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Spirituality - What is it and do I need it?

Living Life on all Levels

26th June 2017

In a way talking about spirituality is such a personal thing that I'm hesitant to write this blog :) I've spent years studying Eastern meditation practices and for the past 7 years my head has been buried in Western psychology so I have a pretty broad perspective on this subject and one that is rooted in one belief and that is you have to find your own truth and your own sense of what spirituality means to you. For me at the highest existential level spirituality is an openness to what is unseen, unnameable and things that we can never truly 'know' but that we can have encounters with in our lives. My experience is also that once people get locked into one 'truth' or 'I've found THE truth' they somehow limit themselves and their learning and at worst they develop a spiritual ego that blocks their growth. We need growth on all levels too - we need to grow up towards the light and we need grow down into our humanity. The ultimate goal of many spiritual practices is peace and the sign of a life well lived is that when it is your time to pass away quietly with no unfinished business. The spiritual practices that have been introduced to the West since the 1960's hold different perspectives - some advocate a belief in an individual 'self' or soul that connects to a Source of Divine light and some suggest there is 'no self' and that God is an archetype held within the psyche. My view these days is that it doesn't matter what you believe but it is important to hold the questions that lead to discovering your own answers.

It's easier in a way to look at a life that is void of spirituality in order to figure out what is missing. I'm talking about when people are somehow running away from themselves, either through addictions to alcohol, drugs, exercise or any other form of escapism. Or when people are so busy that they never stop and find it difficult to name their innermost feelings, struggle to be alone with themselves or feel that somehow life has played out in such a way that has shattered their dreams. Maybe they always wanted a family, a career, great friendships and good health but somehow it hasn't turned out as planned. In the West a life without spirituality is a life of wanting more and always looking for external things to make you feel better. What's more we are surrounded by them too so it's very easy to surf the waves of consumerism and just move from one material acquisition to the next. When people don't hold a spiritual perspective they get stuck in thinking that their body is all of who they are, that they have to do everything they can to make it look good and spend a lot of money trying to project and maintain the kind of image that we are told we should be living up to. Nowadays you can spend a lot of money in the effort of looking good however the aging process catches up with all of us and we are all ultimately faced with our mortality one way or another. I'm not saying don't exercise, but I am saying that identifying with yourself as a body is missing part of the jigsaw.

So what does holding a spiritual perspective involve? Well it involves learning the art of withdrawing from the external world and getting into your inner world for a start. You can use active imagination, meditation, visualisation or reflection to name a few approaches but all of them involve making contact with your innate wisdom. The spiritual journey is one of making meaning of your experiences - life is a great teacher and so holding a spiritual view is about exploring meaning and purpose within and behind all life's events. When people hold a sense of their own spirituality they have an inner knowing, a stability when life gets turbulent and access to unseen resources when life throws them a curve ball. If they don't have it then they may feel angry at life, collapse into victim states or simply refuse to accept the learning that has presented itself.

In simplistic terms spirituality and spiritual practice builds internal strength to face life and it's everyone's birthright to access that. I'm delighted to see that the younger generation really do get it, and that they are finding the tools that are freely available and choosing a different balance, outlook and way of experiencing life. Many people have just seen that religion causes so much war and conflict and that religious institutions are corrupt and unhealthy and so they turn their backs on discovering what remains dormant inside the human psyche. However you don't need to be in an institution in order to introduce spirituality into your life. Communities can be very holding places but unfortunately they often have blindspots that lead to the distortion of sacred truths. For many the spiritual journey begins watching the sunset, noticing moments of stillness, looking into the eyes of a child or feeling at one with one's environment.

We don't necessarily need an institution or a Guru to find our way with spirituality - all we need is openness, access to some form of deeper wisdom and the curiosity to discover what awaits within. Therapy is one of the places that spirituality can be safely explored and you need a therapist who knows the territory in order to successfully take that journey. I don't steer my clients in any particular direction but I offer them a space to find their own way knowing that the practice chooses you not the other way round. What I do offer is experience of a variety of practices and institutions and insight into the application of Eastern practices in a Western world. Therapy compliments every spiritual practice because it provides the tools to integrate whatever needs to be processed inside. It could be that you need to learn to calm your inner critic, let go of the pain of something, accept your greatness or your woundedness or both! There are many directions the work can go and that's the magic of it. Let me know if you are interested :)

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