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What Is Spirituality?

Posted July 27, 2013

heart art by Jan Gauvain

Out of curiosity not long ago, I was rummaging around the Internet, looking for what people want to know about spirituality. What are the keywords they search for? What are the questions they ask?

Turns out, the most commonly asked question is, “What is spirituality?”

Really? Doesn't everyone know what spirituality is?

I mean, spirituality is … is …

Hmm, come to think of it, what is spirituality? I've been ruminating on it, and I'd love to know how you define it, too. (You can leave a comment below.)

First, let's address the term “spiritual but not religious,” because it's possible to be both, either or neither.

Religion is an organized system of belief and practices designed to connect with the larger presence that most human beings intuit as part of our existence. In other words, we know there's a higher power at work in our lives.

In sweeping generalities, Christians, Jews and Muslims envision this presence and power as a single deity, while Hindus consider the divine in its many colorful aspects, and Buddhists turn inward to tap the flow of universal well-being. Through the centuries, each has developed a canon of sacred writings, prayers, songs and rituals, as well as an organizational hierarchy.

Throughout the history of the world, the stories we tell, the laws we obey and the assumptions we live under have been deeply influenced by the reining religion's understanding of the divine and its relationship to humans.

Of course, people and governments often have been controlled by the religious bureaucracy. Great works of evil and of good have been performed in the name of religion because, after all, religions are populated by human beings.

So then, what is spirituality? Go back to the beginning. It's that intuitive knowledge that a higher power is at work in our lives, the core belief from which all faith practices grow.

We don't just know there's a presence and power, we want to merge with it somehow, to connect with something larger than ourselves.

Spirituality is our innate desire to be more than we are, to tap into inner wisdom and to reach for the stars. Spirituality – or the spirit within -- evokes our dreams and our discontent. It's the evolutionary impulse that prompts us to take risks both physical and emotional, that propels us ever forward. It is our impetus to change and grow and seek.

Spirituality also shows up as curiosity about ourselves and the world. The systems we have developed to understand human beings, from astrology to Myers-Briggs, are essentially spiritual. They attempt to know the spirit within.

The word God is not necessary to spirituality; no deity is required. The action starts deep in our core, then bubbles over as inexhaustible creativity.

Consciously or not, we continuously seek more of Life by our human inventions, whether through the Eucharist or Tarot cards or rock and roll. (Is there a deeper plea for divine connection than John Lennon's “Imagine?” I like “The Messiah,” too, but they simply express the same human longing in different styles.)

Mark Silver, whose Heart of Business integrates business consulting with his Sufi beliefs, said this: “Your heart fills with whatever it faces, and it can either face the world or face the Source of Love. Face the world, and you end up chasing after money and other things you think you need. Face Source, and love begins to be what moves you.”

And there you have it. More than anything, spirituality is a longing for love. Not just to feel love, but to be love, the love that is the foundation of the universe, the love energy inherent in the building blocks of creation. Love with a capital L.

Spirituality is nurturing and staying in touch with that Source energy at the core of us. Whether you call it God by any name, or consider it the amazing power of the human spirit, it is a force to be reckoned with.

What is spirituality to you? (Click on that tiny blue numeral to comment.)

How Much Worry Proves Your Love?

Posted July 20, 2013
little boy worrying

One of my thoughtful radio fans sent me a message recently about love and worry.

She'd heard that worrying about someone is not the same as loving them, and she didn't get it. She said she worries very much about her elderly parents because she loves them.

Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

I've been one of those teachers who spouts that love and worry are not the same thing, but her question made me think a little harder. I, too, used to assume worry was a natural part of love. Even proof of love!

But here's the thing: To worry about others is to blanket them with our fear. We're giving energy to what might happen, what could go wrong, how awful the circumstances of their lives might become.

Any thought or feeling – whether we put it into words or not – creates an energetic vibration. And of course you want the energy you focus on those you love to be positive and uplifting!

Love supports whatever is best for them; worry imagines the worst.

I once had this conversation with my mother because she worried every time I drove on the highway. (I was about 40, mind you.) I realized it annoyed me because she was sitting home picturing me in a ditch. Not a loving image!

I asked her to imagine my car in a bubble of divine light instead, safe and protected. She felt a lot better, and I liked knowing she was thinking of me happily instead of fearfully.

This is partly about the Law of Mind Action. Even though I know my thoughts cannot create in someone else's experience, I do believe my energy supports them when it is aligned with their own intentions.

