I’ve spent time on many different spiritual paths, and all of them involved practices and activities which I found to be deeply satisfying. Growing up in a Protestant church I gravitated towards opportunities to be involved and use my talents, like learning to play the organ because nobody else at our church knew how. When I became Catholic I loved the private meditative practices like praying the rosary and felt that those activities brought me spiritual connection I had not found in my previous religious experiences. When I started practicing magic I liked crafting my own tools and creating my own rituals, shaping my practice to fit my focus at any given time. And when I started studying alchemy I was excited about lab work and creating useful medicines, putting my spiritual pursuits to use helping myself and others. These things made me feel spiritually connected and active.
But all of these traditions also involve practices and activities in which I don’t find meaning or satisfaction. There are expectations which become drudgery and obligatory busywork. These are the things which drain our spiritual energy and make us less likely to find fulfillment in our spiritual lives. Things like evangelism, confession, dream journaling and astrology make me feel like I’m just going through the motions with no benefit.
So should we feel compelled to participate in pieces of spiritual practice when we don’t feel that there is meaning to be found there?
I think we absolutely should feel able to shape our personal practice to make it more fulfilling and meaningful. Everyone’s spiritual pursuit is unique to their experience, and we can’t expect to get what we need from a spiritual path by following exactly in the footsteps of others. So we should not feel compelled to half-heartedly go through the motions of rituals which don’t move our spiritual understanding forward.
But the danger in freeing ourselves to delete and avoid spiritual activities at our will lies in our tendency to write off things as meaningless when in reality they are uncomfortable or difficult but ultimately good for us. We aren’t always the best judge of what is best for our own selves. If we avoid the beneficial parts of our practice, we render it entirely meaningless.
The trick is to examine what we’re doing spiritually and determine what is beneficial and what is not, from a personal standpoint.
This is extremely hard to do without a great deal of self-awareness. So maybe it’s best to go into any practice or experience, spiritual or not, with the intention of finding meaning in it. Approach life with the goal of making it meaningful, forcing it to be significant, even if the effort must rest completely on your shoulders.
And maybe, that’s what spirituality is ultimately all about.Tags: personal essay, religion, spirituality
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