Choice, Daily Life, daily practice, Growth, Inspiration, Religion, Spirit

Spiritual? Religious? Do We Have to Choose?

I keep hearing this comment and question.  Are you spiritual or are you religious? Like you must be one or the other.  This is a question Oprah likes to ask a lot on Super Soul Sunday of her guests.  Most of them say spiritual. But what I think is there is room for both, inside me, at the same time.

We were in a discussion in class last night regarding practice and devotion.  How do you see that differently? Is it different? And for me what came up was spiritual vs religious. I cannot separate the two, I need both.

For me spiritual is how I live my life. It is the inner work that I do. It is my personal connection to something greater than myself. It is in the decisions I make, it is in how I view myself and others. When I decide I want more love in my life and so I stay in a place of love, that is Spirit.  When I realize I am judging someone else, and stop, that is Spiritual. When I sit out in nature and listen to the call of the birds, that is Spiritual. When I read a book that moves me to tears, that is Spiritual. When I say I want peace and joy in my life and go out with the faith it is already so, that is Spiritual. So spiritual, for me, is my personal daily connection to God (or whatever your name is) and how I take that into my world.

Religion, I thought I didn’t need it. I thought I could basically wing it. I’m all about God, I’m all about Love.  And that worked for a long time. But all the humanness became mixed up in that and I didn’t have structure to help me through the happenings of my life. Yes, it is fine to sit on a hilltop and feel the Grace of God. But now, I have to go down into the world and try to live my life with grace and ease.  And I need support around that.

So I get that through my church. I go almost every week. And I go because I need the lessons that give me support during the week.  I attend the Center for Spiritual Living, which is a Religious Science church. I found this belief system works for me. We do a lot of work around the here and now. You can look it up more if you like. I am not saying it is the only way, I am saying I have found this to work for me.

So religion, why do I go?  I need the structure around me.  I am reminded each week to do my daily practices. I am inspired by the lessons I hear. I am given tools to help me maneuver through my emotions. I am reminded over and over that I am worthy, that I am loved. There are classes to help deepen my knowledge, of both myself and the Creator. There are people who are like minded that remind me why I am Spiritual.

I know I need both. I think they go hand in hand. If I am simply religious and not taking that spiritual connection into my life, I am missing the whole point.  If I am spiritual, but not including religion, I am not grounded and supported enough to sustain it.

Am I spiritual?  Am I religious? I am both.   What I am is whole. I use everything available to stay that way. I can’t separate them and I don’t need to.  Why would I?  I have the best of both worlds.

Namaste

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Daily Life, daily practice, Growth, Humanity, kindness, Love, Spirit

Kindess Matters, Always

Kindness: a simple word, almost overshadowed by the big actions.  There are so many more dramatic and noticeable things we can do.  It is almost like a childhood word, a learning word,  Be kind, play nice, be nice.  But what if it is the most important word?  It is simple, it is easy and maybe that is why we tend to not give it the respect it deserves.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ― Henry James

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. – Proverbs 3:3

All of our great Spiritual leaders and teachings speak of kindness. The love of humanity and ourselves began with kindness.  We should be kind to ourselves as well as others. The world and our planet need our kindness. So where can I start?  Start small and recognize kindness in myself and others.  Soon the habit will become natural and from small acts of kindness we build into large ones.

Here are some of the ways we can be kind during our days without even trying too hard:

Hold open the door for the person behind you.

Smile at babies and children.

Let others go first at stop signs

Let someone go in front of you at grocery line when you can see they are rushed or frazzled.

Listen to their stories, even when you have heard them before. Their words are important.

Pet dogs whenever possible

Make eye contact with strangers. Smile!

Don’t turn your eyes from the homeless person, smile at them. See them.

Call your mom, call your family.

Say I love you

Give a compliment, a simple “that color looks good on you” can make someones day.

Say thank you, use your manners.

Give up your seat when you see others need it.

Be patient with older people.  The world can be fast and overwhelming to them.

Buy your co worker coffee for no reason

Remember birthdays and other special days.  Just remembering people helps them feel acknowledged.

Receive graciously. Let others feel their own kindness is appreciated.

