WHAT WE ARE EXPERIENCING IN THE WORLD
A few days ago, whilst I was at my Spanish lesson, the teacher asked each student what Christmas meant to them. There were 7 of us with an average age of around 24 years in class. The tutor and I, were the oldest of the in the group and were astonished when no one in the group but ourselves and one other knew about Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. When I was little I would write my letters to Gesu Bambino (Baby Jesus in Italian) for presents, not Santa Clause. To me, Gesu Bambino always symbolised something more for me growing up.
Since moving back to Europe, I’ve noticed that upon stating that I believe in God or simply have faith, questions such as, “are you religious?” always ensue. Needless to say, I feel triggered each time I get this response from people and so I started reflecting and wondering why.
I started asking people in my workshops and friends if they knew God. The resounding answer, from younger people especially, was always either, “Who is God?” or total silence. All these experiences with this new reality led me to write this article, which will focus on spirituality, indifference and ignorance (that is not to say any of these traits are mutually exclusive).
I’ve read a lot of research, and must say experienced first hand in my life and profession, about the exponential increase of people’s levels of indifference over the past few years. Cynicism too. And well, hand in hand with that has sadly lead the way to a growing epidemic of narcissism too. It is acknowledged therefore in various areas of research, that today we are living in a more indifferent, cynical and narcissistic global society.
On a recent visit to a University in Milan, I shared my readings, travels and rich cross-generational acquaintances with a few senior academic teachers and I was faced with another daunting reality: that we as a society are still overwhelmed by ignorance.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION
We live in a world of growing indifference, persisting ignorance and declining spirituality.
Religions have caused a lot of pain and trouble over hundreds and thousands of centuries but at their core, they offered us the possibility for spiritual experience and connection. They served a purpose which has now been totally lost in the whirlwind of skepticism we developed to protect ourselves against the unveiled dogma and corruption. Now we’ve gone so far to the other side of the pendulum that most people feel lost and confused, their lives dedicated to a constant search for meaning.
Yes, the damage created by religions has been and continues to be enormous and runs deep in our ancestry. Despite this, we can’t neglect that the root of this malevolence was not born in the religion itself but in the indifferent and ignorant individuals within it.
We are awakening to a new way of living (The Shift to a New Way of Living). Religions have stopped being of service today in the way that they were in the past, and instead have enabled their followers to reach new heights of the other extreme: full rebellion. Through a lack of trust, people have been pushed to distrust religion and lose contact with their spirituality altogether.
Question is, is this the direction the world needs to move forward? Are there any alternatives?
Living in Asia for half my life opened my eyes to the difference between religion and spirituality. I believe understanding this difference and more importantly educating ourselves on spirituality, should be the direction we turn to now that religions have lost the credibility they had to begin with.
What is spirituality? And what does it mean to grow spiritually? Would growing spiritually serve to diminish indifference and ignorance in the world that we live in?
IT IS TIME TO BUILD SPIRITUAL MUSCLES
We can’t work against or suppress the indifference, ignorance or lack of spiritual faith that exists. What I believe we need to do instead of trying to change people and reality, is to set our focus on how we might rebuild and promote emotional intelligence and depth in our global society; how we can nurture traditional and progressive education (by educating children, parents and teachers to a new way of living); how we can start to build and exercise those spiritual muscles (for those of us who are ready and want to) by informing ourselves on the real meaning of life, higher purpose and spiritual empowerment.
The foundation of a new way of life, can be built on the understanding that not all of the living world depends on science. Spirituality, not religion, might be the key and is in fact science’s opposite, as Dr. Peck says in his book, Further Along the Road Less Travelled. But opposites can only exist in conjunction with their other. Spirituality and Science (technology and research) can finally come together, differently from the past and not only co-exist, but actually work together. We need to find a way for them to do so if we really want to enter a new era and a new way of living.
SPIRITUALITY AND SCIENCE
I believe, the foundation of life should not be based on religions and indoctrination. The foundation of life should be the understanding that there is a higher intelligence, a fundamental creative power or energy in the universe which is the source of all existence. It moves us, it creates through us. It plays with us and through us. It is what each of us might call something different to one another:
Spirit of God
All these names and labels are attempts to communicate an experience or knowingness that is difficult to convey in words or rational concepts. Each of us has a spiritual internal experience occurring. The words we choose to describe it with are just sounds that make up the language we use to communicate.
Since many people today are rebelling against religion and the Word of God, I hardly ever use the name God in public or in my writing. I instead prefer to refer to God as the Mysterious Divine or simply Divine Energy. The reality is that people frequently and automatically associate the word God with religious indoctrination which is no longer pertinent to them. I feel this even more so in countries such as Spain and Italy, which have been extremely Catholic nations for centuries. Some still think of God as a mythical old man who lives in the sky and decides our fates.
WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?
Spiritual Awareness means living a life in balance.
So in my profession, I declare myself as being a spiritual being living a very human existence and using spirituality, in conjunction with science, to set the foundation of a balanced life. Finding a foundation of life based on these two polarities, science and spirituality, without making one more exclusive than the other.
I support the idea that building a new way of living is about diminishing indifference and increasing emotional intelligence. It’s about promoting non-formal education and minimising cynicism by promoting connection and building awareness about the inner workings of ourselves. It is about growing, not religiously, but spiritually.
I like the definition Ernst Kurtz and Katherine Ketchman use in their book, Spirituality of Imperfection, which I practice in my life:
“Spirituality is, above all, a way of life. We don’t just think about it or feel it or sense it around us. We live it.”
Spirituality, which I spoke about in my first book, Stella’s Mum Gets Her Groove Back, permeates to the very core of our human being, affecting the way we perceive the world around us, the way we feel about the world and the choices we make based on our perceptions and sensations.
I grew up in a Christian-Catholic environment. I went to Catholic school until I was 9. From then, I disconnected with my experience of experiencing God and for many years I had no connection or belief in a Higher Power of any sort. I have had to move through many levels of doubt, skepticism and fear in order to surrender and reach the deep sense of trust I now have in the mysterious power present beyond in the Universe and within myself and everyone and everything.
I have not accepted anything blindly but experienced, through my own life experience, the existence of some kind of ‘magic’. As I have learnt to place total trust in a Divine Power and chosen to live in accordance with universal principals, the changes I have observed and sensed in my life have indeed been nothing less of miraculous.
Today I can really and literally feel a loving presence within me and around me; guiding me, teaching me, encouraging me. I seldom feel truly alone anymore. In fact it is in physical solitude that I often encounter the most powerful connection with the world and the Divine. At such times, I feel a mysterious presence that tells me which step to take next and helps me to learn the lesson in front of me, taking each step with me along my journey.
Those who have felt a deep spiritual awareness throughout life already have a solid foundation to build upon. For those who feel spiritually disconnected, like I had been for many years, I hope my words will support and encourage you to begin your search to find this connection slowly and get to know the Divine energy that nurtures us consciously or without our knowledge.
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