A few years ago, when I first started to ask myself questions such as, ‘what is my purpose in life’ and ‘what is the unique contribution I am supposed to make to the world,’ I began to despair about going to church because it seemed that I was never going to find the answers I needed there.
I felt driven to seek the answers elsewhere, in books, different faiths; and from prominent Teachers of Life, who were obviously very successful and therefore seemed not only knowledgeable, but fulfilled.
Gradually, I started going to church less and less. I associated it with out-dated pomp and ceremony, and religious dogma; and I viewed pursuing a ‘spiritual path’ as far more unique and fulfilling, not to mention fashionable.
The latter seemed to afford me the opportunity to explore the kinds of deep and abiding questions that were, by then, inhabiting my mind on a consistent basis; and the answers to which I felt were bound up with my living out my ultimate destiny.
There was no shortage of books out there that seemed to offer the answers. Many of them referred to God as ‘The Universe;’ or ‘All That is;’ or ‘Universal Energy’ because in a lot of cases, such words seemed to evoke a lot less resistance and carried the reader along.
All of them were written by people who were right, in their own way; and were undoubtedly doing their best to help people whose urge to know more couldn’t be satisfied with conventional answers.
Perhaps they’d felt a similar despondency at visiting religious institutions but failing to connect with the sermons; or feeling judged and condemned because of our human interpretation of certain religious texts and verses. Whatever the reasons, for many people seeking an escape from all that, finding a ‘spiritual’ path seems to offer the answer.
On my own ‘spiritual path,’ I met all sorts of wonderfully unusual people. My spirituality continues to be an important and very fundamental part of my life; and it has contributed to shaping the person I am today.
Yet the truth is, I didn’t have to leave church in order to pursue a spiritual path. There are many people who go to church who are not only spiritual, but vastly fulfilled. Many people who have never even heard of ‘spirituality,’ are secure and happy in their knowledge of God; and are aware of His power in their lives. We each get out of every experience precisely what we’re looking for.
Did you know that a growing body of psychological science shows that religious people are happier, healthier and recover better after traumas than non-religious people?
In one study conducted across various religions, parents who had suddenly lost a baby were interviewed three weeks after their loss; and again after eighteen months. Those who attended religious services often and who viewed religion as important to them were better able to cope eighteen months after the loss, showing less depression and greater well-being than non-religious parents.
Other studies have shown that those active in their religions live longer with a variety of ailments and are healthier in general, than their non-religious peers. For instance, if you’re having serious surgery and receive strength and comfort from your religious faith, you’ll be almost three times more likely to be alive six months later. Part of this may be because religious people are more likely to practice healthy behaviours, avoiding hazards like excessive drinking, smoking or drug use. But those who play an active part in their religious institutions also have the kind of social support that’s necessary for us to thrive.
This may help to explain the finding that religious people are happier, more satisfied with their lives and better able to cope with crises.
All of this to say, if you find yourself on a spiritual path and are finding greater happiness as a result, well and good; I applaud you. Follow what feels right and what you know in your heart is good for you. This is just a reminder that, in my view, religion and spirituality don’t have to be and, indeed are not, mutually exclusive.
Jesus Christ, the Prophet Mohammed and Buddha amongst others were spiritual icons. Because I know Jesus better than the others, I’ll focus on him and underscore that, as far as spirituality is concerned, Jesus was the ultimate rock star.
Every statement made by new age or spiritual gurus today was probably uttered by him in one form or another over two thousand years ago.
He told us a long time ago that our thoughts shape our reality. He taught us the power of our beliefs and what we hold in our mental files over what manifests in our physical life.
More importantly, Jesus showed, through his example, his powers of manifestation. Because he was pure of mind and heart, he didn’t manifest disease in his body. Have you ever heard of Jesus having to take a break from his work to go and have a cyst removed? No, instead, he performed miraculous healings. He showed us there was no such thing as death by rising from the dead.
You don’t need to turn your back on religion, or ‘God,’ in order to be spiritual. In fact, without God, there is no spirituality, no matter who or what you define as God. I’m not here to convince you to go back to church, or any other religious institution. In fact, if the truth be told, sadly, some ‘houses of God’ are downright uninspiring.
But if you do cultivate great faith in God; and find great comfort in worshipping at religious institutions with other like-minded people, it might just turn out to be the best thing for you. Religion plays an important role in our lives and, in searching or greater meaning in your life, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Make it a great week!
*Primrose Oteng is a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and the Founder of the Positive Peace Project, an organization dedicated to creating positive change through personal empowerment. For more on our workshops and other services we provide, check out our Facebook page or contact: [email protected]