Years ago I was chatting with a school buddy about religion. He was very anti organized religion, so he was bashing on it pretty hard. I listened, and nodded along here and there when I agreed with something he said. At one point, he said something about all religion and spirituality being dumb and turned to me and said, “I know you agree with me.”
That’s when I dropped the apparent bombshell that actually, I’m super spiritual. I don’t think he believed me right away. I’d never really talked about my own spirituality. I came down pretty hard on a lot of the corruption and problems I saw (and experienced firsthand) in organized religion. So his confusion wasn’t really a surprise.
A lot of people are surprised to learn that I’m a deeply spiritual person. I tend to keep it to myself. For me, it’s more meaningful that way.
I grew up in a family that claimed to be very religious. I say claimed because they weren’t exactly practicing what they preached. But damn did they do some serious bragging about their beliefs. And they tried to shove that shit down the throats of everyone around them. Out in public, I’d be forced to bow my head and pray at every meal. I had to go to a religious private school. I had to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”.
At home I was abused.
It showed me that for many people religion is nothing but show. So for me, it became more meaningful to take my spirituality inward. There are still quite a few people today who are very close to me and couldn’t tell you what my spiritual practices really are. But I bet they could make some damn good guesses based on my actions and priorities.
Going inward really allowed me to connect with my spirituality on a deeper level than if I’d taken it out into the world. And while I don’t shy away chatting about it if it comes up, I always try to keep a little something to myself. It keeps it deeply personal. To me, that’s part of what spirituality or religion should be. It should be a deeply personal connective experience. And for me, that means embracing quiet spirituality.
But just because I’m not shouting it from the rooftops doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s a major part of my life and has been a huge part of my recovery from PTSD. Spirituality does that for a lot of people. According to the 2016 WPA Position Statement on Spirituality and Religion in Psychiatry, “spirituality is closely related to values, meaning and purpose in life.” It’s this purpose and defined values which can offer comfort and clarity throughout life, both of which can be seriously lacking in the lives of people who’ve experienced trauma.
A 2015 study reviewing research relating to spirituality in cancer patients found that mental health was typically improved in spiritual patients. In veterans, spirituality was associated with decreased risk of PTSD, depression, and substance abuse according to 2017 research. Researchers described spirituality as providing a “protective” measure against mental health problems. Again though, a lot of that focus was on having a purpose in life.
So if you don’t feel like you’re spiritual and tend to shun organized religion, no big deal. Spirituality is what you make it. I don’t follow organized groups, but I definitely embrace my purpose as a hardcore part of my spirituality. While I tend to keep to myself about a lot of the specifics, people can definitely recognize some of my beliefs in my actions.
The point is to find your purpose and incorporate it into your spiritual beliefs. This is going to be unique to every individual. Find what works for you and go for it. How do you make purposeful spirituality a part of your life?
Pssst… have you taken my survey yet?