And a million more, I could sit here all day and list kindness or I could go out and do be it.  When in doubt, let kindness be your guide.  When you are not sure of the next move, what is the kind thing to do?  How can we help our world be a better place, start with kindness.  Let this word be your important word.  Join with others and do the random acts of kindness.  I promise you, what you put out is returned immeasurably, so be kind, be loving and my friends your lives will fill with the blessings of kindness returned.

Namaste.

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Choice, Daily Life, daily practice, Growth, Honesty, Love, Relationships

Loving Myself is a Daily Practice

Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend and she was talking about how she is overworked at her job.  She has been working 6 days a week for months now and is feeling the strain in her body.  Here is the deal, although there must be some kind of pay off it is not financial and she is not trying to advance in her job. So why then?  Only she can answer that, but it got me to thinking…..

“self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”
― Elizabeth Cady Stanton

My response to her it that I will not do for my job.  Maybe a different job at a different time, but not this one. I am clear on my boundaries with my job and I am comfortable with how clean my side of the street is.  But that is just my employment and there is a whole bunch more to my life.  And I do get sucked in.  And why is that?  I guess it changes according to the situation.  In a crisis I step up, no question about that, especially when it is my family. I will set aside my life to help them. If my son called I would set this aside, jump in my truck and go. That is a given.  But I will reclaim my life as soon as possible.

Right now my grandmother is in a convalescent home.  She is improving and right now they say she is going home this week.  I know she would like me to be there every day visiting her.  Not going to happen. She has visitors every day, it does not have to be me.  I love my grandmother so much, but my life is important too.  And I get to take care of myself also.  I think it took me being in my fifties before I could say that comfortably.

Before that I was all about self sacrifice.  I stayed in a marriage too long thinking It was better for him and my son (wrong by the way). I would become over involved in my employment only to see at the end of the day I didn’t own the businesses and everyone can be replaced.  I hung on to friendships past their expiration date thinking I could save something that was over. Even over involvement in volunteering or community becomes draining, stealing the joy from the original intention.  Men, on my gosh, I gave up my life, making theirs the focal point of our relationships. The list goes on…..  If I just loved more, worked harder,  gave everything, well then I would be important, I would be loved, appreciated,  no one would leave me.  It didn’t really work out that way. And now I have learned some lessons from that.

the buddha

At the end of the day no one can bring me happiness beyond myself.  Loving and caring for myself must be first on my list.  To move through life with a full heart, means I have to fill it.  And this is not easy.  It is almost a reflex to say “yes”.  It is how I was raised. My impulse is to set myself aside and take care of you. But is that what is best for me, and in the end you, perhaps not. So I need to be mindful of when and why I say yes.  I need to listen to my body and my heart when it starts saying no. I need to be okay with putting myself first.  And that means unlearning behavior that is years ingrained. Loving myself needs to be a daily practice.

Yes, if you love me, that can make me feel good.  But if you love me and I don’t love myself, I won’t believe you. I won’t trust that love. Because how could you love what I believe to be unlovable?  When I do not value myself what value can you put on me?  If I am so willing to set aside my wants, desires, dreams, time and energy why would you respect them? I want to engage with those people who have a healthy self respect for themselves and their lives.  I want them to love themselves so I can love them back.  Please don’t sacrifice yourself for me, I cannot carry the weight of both of our lives.

This is not about those times when I need help or you need help.  Those are teaching moments in our lives.  Those are moments that give us connection and a sense of belonging outside of ourselves. Those are times when we can almost touch love. It becomes tangible. But to do that without resentment or expecting a return we have to come from a place of love.  And love starts within.  It all comes back to loving yourself.  To loving yourself so much you have love to give others.  You have filled your time and spent your energy so well, you have it to share.

So it is not selfish to say “I love myself first”. It is not wrong to be wise with your time and your energy.  It is okay to say no when something is draining you, taking more than you have to give.  You can put yourself first. This is your day, this is your life. You get to choose how you spend, where you spend and who you spend it with.  Life moves fast and time is precious. Be sure to have time well spent.  And spend that time loving yourself.

Namaste

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