What fuels your sense of connection to something larger than yourself?
Religion has been a hot topic in my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a family with varying beliefs I experienced it as a source of guilt, shame, and confusion. Buddha wasn’t Buddhist. Jesus wasn’t Christian. Both were very spiritual and we all might be praying to the same God. Believing in one path meant all others were absurd. I was lost AF.
Religious practices were really only encouraged when visiting extended family and friends. There were rituals and phrases everyone knew except me. Surrounded by loved ones most of my church experiences felt a bit lonely. What bothered me the most was how impersonal rituals appeared. The majority seemed disconnected to what they were saying and doing and it made me uncomfortable. I viewed religion and spirituality to be the same thing so I avoided conversations, practices, and ideas about all of it.
Fast forward and I was offered the chance to move to a Muslim country. Consumed by curiosity I let my issues with organized religion and any media bias take a back seat. I wanted to travel more than anything and see places far out of my comfort zone. On the map the Middle East was a great jump spot to Europe, Asia, and Africa. What a blessing the experience turned out to be. I was still able to work, travel, and practice no form of faith freely. I was sure to leave this experience with more appreciation and less religious baggage than what I arrived with.
My sense of spirituality exploded through travel. Spending more time in nature learning about new places, creatures, and people provoked a spiritual journey. By connecting the dots of my own design and behavior I started to feel connected to something bigger than myself. What tools have we all been equipped with? How does our environment shape us? How are we shaping our environment? Just because we can does it mean we should? What memories am I leaving people and places with? I opened myself to conversations, traditions, and ideas of many religions. What I found is that I am a spiritual person, especially in nature, but a ritualistic practice of established religion is still not part of my path.
In my experiences religion wanted me to believe and follow a formula – it required a fixed mindset. Being spiritual meant observing and experimenting – it required a growth mindset. Religion wanted me to give up things for a promised future. Spirituality helped me let go of things for a better present day. Religion made me feel like I didn’t hold the tools to navigate life’s ups and downs. Spirituality empowered me. Spirituality helped me understand everyone has his or her own path. Some people find their spiritual journey best explored through an established religion and some find it elsewhere. I don’t think one path is above another. Choose whatever helps you live your inner truth freely.
Something has indeed equipped us with everything we need but what I grew up with, as the idea of God is not what I feel connected to. Whatever you believe your God to be they’ve equipped you with intuition and free will. Both have been my best tools for creating connection to everything here and gone. Life is a trial period of many things but what happens after death? I’m not sure where it all ends, how many times the beginning has begun, and what comes next. I’m motivated by the feeling I want loved ones to have when they think of me while I fade into Mother Earth. Intuition guides me in making choices that fulfill the personal legacy I want to leave behind.
“Experience is the only teacher we have. We may talk and reason all our lives, but we shall not understand a word of truth until we experience it ourselves.” – Swami Vivekananda
Open-minded and laying my religious issues to rest I added Israel to the travel plans. I was curious what spiritual connection I might feel. Maybe a visit to Jerusalem would make me rethink who/what God could be.
I visited the Western Wall of the Jewish Quarter. Overcome by emotions from those around me I left wishes with millions of others in the cracks of the Wailing Wall.
I faced Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque feeling connected to my Muslim friends. I thought about what this place might mean to them if they stood where I was. Wandering the streets of the Muslim quarter brought an overwhelming sense of familiarity.
I walked Via Dolorosa where I was told Jesus walked to his crucifixion. I stood next to his tomb and touched the stone he laid upon before burial. I laid gifts here for my friends and family that find a deep connection to their Christian faith.
I finished the day floating in the Dead Sea. Nature deepened the spiritual connection again. Slathering mineral rich mud from head to toes Mother Nature boosted my circulation. At the lowest point on Earth I felt pretty high. I baked in the sun while salty waters carried my stress and me away. Smooth skin and uplifted spirits – I’ll say Amen to that. When do you feel most connected to something bigger than you?
Spirituality aside there are a lot of benefits to a salty bath. Try out my favorite scrub for smooth skin and uplifted spirits!
- 1 cup salt – Exfoliate! Salt cleanses the pores deeply and can balance oil production
- ½ cup olive oil – A natural antioxidant with skin tightening effects
- A few drops of lemon oil (can add real lemon zest if you please) – Toxins and razor bumps be gone!
- 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary leaves stripped from the stem – Anxiety and odor buster
- Mix, scrub, rinse, enjoy!