Let’s Talk About Religion and Faith

In our last post, we touched a little bit on how the concept of spirituality differs from organized religion. Neither is necessarily better than the other, and they can be related. However, they’re not the same, as had commonly been accepted in the past. You don’t have to embrace a religion in order to be a spiritual person. Spirituality encompasses a wider set of circumstances and evolves over time. It’s something that an individual determines and shapes, rather than a doctrine or structure to be followed. That’s not to say you can’t be a deeply religious person who is strong in your particular faith and still pursue other spiritual endeavors. The two can exist simultaneously. To make things a bit clearer, let’s take a look at some of the more specific ways in which spirituality differs from religion and faith.

Individual Focus

Religions are comprised of congregations or followers. In many cases, their focus is on sharing their teachings with a group of people within their ranks. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a very uniquely personal endeavor in which the individual creates her or his own meaning. You decide as an individual which direction to take with your spiritual studies. You may choose to pull certain guiding principles from a particular religion or philosophy and combine them with tenets unrelated to any organized group whatsoever. When it comes to following a spiritual path, what matters is that the practices resonate with you.

Less Structure

Most formal, organized religions are quite structured. Followers are often expected to attend worship in a specific meeting space on a designated day. Rituals are frequently part of that worship service, and as a rule, the entire congregation must follow along. You can practice your spirituality in a much more fluid way that best fits your lifestyle. What matters most on a spiritual journey is the way in which you personally decide to format your practice and how you choose to prioritize your beliefs.

Solitary

Your spiritual path is usually one that’s walked alone. While you have the benefit of choosing your own guideposts as you go, doing so can be a bit of a lonely process. When it comes to religion, most folks can depend on their congregation members for support, guidance, socialization and fellowship. Each has its own merits.

Definition of Truth

When it comes to spirituality, what you consider to be truth is predetermined only by you. Most organized religions have a holy book or document that spells out universal truths for followers. There can be a great deal of comfort in following the gospel truth as you see and believe it. However, some people prefer the ability to look for their own version of truth in the world through their lived experiences and through research.

These are merely a few of the differences between spirituality and religion. I simply wish to point out that this 30-day challenge is one that doesn’t require you to hold a particular religious belief, as spirituality can exist separate from religion. I look forward to moving ahead to explore the ways in which a spiritual pursuit, combined with meditation, can help you to live each day more fully and in alignment with your own personal truths.

What is Meditation?

Although meditation has undergone a resurgence in popularity recently, it’s still a concept that isn’t thoroughly understood by many. Most folks have a vague idea that the practice involves calming the mind, but they may be unsure of the ways in which that occurs. It’s also a bit of a mystery to many people what benefits can come from meditating. Meditation usually involves sitting quietly for various lengths of time, while focusing on controlled breathing and mindfulness. The benefits are far reaching and may actually surprise you. Let’s take a moment to delve a little deeper into this ancient technique and try to unravel some of its mysteries.

Types of Meditation

There are a vast number of meditation types. I’ll address two of the most common and overarching categories for now. The first is concentrative meditation. This is the category under which transcendental meditation, or TM, falls. The name of this form implies its meaning. During TM, a practitioner will focus their concentration on a single element, which could be a sound, image, words or even their own breathing. Mindful meditation is the other most popular form of the tradition. This form doesn’t place its emphasis on just one thing. Instead, it requires a practitioner to be aware of all that is passing through their mind in the current moment. The purpose is to notice the thoughts, feelings, images and sounds as they occur in order to center one’s self in the here and now.

Purpose of Meditation

The overarching purpose of meditation is to provide the practitioner with self-awareness and calmness of mind. A goal of reaching a higher plane of existence is cited by many. Often, people pursue a meditation practice in order to enhance their spirituality or personal development in some way. However, there are some very specific reasons some folks choose this path. A regular habit of meditating has been shown to lessen anxiety, along with depression and overall stress. It’s also believed to help with pain management, lower blood pressure and manage hot flashes. Those with addictive behavioral issues like alcohol, drug and smoking addiction may be assisted in keeping relapse at bay through a meditation routine. There are other proven benefits of meditation, which we’ll discuss in future posts.

Considerations Prior to Beginning Meditation

As long as you are relatively healthy, the chances are good you’ll be able to practice meditation without issue. There are some folks who may not be suited for this sort of activity, and you should always speak with your doctor before adding a new regimen to your routine. Seated meditation may be problematic for those with certain flexibility or joint issues. In addition, practices that required focused breathing might not be appropriate for anyone with a respiratory condition. Certain mental health diagnoses such as schizophrenia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could hinder one’s ability to engage in meditating also. In any case, talk to your physician and never forego traditional medical treatment in favorite of any type of alternative therapy without prior physician approval.

These are the basics of meditation. There are many reasons to begin a practice of your own. The type you choose will be based on your preferences, goals and lifestyle. We’ll discuss these more as the challenge progresses.

30 Days of Meditation and Spirituality

Welcome to 30 Days of Meditation of Spirituality! I’m so happy you’ve decided to join me in a month-long challenge to learn more about meditating, spiritual study and the ways in which these pursuits can improve your life. During this time, we’ll cover a lot of material in small daily posts that will help you understand each aspect of developing your own unique practice toward developing a higher perspective and inner peace.

To begin, we’ll define the concepts of meditation and spirituality, to ensure we’re working from the same page. I’ll share with you various types of meditation and the ways in which meditating can enhance your spiritual experience. We’ll discover ways to make it easier to incorporate meditation into your daily life, as well as how you shape your own spiritual practice according to your personal belief system. You’ll likely be surprised just how many benefits that meditation offers and how adding a focus on spirituality can significantly change your life.

