I have never been one for faith. I do not believe in a greater power and I never used to really understand those that did. I shunned the church and its holy books as nothing more than misinterpreted stories and ancient lore. I didn’t pay it much mind at all.
I still do not have a faith. But I do have spirituality now.
In my first year of university I was required to take a secondary subject, a practice common at the University of Winchester – at least at the time. Because I was attending university with a friend from school and college we wanted to pick the same secondary as we had different primaries. The only one that we could agree on which fitted with our schedules was a course in Ethics & Spirituality. Now, don’t ask me what I actually learnt on this course as all I really remember was something about Kabballah and Madonna. We literally watched Madonna’s “Die Another Day” music video during a seminar several times.
What I did discover on this course, however, was that spirituality was a much broader concept that went beyond mere faith-based religions. Indeed, spirituality could readily be defined as the manner in which we carry out our lives. The ethos behind our reasoning.
Whilst studying this course, alongside my primary subject of Politics & Global Studies, I was introduced to Buddhism by the friend I had gone to university with. I say introduced – it was more that he kind of practiced it and I became somewhat interested.
Before we continue I should note that I do not sign up to the entirety of any form of Buddhism. It’s more like I’ve borrowed concepts, methods of practice, and ideals in order to inform my own spirituality. And this came over a prolonged period of slow exposure to Buddhist teachings and ideals, beginning in university and still ongoing.
One of the key parts of my spirituality begins with meditation and ends with a clear mind. Meditation is often preached by all sorts of people to cure all manner of ills. I strongly believe that, if used correctly, meditation can have a transformative effect on your life. Just like it did for me.
The only type of meditation I ever really practice is breathing meditation – where you literally just focus on your breathing and nothing else – and I normally only do it for a few minutes at a time. If I do it before I go to sleep I normally find that I will drift off much faster than if I hadn’t and I will generally have a better sleep. The benefit of sleeping better is already worth it in my book.
But I’ve also learnt techniques about how to keep a clear mind whilst meditating and I’ve been able to use these in my day to day life in order to calm myself down when faced with a stressful situation. In fact, my entire life is a lot less stressful now. Of course, generally reading about how to have a happier life (I strongly recommend reading “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama himself) has also helped here. I think much of my current self-belief about being awesome has stemmed from this newer non-stressed and happier self.
Certainly meditation on its own is not a cure-all. No one thing can be. And I consider many different inputs important in changing and informing a person’s outlook on life and their personality. However, accepting new ways of thinking has certainly informed my spirituality and both outwardly and inwardly changed my life for the better. I would not be where I am today without this approach to my life. I do not believe I would be as accepting as I am now, as kind as I am now, or as reasonable as I am now. I remember what I was like before. That isn’t to say I was some kind of monster, I just didn’t really care as much and got stressed out about all kinds of stupid things really easily. My life is better because I adopted this form of spirituality.
People adopt faith and make changes to their spirituality for many different reasons, from trying to understand their place in the universe to the hope of maintaining a calmer outlook on life. Many people who are agnostic or atheists can still have spirituality, just like myself, without faith. Truly, spirituality is a broad concept.
Whilst I do not believe in “pushing” my spirituality on others, I would always recommend to a friend going through a hard time to try out meditation and offer them comforting words. I can explain to people what the benefits of adopting a form of spirituality like my own are, but I would never tell them they should, nor push them in to it. In many ways the type of spirituality I have is based on a set of beliefs and ideals bound together by a way of thinking about life and ones place in it. That I can teach, but it is the student who must interpret it.
Do you consider yourself to have a spirituality or faith? If so, how has it changed your life, for better or worse? If not, what is your understanding and opinion of spirituality? Let me know below in the comments!
Thanks for reading,