Awkward Questions

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I was asked a question the other day with which I am intimately acquainted but for which I had no answer. “What does it mean to lead a spiritual life?” It is not strictly true to say I have no answer. I have my own answers, but those I recognise to be subjective, not definitive. It is, I think, one of those questions to which there are as many answers as there are querents and all will hold at least part of the truth.

To begin with it begs the question of what we mean by ‘spirituality’ itself. In this day and age it is often a term held to be quite distinct from religious belief and many will say they are ‘spiritual, not religious’, yet I am not so sure you can really make that distinction. Religion is generally defined as a formalised and organised set of beliefs, where spirituality is usually seen as a personal relationship with the non-physical life. Yet a religious belief that seeks a personal relationship with God, whatever Name is used, surely, by that definition, is spiritual? For me the choice of path matters little, it is how we choose to walk it that makes the difference between whether we embrace a particular path or merely pay lip-service to an outer form; a spiritual life should be a personal journey towards understanding regardless of the route taken.

For some religion provides the structure and the guide that they need. For others that very structure is anathema. Many forget that the underlying message behind most paths that is not so dissimilar when stripped of doctrine and tradition. They can all be paths to the Light. That is up to the traveller.

If I were to seek to express an answer to that original question and say what I personally mean by living a spiritual life, I would have to say that it is to live without blinkers.

I would have to consider the blindness that can make us the last to see our faults and flaws, the last to see our personal, inner barriers and the excuses we make for ourselves and say that the spiritual life leaves us naked with nowhere to hide. It demands that we look at ourselves, both in our weakness and in our strength, recognising the problems and screwed-up bits equally with the gifts, glories and beauty we all possess; as a rule we are not very good at that, tending to see only one side or the other.

To live a spiritual life is to live, fully… and to live in the world, alive to the world, in the moment we are given; and through knowledge and experience to seek the understanding that can be born of them.

For me, it does not mean being a saint or becoming perfect. It is about living in awareness and harmony, both within ourselves and within the world. It means recognising the perfection that already exists within each of us… within each other… and within which we all exist. It means aligning ourselves, little by little with that greater perfection and with who we are in the world. It asks of us that we live in compassion and love, obeying that golden rule that transcends all the religious and spiritual barriers we have created; to treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated, and to do so in the knowledge of our ultimate kinship as part of a single stream of life.

90 thoughts on “Awkward Questions

  1. good explanation, its horses for courses, and where you are born, but one thing rings true,the teachings of Jesus, and there lies the cross connection {ignore the pun}, I suppose it’s the example you are exposed to, amen, hope your feeling well, cheers sue

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  2. Sue, thank you for your insights. They ring true for me on many points.

    I am one of those that finds religion divides more than it brings people together. If I state my religion, which I happily do (Jewish), I automatically gain enemies.

    My spirituality makes me want to be be closer to my higher power, G-D, in any way and every way I can. I care not what anyone else’s belief system is. If the road I walk allows others to be themselves, allows me to be in sync with my G-d, allows everyone to care about everyone, allows the golden rule to rule my life, and allows me to live in kindness, then I am on the right road.

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    1. I agree, Lauren… and it should never need to be any other way… no matter what your belief system is or becomes over the years.Our personal relationship with whatever we call divinity is what matters.

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  3. I think I am a pagan at heart…I find it easier to believe in the beauty of nature, the power of the sun and moon and the incredible diversity of life around us. I also believe that if you are spiritual you ‘do no harm’ unlike so many religions who have employed violence to force their views home. I agree we are not perfect but it is about making choices and taking responsibility for our own actions. As you say, living in harmony, with compassion for those around us is key. ♥

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    1. I personally take no comfort in corporatised religion, although the core message of all faiths seem to run close together. But when you can see divinity made manifest in Nature… it is impossible to ignore 🙂 xx

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ve always being very spiritual. I’m a Catholic but not devout. There are so many different religions in the world, and it seems that none are perfect.
    I just wish people could be left alone to believe (or not believe) in what they want without being questioned or judged. And I wish religion didn’t cause so many rows.
    Glad you’re feeling good Sue.
    Happy Sunday! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you saw the number of pills I just swallowed to be ‘feeling good’ you might rethink that, Gloria 😉
      But yes… people should be allowed to follow the faith of their heart as long as it neither hurts nor harms others.

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  5. It’s that ‘do as you would be done by’ that seems to be the sticking point. Few people, even the most devoutly religious practice that particular notion. It seems to me you can be devout without being ‘good’ and spiritual without being religious, but can you be spiritual and good without being an activist? It’s DO as you would be done by after all, not just send thoughts and prayers. Maybe the real question shouldn’t be is my life spiritual, but am I doing ‘good’ with it?

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    1. I think you are very much right… although the thoughts and prayers are a part of it, attuning the mindset to the right ‘vibe’, for want of a better word. It is an active decision to create change after all.

