I am going to warn you now, spirituality is a big topic, so I'll write about some generalities at the beginning, but then I'm going to tell you a lot about my spiritual journey through ten months of traveling the world with my family.
It's fun and I feel like my view of my spirituality changed quite a bit in that period of time. I'm sure if you contemplate your own spiritual path, you'll find that it has also changed through the years.
The important part to remember is that, we are changeable and unique and what one person may consider spirituality can be very different from another's.
And that's okay! We all have different backgrounds, different stories, and different lives. I think that evolving and growing is the important part on an individual basis.
Why is spirituality important?
On some level, we all search for meaning in our lives. Feeling at one with our world in our own way can satisfy that craving. Spirituality can feed us on a deep level and reduce our hunger for the superficial rewards of life.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality isn't as easy to define as I thought it would be. Not even the dictionaries can agree on a definition.
For some, spirituality can be about participating in an organized religion. When participating in an organized religion for the right reasons, it can definitely be spiritual.
For others, it's more personal—some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or even long walks.
In either case, spirituality can be the feeling that you are connected to something bigger than yourself, whatever that is for you.
It can be the awareness or consciousness of that connection of what is happening in your life to the universe, to a god, or the cosmos.
A year or so ago, I would have defined my spirituality as my yoga practice, meditation when I made space for it, and trying to parent my kids mindfully.
Now I define it more as feeling in my body of calm, connectedness, and energy.
The energy of spirituality for me is the awareness of a deep energy that I can feel in my body, from my heart down to my stomach.
My recent wandering spiritual path!
When my kids were younger, we celebrated Advent every night for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We lit candles and read a short chapter each night.
While I was raised a Christian, my family doesn't really attend church often, although my daughter does enjoy going to a church camp with her friend every summer and likes the values of her friend's particular church.
Celebrating Advent gave the Christmas holidays some of the unmaterialistic spirit that I wanted to bring to our family.
As I said above and as some of you may know, our family traveled last year from September of 2016 through June of 2017. I had the opportunity learn first hand about many religious and spiritual traditions in the places we visited.
In Australia, we spent a day hiking near Cooktown with an Aboriginal guide. He showed us a birth cave that is estimated to be 1400 years old and explained their spiritual traditions. He also explained the history of Aboriginal children being taken from their parents to be raised in Catholic monasteries.
In South America, we learned about the different Native American spiritual or religious traditions and also, how it was changed by the arrival of the Europeans.
I'll be honest, I wasn't feeling very impressed or inspired by Catholicism after learning about the negative impact on the Native Americans.
However, I did enjoy participating in the Novena's before Christmas, which involved the reading of prayers in devotion to the sacred child. We participated at the Spanish school we were attending in Bogotá, and with family and friends.
I did also enjoy visiting some of the old churches in Latin America. They're beautiful and impressive, and sometimes very unique. My son didn't appreciate the paintings of The Last Supper featuring guinea pig (I'm sure this contributed to his current vegetarianism).
In Peru, I felt a spiritual energy I couldn't really explain. It filled me with energy both in Cusco and in the dramatic Andes.
I talk more about my experience of spirituality and food in Peru here. We performed a ceremony during our hike to Machu Pichu near Salkantay Pass. I can't remember exactly what the ceremony was, but I remember who I was thinking of, and I still feel "it" when I look at this photo.
I'm not sure if the feeling I had in Peru could be attibuted to the ruggedness of the Andes or that the city of Cusco was still layed out the way it was originally as a sacred city of the Incas according to the sun's path.
Following South America, we travelled to Spain. For some reason I was surprised to see that the cathedrals in Spain were about the same age as the oldest cathedrals in South America.
Of course, it made sense that the spread of christianity was happening at the same time in Spain, largely under Isabel and Ferdinand's rule. In fact, Christopher Columbus was given an audience with the Queen and King at the Alhambra in Granada after they had conquered the Muslim Kingdom of Granada.
As we travelled through Spain, I became aware of how The Inquisition affected the Spaniards similarly to the natives in South America.
We also saw many Catholic churches that had once been Muslim Mosques.
It also came to my attention, as we wandered through the city in Granada and walked into some of the beautiful churches throughout the day, that the church was a place you could walk into from the busy city sidewalks and experience quiet and tranquility.
One could take a break from the business of daily life and sit to rest your mind and center yourself.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend, who was raised Catholic, and still attends church with her family. She explained the feeling of sitting in Mass as deeply spiritual and calming. The steady rituals associated with the mass allows her to go deep and feel a sense of calm.
Our family was in Spain during most of Semana Santa (the Holy Week leading up to Easter).
My view of Catholicism and it's associated spirituality shifted quite a bit during Semana Santa.
We watched our first Semana Santa procession in Seville. Seville is the place where Semana Santa is biggest for lack of a better word. There are as many as five processions a day in Seville.
We spent the next three days in a smaller walled city called Ávila.
Wow, I became completely fascinated by Semana Santa.
The kids had enough of it after a couple of days, I could not get enough. The feeling is hard to describe. The music, the candles, the floats. I got a sense of the rituals of Catholicism. Suddenly, it had a great appeal to me. Our last night in Ávila, I got out of be at two in the morning to follow one of the processions around the city.
Even though I was marching along at the back of the formal procession, I felt part of something deep in my body.
A week later, we made it to the South of France on our way to Italy. We had planned to stay in Spain longer, but my poor recently turned vegetarian son, could no longer exist on potatoes alone!
In Nice, we visited the Marc Chagall museum.
If you don't know, as I didn't, he is a Russian born, Jewish painter. His life and that of his family was greatly affected by World War 2, but he never seemed to let life get him down.
It seems that his connection to his religion and/or spirituality helped him to move past all of his obstacles.
His work was so powerful and spiritual, it brought tears to my eyes. It still does!
As we made our way down into Italy, museums were plentiful. The spiritual connection of the art was powerful throughout. Some more apparent than others. I'm not an artist, but I find the religious artwork to be inspirational and spiritual in and of itself.
What does spirituality have to do with health?
When we have a sense of awareness, we bring our individual lives into alignment with the whole of existence, we feel nourished and at peace.
Awareness practices can help us connect with that alignment. Designed to quiet the busy mind, relax the body, and brign a sense of attunement with existence. Prayer, meditation and ritual meals are all common awareness practices found in many religions and spiritual traditions.
Spiritual growth is when you seek, above all else, to expand your awareness of who you truly are - and it is one of the very best things you can do.
By making space each day to focus on your beautiful spirit (which is pure love, total acceptance, and deep peace), all these things expand in your life and your world is never the same.
How do you experience spirituality in your own life?
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Hi, I’m Crystal!