Sometimes I don’t know which tab to place certain articles. This is one of those times. This topic could fit under the Spiritual Discovery tab or this tab. I have chosen both. Why? Because strengthening our spiritual muscle takes effort, focus and personal work. It takes a certain psychological skill to develop spiritual awareness. Spirituality matters. However, it is a personal journey and may mean different things for different people. What I do know is that often my past work bordered on the spiritual, especially when I focused in on one’s sense of purpose and values. Often people would grow silent and then tentatively approach some of their inner feelings about how they carried out their values. Some conversations uncovered a broken spirit that cried out for healing, others stimulated deep spiritual thoughts about personal growth and development.
In general spirituality has certain qualities that reflect: a sense of purpose, inner peace, joy, humility, religious observance (not religiosity), and, an openness toward a greater good, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.
Ways to develop our spiritual muscle
Nature walks: Getting in touch with the beauty of nature touches our spiritual core. A beautiful sunset in the evening, a gorgeous sunrise, the colors of the leaves in the Fall or the budding of trees and the rejuvenating ground flowers in Spring often bring a sense of awe within us.
Walking is not only healthy for our physical body but also for our spiritual wellbeing. A friend suggested she captured a sense of her smallness and a touch of the divine as she walked under a canopy of trees on a dusty trail. She was struck by the beauty of the moment. In my book, Eternal Unfolding, one of the scenes goes like this:
“Julech took in the silence of the forest, broken from time to time with the harsher sounds of magpies, blue jays and crows and with softer songs of the chickadees, wrens, nut hatchers and juncos. Joining the bird songs were the rat-a-tat-tats of woodpeckers, the fluttering of the grouse and the occasional trill of a grosbeak
His olfactory nerves were tingling with the smells of spruce, firs, pines, junipers and alders. There were the aromas of fallen acorns, pine needles and rotting logs…As he walked, he reflected on the spiritual insights…”
Gratefulness: Ancient wisdom people, philosophers, religious leaders and spiritual writers tell us that gratitude is the basis for strengthening our relationship with God (or a power greater than us) and one another, as well as improving our wellbeing. Intuitively they knew this and speak eloquently about it. Today we have a growing body of scientific evidence that supports what appeared to be naturally known. In the past I had identified a number of scientific findings about gratitude and how we can apply it in our places of work, business and personal lives. If so inclined you can read the article here.
Volunteering: In religious parlance we often say share your time, talent or money to those less fortunate. I know too many people who don’t have two nickels to rub together but they are the first to volunteer their time and talent. They often say that it feels good to help others less fortunate. How ironic. And, I know many who have several nickels to rub together but don’t share time, talent or money with those who they consider “beneath them.” Volunteering within one’s community lifts others up and in return lifts the person up. In giving one receives, perhaps more than what he or she has given. We know this by the comments we receive from those that give within their communities. In the process there is something spiritual going on within them, a link whether they know it or not, with the love that is universal and beyond them.
Listening to a religious messages: Some people have difficulty with listening to a homely or a sermon as they view the person (preacher) as a bit of a hypocrite. They don’t see the person’s behaviour reflecting the message. In a sense they are saying the medium is the message. I have yet to hear a true religious message that suggests that one should go against principles that are considered universal truths. The message is usually about avoiding those things that hurt us spiritually, mentally and physically, encouraging compassionate behaviour, forgiving one another, strengthening one’s better self. Religious messages are most often positive affirmations of caring for one self, neighbor and community. All of these messages should cause us to ponder how they could apply to us individually and collectively and in the end strengthens our spiritual core.
Spiritual reading: In many ways our modern technology encourages us to dart from one thing to another. Our emails, ease of access to information, and internet explorations, text messaging, Facebook, Instagram and the like shortens our attention to small bites of information. We flit, where as spiritual reading causes us to stop and ponder our deeper selves and our connection to someone or something beyond us. Books that explore men and women of spiritual conviction and purpose and carry that out in their everyday lives become role models. Wisdom found in ancient and modern writings give food for thought and provide profound insight to what we may consider improbable solutions to what ails us, our community and our world. Taking some time to read something spiritually everyday will tend to slow us down, reduce our stress and in the end strengthen our spiritual muscle.
There are many other ways to strengthen our spirituality including meditating, having healthy relationships with others, taking compassionate action, engaging with a spiritual adviser, having coffee with a friend while exploring spiritual matters, joining groups that encourage spiritual discussions, and working at being non-judgmental. In short, we have ample opportunity in our everyday lives to go beyond the ordinary and touch our spiritual core.
Thanks for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie,