Cultivating Spirituality Despite Life Changes
Recently, I have had some conversations with my clients and with friends that have sparked some thoughts about spirituality. I've noticed that some of my clients and friends at times come to a crossroads where it can feel like life changes also change their ability to consistently cultivate spirituality. I want to talk about the importance of finding ways to continue our spiritual journeys when our old ways of cultivating spirituality might not be available.
As children, our first introduction to spirituality is most likely through organized religion. Religion often introduces us to deity and helps direct the ways in which we practice spirituality. As children, we attend religious activities with our families. In many ways, churches and religious congregations cater to families. So what happens when we are no longer children but we don't yet have families of our own? What happens when we went to church as a family but now we are divorced? What happens when church reminds us of a loved one we just lost?
There will be times when we do not fit into the social structure of our religious organizations. This can be upsetting because our religious organization might be our greatest resource for spiritual development. Often, I find that when people no longer fit in socially to their religious organization, they isolate and withdraw. The problem with this is that often the person does not look for other ways to continue to develop spiritually. So at the very time when people are struggling with major life changes, they lose social support and their own spirituality as strength providing resources. In addition, spirituality and religiosity can be a big part of someone's identity. When life changes make one feel like they can no longer participate in a religious organization or no longer have access to resources for spiritual development, the person can also be facing an identity crisis.
I have a few suggestions on what we can do about this situation. First, people of religious organizations can reach out to those who might feel out of place to make sure that they feel welcome and that they have a community that is eager to provide support. Second, those who feel out of place can reach out and ask for the help they need. They can also get involved. Sometimes they will need to be more involved than they otherwise would be. When others see how active you are in the religious community, they won't forget you. Third, individuals confronting life changes should evaluate the different ways they have been cultivating spirituality. If spirituality has been mostly dependent on the sociality of a religious organization, it might be time to think about ways of developing spirituality that are not dependent on other people. While it is wonderful to be taught by others and to discuss spiritual matters, spirituality is ultimately an individual process for growth. And fourth, those who don't fit the norm should evaluate whether their methods of developing spirituality were in reality aiding spiritual development. We can participate in religious organizations for years without ever truly developing spiritually. We may have been more uplifted by the sense of community than our personal relationship with deity. We may continue to grow in our religious communities but it might require a shift on our part from focusing on the social benefits to focusing on the spiritual resources our community provides. We may decide that our religious community was only serving as a social purpose and that it wasn't providing much to aid our spiritual development. Whatever we decide, it is important that we become aware of what we need to continue our spiritual development. Spirituality is an immeasurable resource for each of us throughout our lives and especially during times of change. Although big life changes can throw us off a bit, they can help us to reevaluate how we are developing our spirituality and make adjustments so that we continue to have this invaluable resource.