It’s World Mental Health Day today, on October 10th, and I feel there’s an aspect of our well-being that is often overlooked with the challenges of increased depression, anxiety, and loneliness in our era. And that’s spiritual health.
Before you consider what spiritual health is, let’s be clear on what I’m referring to as spiritual. Spirituality is our personal relationship to something greater than us. Many confuse spirituality with religion. Certainly, people who follow a particular religious tradition can be spiritual. But not necessarily so. And no one needs a religion in order to have a connection to something greater.
What is That “Something Greater”?
We might traditionally call that something greater “God”, but we may not. God can be a triggering word for many of us, and misunderstood based on dogma that we grew up with that doesn’t resonate anymore. I like to use more neutral terms, such as The Divine, Spirit, or Creator.
But that “something greater” can go beyond even the idea of a higher power with a somewhat human form or characteristics. It can include The Universe or Cosmos, the higher order of all that exists. It can be Nature itself, the extraordinary interconnectedness of all life. It can also be higher qualities that we value and bring harmony to our world, such as unconditional love, truth, integrity, compassion, or selfless service.
Spirituality is something that you experience within yourself and cultivate within yourself. It is a journey that only you can take, although you certainly can share that journey with others, too. But ultimately, spirituality taps us into a deeper, more profound feeling than what everyday, ordinary life is capable of providing.
I see much of the despair, worry, and loneliness of people I encounter in my counseling practice, and in my community, as soul suffering. Without a greater vision and sense of the numinous, life can feel empty and meaningless. Spiritual health is having our connection to that greater vision consciously alive within us. When spirituality is part of our life, we feel more whole and fulfilled.
We are part of something much more vast and intricate than any of us can imagine. This can cause us to feel small and insignificant. As we look up at the stars, this is true. Yet, when we have a connection to the Divine, both within us and all around us, life becomes meaningful.
Each of Us Matters
Spirituality helps us understand our part in life. We are spiritual beings, coming into form to experience humanness. We came here to participate and contribute. We came here to heal one another and the planet. Each of us has value and purpose, and if we make a difference in one other being’s life, we have mattered.
When we have spiritual health, we feel a sense of belonging. That we are not truly alone, because there is something greater than us that supports us and nurtures us. We may believe that isn’t so. But we know that the sun shines every day, even behind the clouds, and gives our planet light. The waters of the glaciers, rivers, and the clouds support all life. The planet, left to her natural harmony, provides food abundantly. All of life is a part of us through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. The Creator supports us and all life on our planet; not just physically, but our hearts and souls, too.
Cultivating Your Spirituality
In order to receive that support from and experience that connection to the Divine, we need to cultivate it and open to it. If you haven’t explored your spirituality before, or want to reignite that sacred spark, here are some ways you can start:
- Light a candle and sit quietly with it for a few minutes, focusing gently on the flame
- Attend an ecstatic dance event
- Try out a new church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or spiritual center – even if it is a different tradition than what you grew up with
- Take a walk alone in nature
- Sit by the ocean and listen to the waves
- Simply sit, where you are, and be fully present with whatever is
- Listen to chanting, kirtan, gospel, or other inspiring music
- Join a local meditation group – meditating in community deepens the experience
- Journal about your beliefs – what you grew up with, and where they have evolved to this time in your life. What do you believe?
- Write a letter to Spirit; feel free to express your emotions (even if it is anger – God can handle it), share your concerns, show your gratitude, and ask your questions
- Listen for answers: they may come from within, or show up spontaneously in your environment
- Open your heart and love without expectation
- Practice Selfless Service by volunteering in your community
- Start a conversation about spiritual beliefs with a good friend; listen to their experiences
- Watch, listen to,or read inspiration from a sacred text or by well-known spiritual teachers (some good resources: Sounds True and Hay House)
- Find a MeetUp group with a spiritual topic of interest in your local area
- Sit outside in the yard or at a park and simply be
What has inspired you in the past? What has been beckoning to your soul? What can you add to the list?
Your spiritual health is part of your mental health and overall well-being. Take the time to seek it, develop it, and open to receive it. Your own spiritual journey will renew you and reveal blessings in abundance.
Share your thoughts here.