Life and Death

The Spirit Slice

This post may not be for you. That’s okay. You don’t need to read it or like it or agree with me. Oftentimes, conversations about spirituality can feel divisive or cause people to roll their eyes. I suppose it is a contentious thing, and I understand why, though I think it’s a shame so many of us feel the need to keep quiet about our beliefs. Keeping quiet can feel like being hidden and be rather isolating, so I’ve decided to open up about this aspect of my life and see how that goes. If you’re going to stick around, I challenge you to keep an open mind but respect that we may not see eye to eye.

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[Image: wooden outdoor steps leading up, covered in dry leaves and a yellow evening light, with some trees and a light blue sky at the top].

 

In an increasingly secular world, I have found that spirituality is an often neglected slice of the pie. It’s usually included as a dimension that is essential to one’s overall health, and yet it’s a dimension we are often not taught to nurture.

I’ve struggled with maintaining spiritual health and believe this affects all the other dimensions of my health as well, such as the mental, physical, emotional, social, and environmental ones. Good spiritual health can be the key to maintaining all of the others because it has the potential to guide you in this. I think it’s pretty important but don’t feel like my culture taught me exactly how to nurture it because of how secular this culture is. However, I have had a few opportunities throughout my life to learn more about engaging with the spiritual.

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[Image: statue of a monk in robes, looking off to the left, with dark eyes]. Photo by jeltovski.

 

I grew up in a Buddhist home and was introduced to meditation, mindfulness, and the teachings from a young age. Though I do not identify as a Buddhist at this time, there are a lot of things I love about its approach to life and the world. Buddhism isn’t a religion and I’m not sure it can properly be described as a “spiritual” practice, but it does involve some spiritual elements and tools. I’m thankful that I was given these tools when I was growing up so that they don’t feel so foreign to me as I work on developing them now.

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[Unitarian flaming chalice with a circle of rainbow stones around it]. Image from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham.

 

I was in a Unitarian youth group when I was a teenager and I loved the sense of community and social responsibility I found there. My youth group leader was also a Pagan, and often brought a mix of Unitarianism and Paganism to the activities we did together. I liked that Unitarians were spiritual people invested in social issues, and no strangers to activism, as so often spiritual communities seem to lack this.

Two other aspects of these Buddhist and Unitarian communities I have appreciated are that they are okay with you holding other beliefs. You are allowed to be a Pagan and a Unitarian, or a Pagan and a Buddhist, or a Unitarian Pagan Buddhist. That’s been my impression, anyway.

I’ve been fortunate to have had these opportunities over the years. I consider myself lucky because outside of these little pockets, spirituality in a colonial 21st-century Canadian context has been difficult to find.

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[Image: metal pendant with a tree and pentacle carved into it]. Photo by Dryad Design.

 

I’m trying to carve something of a spiritual path for myself. I’m trying to piece together what I like, what I don’t, and what I’ve learned from my journey so far to form a non-institutionalized “religion” of sorts that makes sense to me. I’m trying to be mindful of appropriation, something I think many new age spiritualists are guilty of. I’m also not sure I would describe myself as “new age” as most of what I’m interested in—Buddhism and Paganism in particular—are actually pretty old.

I’m starting small and I’m going slow. I’ve overloaded myself with research and activities in the past, and then felt overwhelmed by the whole endeavour and given up, thinking I just don’t have the time for a rich spiritual life. Right now I’m reading a book (feel free to laugh at the title) called, “Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World” by Deborah Blake. I’ve started with a morning ritual where I greet the day, say thank you, ask for what I need, protection for those I love, and for the world to get better. I like this because it is short and simple and it sets the tone for the rest of my day. Sometimes, I also light a candle and draw a tarot card. I got off to a rough start yesterday and realized that I’d forgotten to do this ritual, so I sat down and did it, which allowed me to reset myself and restart the day. There’s power in these kinds of things, in ritual—setting intentions, being quiet for a few moments, acknowledging you’re a part of the world, and then repeating the process. There is a quiet and subtle power in such things that I think is highly unrated in the modern Eurocentric context.

I’m also thinking about looking into the local chapter of the Unitarian Church in my town by attending a Sunday service. I can scope it out and see if I feel like diving back into this community.

“Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World” is something many of us, myself included, neglect to do. It’s easy to dismiss spiritual work as trivial, silly, or unimportant when the mainstream cultural narrative tells us that it doesn’t matter. But so many cultures throughout history and the modern world tell us otherwise. People have always believed in things, told stories about existence, performed rituals, and participated in spiritual communities. I’m not here to argue that this matters because I know, deep down, that it matters to me. I’m just here to remind myself, and perhaps you, if you’re listening, to make time for what matters. Figure out what matters to you and allow yourself to let it matter without judgement, dismissal, denial, or shame.

Be a Unitarian Pagan Buddhist, if that’s what makes sense to you. Or be a witch. Or be something else. Or don’t bother with any labels.

Research and explore. Be mindful and respectful. Take an interest but don’t take what isn’t yours.

Figure out what you need. You likely know what that is even if it takes time to sort out the details.

4 thoughts on “The Spirit Slice”

  1. Nicely expressed! I agree… we need something that helps us make sense of life and the weirdnesses that constitute being humans…thanks for sharing.

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  2. Whatever your path may be, make it YOUR path. It may be hard, even confusing; but not more than you can endure. It may be lonely and apparently unguided; after some meditation, you’ll figure out the way. Or you can choose the easier paths of joining and clinging to other people’s identities. I once tried to align myself with a group of Naths, I said all I seek is escape from samsara. Their leaders rejected me. They said that’s what EVERYBODY seeks.

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    1. Yes, that’s generally what I’m trying to do, even more so as I get older and feel more disillusioned by notions of a single, “correct” way.

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  3. During my homeless years, rudderless and in despair, I got in the habit of saying to myself, very frequently, “I will do God’s will.” Aloud, when I was alone, like a mantra, or silently when I was around people. Eventually, I just found my own way, and there was no need for the “mantra.” When my sweet niece got addicted to meth, she reached out to me. How strange. Me who isolated myself from everybody, because people pull me in all the wrong directions. I told her about “I will do God’s will.” Later, I had to call her again. To warn her. It’s no panacea, nothing will get easier at first (but later…everything will), even pain might get worse for a while, not better, and there might be loneliness. I just had to warn her, it might be hard to “Do God’s Will,” and you might have to forget everything you thought you knew, and all those plans and desires.

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