist or social worker might be a useful pathway to meaningful change.
I also believe that we are deeply connected to the energy of nature. Again, this comes from my own experience. Nature’s healing powers are literally palpable to me. As a child, it was nature that gave me my first sense that there was something bigger than me. If I wasn’t climbing trees, I was bushwalking (often on my own from a young age), playing in the local creek or floating for hours in the sea. Nature filled the empty spaces during the many hours I spent on my own, the result of seven different house moves and nine different schools during my childhood years.
Practice #5 – Connect with the healing powers of nature
In a Japanese study on the benefits of forest bathing, researchers found that “forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better—inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function”. Find a place to walk amongst the trees or connect with the healing powers of the sea by walking barefoot along the beach. Spend an afternoon in mineral hot springs, swim in the ocean or take yourself to your local public gardens and spend thirty minutes lying on the grass.
All of these concepts come together into one key principle for me, which is the philosophy of connection. I know that if I’m better able to make a deeper connection with myself and if I’m able to stay connected to the natural world around me, I’m also able to make a more authentic connection to the people I encounter. From that place, I am much more able to live with a sense of purpose and meaning. Which in turn, means I have greater clarity about how I can contribute to making this world a better place.
For me, that’s a pretty good reason to embrace a more spiritual life.
Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
Energy Healing by Donna Eden
The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton
Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss
Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine by Deepak Chopra