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    2. I’m a great believer that evil can pose as good. We only need to look at things like the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the current jihad some Muslims are currently perpetrating to see that.
      As T.S.Elliot said in Murder in the Cathedral, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

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      1. I don’t know about ‘evil’ and ‘good’ as two opposing concepts. It all about human nature, people doing what profits them most.
        The reason behind the Crusades might have been given as taking back the Holy Land from the Infidel, but if there hadn’t been economic benefits, none of the kings of Christendom would have got involved.
        I don’t think the Nazis ever claimed that the extermination of the Jews was inspired by a desire to do ‘good’. It was their bread and butter, what got them into power, the scapegoat, and it filled the treasury.
        As for what inspires the Jihadists, it depends who you ask. Some will tell you they are just violent individuals who pervert the holy texts to justify their actions, others will tell you they are following holy texts to the letter.
        I don’t think doing ‘good’ is often a reason, and ‘evil’ seems like an excuse for human nastiness.

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  6. I don’t really believe in the your-God’s-not-as-good-as-my-God and organised religion as such, but I do think we are here on this earth to learn from our mistakes and as we grow older gain insight and move towards a kind of spiritual awakening. Difficult to explain really.

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  7. I was raised C of E… I struggle with most religions being insular and not tolerant of other religions… I pray sometimes and as I live in a predominently Buddhist country I go to a temple sometimes I am always made so very welcome.. I say my own prayers… Being kind and tolerant to me is more important than putting a name to my beliefs… Although the tablets are giving you a good day, Sue I am happy for your good day.. Hugs xx

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  8. When asked, I say I am C of E, but not a regular church goer or believer as they teach in the scriptures. I believe we are all part of Something much bigger than any one part. I like to think that as the door closes on this life, another opens and we are united with the ones we love who passed before us. Who is to say this is, or is not, a spiritual world. I take pleasure in the smallest things, wonder at birdsong, flowers, the ocean and Nature battling the elements. There is so much beauty around us, yet we can dismiss it because it doesn’t fit the norm of our interpretation of beauty. We are all different, but how we live our lives is key. No-one is perfect, but we need to accept ourselves for who we are, and I am comfortable with that.

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    1. We can none of us say we are right ot wrong with out beliefs… only what we feel to be right for us. Living a life that feels right and finding our place within it seems more important to me than conforming to any mould. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Sue, your final paragraph says it all. Thanks for posing and offering your answer to the question. My mother lived one of those lives. The best compliment to my mother when she passed away, was when her pastor said when people lost loved ones in the church, they came to my mother to arrange the food donations for the reception. When my mother died, they had to find someone new. Keith

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  10. I find it so interesting that you have written about this at this time because it has personal meaning for me. I have never felt a connection to organized religion, however I have always believed, as you wrote, that I have had a relationship with a non-physical life. Until the morning after I got my life changing diagnosis and woke up with a start because for the first time in my life I felt God’s presence. It was such a strong feeling I texted a friend to discuss it with her. And then a few hours later I got a notification that someone had left a comment on a blog post I’d written. When I checked, the comment was about how God always knows when we are going through difficult times and we are never alone — which I should tell you had nothing to do with the post I’d written.

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    1. That non-physical life ( a great way to put it, Fransi) is, believe, the more important part of who we are. It matters little how or if we try to define it… it needs no labels and is at the root of who we are.

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      1. I completely agree with you Sue. And because if is so deeply personal, because it IS us, I actually don’t think it can be defined.

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  11. Lovely, Sue, and very resonant. I do distinguish between religion and spirituality, but appreciate that they overlap in many ways, particularly on an individual level. The Golden Rule and Do no harm are faithful guidelines from living gently and with love in a world.

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  12. Thank you for your insight and all the comments above. I once believed in the g-d of my childhood. And then life happened and my family and church shunned me. I tried to hold onto g-d and did for many more years and the more I journeyed the less I could believe in such a vindictive g-d. I long for a higher power. I’ve been looking. Maybe I just need to keep an open mind and try to rid myself of the childhood taught g-d.

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  13. I didn’t see the question but am glad to weigh in here (with my two cents). A spiritual life and a religious life can be part and parcel of one another, but for many of us (me among them) they are two distinct things. Religion is man-made for one thing, and (my opinion) spirituality is personal and is something more than mere religion. Living the spiritual life is as individual as a fingerprint too. What might be spiritual for you, might not be for me and vice versa. Deep questions to ponder.

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  14. It’s interesting and heartening that so many think so deeply about these things. I feel there is “something” that can be both guide and support, I have felt it at times, but I have no idea what it is, or how to access it deliberately. And I fall far short of the person I think I should be. Still, that something remains, irregardless of who I am or think I am. (K)

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  15. well said, Sue. It’s as good an explanation as I’ve seen anywhere. I think over the past several years I’ve become less religious, but more spiritual…

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  16. Our ultimate kinship as part of a single stream of life. I love this Sue, it is the golden truth. We all exist in a never-ending circle with one helping the other and so on. Without the tiniest microspore, the chain has a crack in it. xxx

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  17. That’s given me (and clearly a lot of others) plenty to think about, Sue. My grandmother’s favourite saying was ‘To thine own self be true’, and my father loved, and bought me a copy of, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I suppose I’ve always done my best to lead a ‘good’ life but I can see that there’s much more to spirituality in what you’re saying. x

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  18. With increasing age, I’ve found less and less comfort in the organized religion I grew up with, although both my mother and grandmother did. I see too many non-divine activities in that church and prefer the spirituality one can experience without all the trappings. But the Golden Rule is what I try to follow – although I do fail from time to time. Another of your great life lessons, Sue.

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