Seeking worldly or material gains is a significant part of many people’s lives. However, meditation and spirituality allow you to surpass those things, focusing on a higher good. They lead you to the attainment of a sense of inner-peace and well-being that guides your entire existence. Cultures far and wide have practiced meditation throughout the ages, as part of a larger devotional study.

There is evidence to show that meditation has been in practice since approximately 5000 to 3500 BC. Archaeologists discovered wall depictions in the Indus Valley of people in a seated, crossed-leg position in which they appeared to be meditation.  Meditation was actually described in Indian writings from about 3000 years ago. It’s not only the Indian and other eastern cultures have engaged in this practice through the centuries. Its appeal has grown to be worldwide.

Naturally, practices differ in various cultures. However, meditation of some sort seems to be a component of most major religious practices globally. Specific religions that incorporate this method of mindfulness include Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Taoism, among others. It was in the early 20th century that the tradition found its way to the United States, and it enjoyed a huge spike in popularity beginning in the 1960’s. The trend continues today, with meditation having become quite mainstream.

As you can see, meditation is actually rather universal, no matter how it’s practiced. I can’t wait to share more about the fundamentals of meditation and spirituality with you in its many forms. Let’s get started!

Aligning Yourself With Your Purpose Through Meditation and Prayer

Living with purpose isn’t always easy. We get busy, we get stressed out, or we simply get distracted. It happens to all of us and when it does, we no longer hear that little voice in our head clearly that tells us what we should be doing. Without a clear purpose and solid intentions to live our life around it, it becomes easy to get off course. We have to find a way to make sure we can get back on track and realign ourselves with the purpose we’ve chosen.

A great way to do this is through prayer and meditation. There’s a reason these techniques have been used for millennia by spiritual leaders and everyday people who successfully live a purpose driven life.  Both prayer and meditation allow you to tune out those distractions and give you clarity of mind. Once your mind quiets, you can start to listen to that inner voice that tells you what’s truly important and what you value most.

It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to, if you consider yourself a spiritual person, or how much faith you have. Prayer and meditation can benefit anyone. One of the easiest forms of meditation is a simple breathing exercise that you can do anytime, anywhere. That being said, I recommend you practice it first in a calm and quiet spot. This will allow you to focus on it and get used to it without too many distractions. Once you’ve practiced for a little while though, you can use it to calm and clear your mind whenever you need it.

A Simple Breathing Meditation

The easiest type of meditation is to simply focus on your breath. Try to tune out everything else and focus on breathing in and breathing out. Notice how the air feels flowing through your noise. Pay attention to how your abdomen rises and falls, expands and contracts. Whenever you get distracted or start to think of something else, keep bringing yourself back to the breath. Start by practicing it for 30 seconds to a minute and expand the time with practice.

Give this a try and see if you find it helpful. From there read up on other meditation techniques. There are lots of great books out there on the topic. There are guided meditations and even mobile apps.

Diffusing While Meditating

Using Young Living essential oils in your diffuser during your prayer time or meditation is helpful for maintaining focus and deepening your spiritual experience. Here are some suggestions:

Sacred Frankincense™ essential oil comes from the distillation of the resin of the Boswellia sacra frankincense tree. This oil is ideal for those who wish to take their spiritual journey and meditation experiences to a higher level.

The Gift™ is a blend of seven ancient oils that have been sought after for centuries for their calming properties. It includes Balsam Canada needle, Sacred frankincense, Jasmine, Northern Lights Black spruce leaf, Myrrh, Vetiver root and Cistus (Rose of Sharon).

If you don’t already have Young Living oils, please click my link on the upper left, and I’ll be happy to help you out.

 

How To Find Your Calling

Vintage style black female author writing and sitting on a chaise loungeFinding and following your calling is a big part of living with purpose. Finding that calling though, can be a pretty big and intimidating task, particularly if you put yourself under pressure to come up with the perfect answer right here and right now. While it is a goal worth pursuing, it’s also important to realize that it may take time to find your calling, that it’s a process that will develop over time, and that you can’t force. In fact, you shouldn’t. A much better plan of action is to take it one step and one day at a time until your calling becomes clear.

Start With What’s Important To You

A great place to start is to think about what’s important to you. It doesn’t have to be huge or all-consuming. Start with something small. Find a cause you feel drawn to and do what you can to support it. Volunteer, learn more about it and share what you’re learning with others, support organizations financially. Maybe this means knitting baby hats for preemies at your local hospital. Maybe it means spending time with an elderly neighbor, or maybe it means saving up for a mission trip next summer. The most important thing is to simply start and do something.

Listen To The Soft Voice In Your Head

Another great strategy is to listen to your intuition. Pay attention to that small voice in your head that tells you what you should be doing. Learning to listen to this little voice can be a bit of a challenge in today’s busy and noisy world.

Spend some time contemplating your values. Educate yourself about causes that catch your attention. Spend some quite time in meditation or prayer to be able to hear the voice in your head. Then start taking action on what you’re hearing and what you know you should be doing.

Walk The Path Towards Your Calling One Step At A Time

Don’t let this process overwhelm you. In the first excitement, you may be tempted to tackle a huge project and set out to change the world all at once. While that’s a great ambition, it’s also something that can seem quite daunting and burn you out. Instead, take it one step at a time. Pick your path and get in the habit of doing something every week, or even daily that aligns with your calling and helps you reach your goals. Pick something that’s easy to do and fit into your already busy life. No matter how small, every little act and effort helps to make a difference and serve with purpose.