Back when I started this blog in 2008, I posted about religion . Since then, I think my beliefs have become more solidified. When you do the work I do, you become very clear on your beliefs. My students challenge my beliefs everyday whether I share them with them or not. Today, I got thinking about religion and God again because we watched a TED talk called the , “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” One of the last slides in Shawn Achors presentation has a list of ways to increase happiness in one’s life. The first thing was: 3 gratitudes. Make a list of three things you are grateful for everyday. To which one of my students states, “Sounds like prayer might be the best way of doing that first one.” I replied, that prayer can be one way to express gratitude if you believe in God and went on to say that gratitude can be expressed with or without prayer. He didn’t like that answer. He again insisted that prayer might be good even if you aren’t religious. For some reason, today, I couldn’t leave it alone and I repeated: yes, if you believe in God.
Which got me thinking: for a long time, I’ve maintained that I’m not religious but I still believe in God. More recently, I decided upon doing some thinking that I am probably more agnostic than anything. I don’t think you can prove God’s existence nor am I convinced that an absence of proof, proves God doesn’t exist. The reason why I maintained a belief in God for a long time boils down to one feeling that I’ve always attributed to ‘God’. This feeling is awe. What is awe? The dictionary defines awe as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. I feel this feeling when I enter a beautiful cathedral, but the one place that always inspires awe in me is being out in nature. I don’t think the feeling of awe proves God’s existence, but it is the core of my spirituality.
Spiritually doesn’t have to involve belief in a higher power. The definition of spirituality is :”almost any kind of activity through which a person seeks meaning,”(Wikipedia) In essence, I have been practicing spirituality since I started questioning my religion to this very day. Perhaps people can find meaning through religion, but that wasn’t how it was for me. Church always felt like an obligation, something that I did because I was told to, even when I was young. I remember visiting the church in my father’s community and being scared by a ‘Fire and Brimstone’ esk sermon. The church in my community was never like that. It was warm and welcoming. My favorite priest growing up eventually left because he believed that women should be able to become priests. At the age of 11, I agreed with him and I think that is where the questioning began. By the age of 14, I was reading about all sorts of different religions and started meditating. I didn’t keep up with the meditation, but it was through meditation, not through any experience at church that I had my first experience with ‘awe’. I’m glad I’ve rediscovered meditation. I think it is the number one thing, perhaps tied with exercise that keeps me sane.
For me spirituality does not require connecting with a higher power, if one exists. For me spirituality is connecting with my values and beliefs. What are these values and beliefs? I was reading the wikipedia on humanism (something I want to learn more about) and this quote stood out to me:
Contemporary humanism entails a qualified optimism about the capacity of people, but it does not involve believing that human nature is purely good or that all people can live up to the Humanist ideals without help. If anything, there is recognition that living up to one’s potential is hard work and requires the help of others. The ultimate goal is human flourishing; making life better for all humans, and as the most conscious species, also promoting concern for the welfare of other sentient beings and the planet as a whole.The focus is on doing good and living well in the here and now, and leaving the world a better place for those who come after.
This pretty much sums up why I do anything in life. Why I do the work I do. If I didn’t believe that education could help my students better their lives I wouldn’t do the work that I do. There is an inherent reprogramming aspect of my job that I don’t like. I mean I don’t believe anyone can change unless they want to and sometimes the people I work with aren’t ready to change. They aren’t done with the drugs or the lifestyle and that is ok. It is why I believe wholeheartedly in harm-reduction for people that aren’t ready to quit. I’ve never done hard drugs, but I understand not being ready to give something up.
It is why I challenge the black and white thinking some people have when it comes to religious beliefs. I don’t believe in conversion, I believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe so I challenge the idea that many people have regarding their religion: that their religion is right, the truth, the only way to see things. I believe that more than one truth can exist. What is right for me isn’t necessarily right for another person.
When I share my beliefs, my lack of religion, my agnostic views on god there is a few ways people take it. The first way, they figure if I don’t follow a religion, am agnostic about God then I must believe in nothing. They figure. if my values don’t come from religion, I must not have any. I think this brand of black and white teaching comes a little bit from some religious teachings, that people that haven’t found the religion are lost, need saving. Thankfully, I don’t run into many of these people. Most people are tolerant of my views as I don’t attack their views.
I guess my whole point behind this whole post is spiritually doesn’t necessarily involve God. To me spiritually is a journey you take, where you get clearer on how you want to live your life. There is no one right way of doing it or at least that is how I feel about it.
For me, spiritually is also living in a way that connects me to nature. Any time I spend time in nature I feel that awe feeling. Nothing compares to me. So I’m going to keep doing what works for me. God or no God, nature has always been there for me.