Hey there, friends…
This week we’re talking all things Spiritual Wellness.
Something I didn’t even realize was a Wellness Dimension until my senior year in college when I started to study Wellness in more depth.
From my own understanding, in order to care for your Spiritual Wellness you certainly can but you do not need to partake in a religion or categorize it in any way. You don’t need to name it or even describe it.
Let me explain…
My parents parents are both immigrants to this country and came from very religious Catholic backgrounds. One side was Italian, the other Middle Eastern. My mother continued to instill these religious values as long as she could, taking me and my two sisters to church every Sunday, having us attend religion class and keeping up with certain traditions.
There was talk about these people we’re supposed to thank for everything we’ve been given and apologize to for everything we’ve done wrong. I didn’t really get why or who they were, but it made my mom happy, and she was pretty cool, so I went along with it.
As with most things your parents provide guidance on, whether it’s a proper diet or making your bed every morning, after a certain age, it’s totally up to you if you want to continue down that path. Your parents’ religion or spiritual practice is one of those choices.
I think it was pretty clear to my mother that her kids weren’t going to be the Sunday Mass-type as adults, considering my sister used to hide in the closet during religion camp and I let my mind wander most of the time, more interested in what snack they were going to serve us.
Thing is, for most kids, and for me, life is usually handed to you in this perfect little fruit platter, all pre-cut, nicely arranged and ripened to taste. My mom also happened to be Super Mom and we didn’t really have to worry about much. So religion, or having a spiritual practice of any sort wasn’t really applicable to me. Simply put, I didn’t need it.
But there is this stupidly awkward time when you go from adolescence to early adulthood, where your mind starts to become very aware of the world and suddenly things are not what they used to be. You recognize that bad things happen, some people are not nice and most of the time, you have absolutely no control over it.
So how do you handle it? How do you find the will, the energy, the stamina to keep going?
Enter, your Spiritual Wellness. That thing you do when you just can’t anymore.
When I was in high school, I learned early on that I was a sensitive little soul. My awareness for the people and things going on around me was so heightened that it seeped into my mind and before I knew it, it became my own problem without even knowing.
I was deeply saddened by the sadness of others and took on feelings of guilt when I had nothing to be guilty of.
I’m convinced high school is lethal no matter where or who you are, but mine was particularly destructive. If you’ve ever seen the movie Mean Girls written by Tina Fey, whelp, that was my high school, folks.
Wanting to get involved right away, I joined the field hockey team. And boy, was that the place to go if you want to get in with the popular crowd. Unfortunately, the popular crowd is run like a Nazi military. There’s usually one person in charge, let’s call her “Hitler” and a few trusty respondents she could call upon when needed, let’s call them the “Second in Command.” Together, they trained, brainwashed and controlled the larger, subordinate group, we’ll call this group the Wehrmacht, or armed force.
If anyone in the Wehrmacht fell out of line and misbehaved by, lets say, suspiciously talking to Hitler’s boyfriend at a Saturday evening gathering, said individual would be harshly punished and forced to remove themselves from the infantry…I mean, field hockey team, and permanently shamed for the remainder of their high school days. If the soldier was smart, they’d probably relocate and start a new life at a far and safe enough distance where the word of their wrong doing was completely unheard of.
Now, I’m not saying I kissed Hitler’s boyfriend or even came close. But when others were shamed or verbally abused both behind and in front of their backs, I felt it. I took it on, and damn was that a heavy weight to carry.
Crazy thing is, I never had any of my own personal attacks to deal with! For some ridiculous reason, people always liked me. Probably because I was innocent, sweet, pretty quiet and unthreatening.
But I was terrible at field hockey. I had zero aggression, which isn’t the best quality when placed on a field with 21 other teenage girls with raging hormones and uncontrollable tempers.
But what I did enjoy, that most others didn’t, were the long distance runs we occasionally had to do.
Not the sprints. No, no, I had no place in that arena.
I’m talking about the runs where they sent you off on a journey through the winding streets, wooded neighborhoods and concrete roads. I would dart out ahead and go off on my own.
There, I didn’t have to look at anyone, listen to anyone or feel feelings that were not my own. It was me, my thoughts and my breath.
I fell in love with running so much that my love gave me the courage to step away from Hitler and her army and join Cross Country and Track. We’ll call them Switzerland.
The people of Switzerland sang to the beat of their own drum and celebrated you for singing to yours. They were my tribe, and running was our song.
The repetitive synchronicity of my feet thumping, the churning of my legs, the brushstroke of my arms and the consistent pattern of my breath made the rest of the world disappear. There was nothing else I had to do, no where else I needed to go and no one I needed to be, except myself.
I didn’t know it at the time, but running became my spiritual practice.
It was the place I went to find myself.
Even though we were a team, at the end of the day, my failures and my accomplishments were my own. I didn’t have to rely on anyone to attain my personal record (PR), and any goal I set was the outcome of what I, myself put into it.
Unfortunately, as with most high impact sports, things can go wrong, and sometimes that means shelving the shoes so the body can heal and standing on the sidelines.
But if running was my spiritual practice, the place I went to deal with the stuff, what in the name of God (no pun intended) would I do when I was physically unable to run?
Enter, Yoga. The place the athletes go “to stretch” or “recover from injury.”
After the initial struggle of learning what the crap these people were doing so magically harmonized together, I kind of liked it. Heck, I even looked forward to it!
Here, was a place where I could quietly enter, place my mat down and safely navigate my body on my little island and link that movement to my breath. I’d go through all the stuff that was going on in my head, all of the worry, the weight of the world that wasn’t mine to hold, and release it, get rid of it, and make space for myself to simply be me.
I didn’t care about the “spiritual” aspect of yoga, the stories of gods and goddesses, the chanting and the rituals (though I kind of dig it now), I just knew that whatever happened during those 60, 75 or 90 minutes made me feel like me again.
And when I feel like me and you feel like you, this crazy, unpredictable, ever changing world suddenly becomes a little more bearable and dear I say, enjoyable!
Now, I’m no spiritual expert, but I have done over 500 hours of yogic study along with thousands of hours of personal study and contemplation. And it all leads back to the same dang thing.
Find yourself. Know yourself. And love yourself.
Whether it’s Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Shiva or the Almighty God, they are ALL teaching us the same thing. All answers lie within. When you craft time, however you would like - prayer, meditation, yoga, listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or going for a run, you are more able to stick to the path that will most deeply serve you and bring you the most joy out of this scary and sometimes flat out unfair world. And with that, you will come to find that it truly is a wonderful life…
…if that is what you want!
The beautiful thing about Spiritual Wellness is that there is no one way of doing it. Your unique expression is perfect and it is sacred.
This week, do more of that thing that makes you happy, and show some gratitude for it.
You never know what it may lead you to…