And that is the definition of prayer. Or sending positive thoughts or holding them in the light — call it what you will. The point is to contribute my loving energy to their highest and best.

My favorite book on prayer is The Universe Is Calling by Eric Butterworth, and my favorite passage in the whole book is this:

You may say, “I have prayed all night about this problem.” But you are deluding yourself. That was not prayer. You were holding onto the problem all night. You may have commenced your prayer with “Dear Lord” and concluded it with “Amen”—but you probably had an orgy of worry and self-pity in between.

It doesn't take all night to let go and let God.

Affirmative prayer is knowing God is in every situation, that the one power and presence in the universe is already here and is providing only the best to those we love, whether we recognize it or not. Our love is only one more channel of the divine for them. Pelting them with our fear and worry doesn't help one bit, and it wears us out.

How do you keep from worrying about those you love? Let us know, just below.

PS – If you're looking for great books on prayer, I also love How to Pray Without Talking to God by Linda Martella-Whitsett. It explains how to pray in oneness, now that you know you're divine.

These Kids Today! Can You Mind Your Own Business with Your Allegedly Grown-up Kids?

Posted July 13, 2013

mother and daughter

Ever since I released the Mind Your Own Business manifesto, I've been hearing from parents about their children. Their grown children.

Not having had children, I once naively believed that parenting lasted only 18 or 20 years. Wrong. I think now the experience of being a parent often becomes more intense after the kids leave home.

Out on their own. In the cold, cruel world. With no one to monitor what they do.

And oh, what they do!

They quit school, lose jobs, remain underemployed. Some become addicts or develop mental illness. They struggle, they drift, they make mistakes.

Even the superstars who did you proud – made good grades, went to college, entered a respectable profession and now support themselves nicely – might marry the wrong person. Might rear their children wrong. Might drink too much even if it's not causing major problems yet.

When do you speak up and step in, or mind your own business?

Obviously, I am not qualified to give advice on how to be the parent of adult children. Except I am an adult child. And as a minister, I talk more often to parents about their adult children than any other topic. Kids beat out cancer as the top concern.

Here are my thoughts, and I'm only reminding you what you already know:

  • Children are not born blank slates. If you had more than one child, did you notice differences in them? You bet. They came in with certain personality traits and developed different coping skills.

  • They also came with soul plans. Any difficulties they're facing now may be exactly what they wanted to learn.

  • Your relationship has shifted from adult-child to adult-adult. It's not exactly a friendship, but that's not a bad measuring stick. What would you say to a friend in the same situation? Would you point out problems? Offer advice? I suggest you take whatever you might feel free to say to a friend and reduce it by half for your adult children.

  • You might be the last person your children can hear, but there will be others. Pray for the stranger on the bus, for the person who makes just the right comment to them at the right time, even if it's something you've already told them a thousand times. Be grateful if someone else finally gets through. Think of the many people who have been helpful on your own path. The universe has unlimited channels to reach your child; you're not the only one.

Some rare situations do require parental involvement forever. When I lived in Florida, I would often see retired couples out to dinner with a middle-aged Down syndrome child or one who was physically disabled, still living with them.

I know families dealing with mentally ill children, grappling with how to help them -- and even stay safe from them – in view of the adult child's legal rights.

For that matter, we all know families where the adult children are living at home again or calling their parents for money and demanding help, sometimes using the grandchildren as bait. Minding your own business might mean setting boundaries even when the kids want more. It might mean letting them experience the consequences of their decisions. Don't rob them of the growth opportunity.

For most people, parenthood becomes increasingly hands off through the years. (Although, apparently, worry and guilt may always be with you!)

The kids change, too. Remember what you were like in your 20s or 30s and how your life was going? Even if times were good, would you want to have been frozen at that level of wisdom and insight? You learned and grew, and so will your kids.

I recently ran across an article in the pop press titled “19 Successful People Who Had a Rough Time in Their 20s.” You will be encouraged by this.

Just remember, every one of these people probably had a parent somewhere who was worrying and trying not to meddle.

What's the one best thing you've learned about parenting an adult child? Click that little blue number and share your experience!


Take Another Shot at Creating Your Life

Posted July 6, 2013
Sure, we're the creators of our own experience, but we don't always get it right.

Several people have asked me lately: What if you get what you wanted ... and don't want it after all? I sat down and made a short video to try to answer!

Have you ever deliberately created something in your life, then decided you didn't want it? Were you able to create something else? Click the little blue number to open the comment box and share your wisdom!


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