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A New Twist on Spirituality

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

A New Twist on Spirituality

Finding the sacred where you least expect it.
Jonathan  Ellerby Ph.D.
Jonathan Ellerby Ph.D. More by this author
Jul 25, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Though spiritual experiences are often profound and inconceivable, simple things like inspiration, a deep sense of hope, and the feeling of meaning or purpose all can be considered spiritual experiences. They help form the very foundations of our lives and choices. Regardless of belief or perspective, spiritual experience is essential to our health and a full experience of life. The secret lies in allowing the spiritual experiences, recognizing them, reflecting on them, and drawing their wisdom and peace into our daily lives. Just because it doesn’t fit our religious upbringing, or what we’ve been told to expect does not mean it is not spiritual or meaningful. None of us were born knowing how to run, talk, or dance, and yet with very little encouragement and an environment of support, all such expressions come easily. Sometimes we just need a little guidance, or someone to help us see how spiritually connected we really are.

Not too long ago I met a woman who wanted to talk to me about her struggle entering a new phase of life.  Cindy was nearing her fiftieth birthday, and was having second thoughts about her career. She talked about wanting to manage her constant stress better. She also confessed that she felt conflicted about her spiritual life and that it was bothering her. She felt she should be more peaceful and wanted to bring more “spirituality” into her life.

I asked what spirituality meant to her. She immediately expressed guilt and self-doubt. Then she went on for some time about her Catholic upbringing and shared her feeling of shame over not being more ardent in her faith. Her mood changed quickly as she went on to describe how she spends much of her time exploring her deep love of nature and animals. Moreover she expressed her dedication to these things through acts of service and a lifestyle that promotes the restoration of the natural world and the healing of her community.

Cindy was most aglow when she talked about riding horses. Finally, she joked, “I wish that could be my spirituality. I don’t often feel God in church, but out there in the open fields I feel something amazing. It is everywhere and within me. I feel so alive, the world feels so alive!” She added, “Too bad that isn’t religion.”

“Why not? “ I replied, “Why can’t that be your spirituality?” I certainly affirm the value and importance of a religious community, but never at the exclusion of the direct connection to The Sacred. I stressed that her love of nature and her spiritual experience in relationship to it is absolutely spirituality. My suggestion was to enhance and learn from those experiences. Each time she encounters that sense of connection and peace when riding, she needs to acknowledge it, savor it, and notice the characteristics of those moments.

I asked Cindy to describe all the qualities necessary to be a successful rider. “Focus yet relaxed; intent but flexible. You need to have firm boundaries regarding what you will let your horse get away with, and a great deal of compassion for them as well. It really doesn’t help to be distracted or get too far ahead of yourself. You need to be aware of the moment you are experiencing, with out fear. Horses sense fear.”

“Wow,” I replied. “It sounds like you understand everything you need to about managing stress, and being more spiritual. You have spiritual experiences every time you ride, you just need to apply all that riding wisdom to the rest of your life. If you wrote those qualities down and tried applying them to other areas of your life, I think you’d find the peace you are looking for.”

Generally speaking, spiritual experiences are moments that transcend the ordinary mode of perception, meaning, and sensation. Spiritual experiences are typically absorbing, when we are involved in one we aren’t thinking about it. When we become self-aware of a spiritual experience it often causes it to change or end. Spiritual experiences are not necessarily of God or religious content, but they do typically connect you with a sense of relationship to something that defies or transcends the ordinary. Strange as some such experiences may be, they frequently feel as “real” as any ordinary experience of day to day life. Intensity, sensation and emotion are usually altered in a very distinct or dramatic way. Different types of spiritual experience have different qualities and manners of seeing and feeling. In some spiritual experiences we have insights about our life path, in others we may encounter sacred beings, and in others we experience a Divine Presence so infinite and self-evident that we are instantly transformed.

About Author
Jonathan  Ellerby Ph.D.
Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D., is an important guide to inspired living in today’s hectic world, bridging cultures and professional disciplines to help people find what works. Featured as an expert in film, print, television, and radio, Jonathan is the aut Continue reading