I think that by the time we hit our 20's, at some point in there, we all go through a sort of spiritual journey. For some, this journey brings them closer to God; others find their spirituality elsewhere like in nature or in hanging around positive energy. I've met a few people whose spiritual journey led them to believe that there isn't a greater power out in the universe at all. Personally, I think that a spiritual journey does not end until we die and our life, as we know it, is no longer fragmented. That being said, I do think that at some point you realize that you have started this journey, or even that you have been traveling the spiritual path for a while without taking notice.
No matter where you are on this journey, or where your journey takes you, and no matter what conclusion you draw from it I think that it is important to have someone there that will encourage you to continue. I have a person that does that. I met her three years ago at youth group. She was an attendee and I was the coordinator. At that time she was just another girl that had joined youth group, a girl that laughed at everything and put a smile on everyone's face. Little did I know that in just two years that girl would become one of the biggest spiritual influences of my life up to this point. During the last year I learned countless lessons from her. I want to share 5 things that she helped me figure out during my spiritual journey so far.
1. Spirituality goes beyond religion
Although we, my spiritual partner (lol) and I, are both "crazy Catholics", and proud, she taught me that being spiritual is not just about going to mass every Sunday, or preparing a talk for youth group every Saturday. Being spiritual is finding a peace within no matter where you are, and learning to defragment your life. This means that you learn to live in the moment and enjoying it. This means that you are not waiting for an event to begin or end, but instead that you are disconnected from the concept of time and you are fully immersed in the experience we call life. Instead of looking at your watch when you go hiking you simply hike. You watch your step, listen to your breathing, appreciate the fact that your body is taking care of you and making sure that enough blood is being pumped. You look at the trees, the shades of green and brown on their leaves. Observe the creases made by the wild laughter of your hiking buddy when you trip and attempt to fall gracefully. You feel the warm blood trickle down your knee and try to distract yourself with the sound of chirping birds. This is a true and painful experience. I am still recovering from the hole that was made in my knee from that fall. #WarriorWounds. This also means waking up and leaving your house before the sunrise to make the most out of your day. Watching the sun come up and the moon fade, while the sky becomes layered with pastel tones of pink and purple and yellow, and just the right amount of teal. Wow, I am inspired today.
2. No one cares about your spirituality like you do, so do it for yourself.
By now most of us have realized that people will find a way to criticize you no matter what. Once you come to this realization something really wonderful happens in your life. This amazing occurrence is that you start living for yourself. You set the goals you want to set and the milestones are reached at your own time, and you do not care who is watching, talking, or thinking about you because with this realization comes another even greater one, this is your life. You are stuck living it the whole way through, so make sure the decisions you make are ones that will make you happy in the long run. If you don't have friends that'll run a marathon with you, but you want to run a freaking marathon? RUN IT ALONE! You don't need them! You can find new marathon running friends! WHAT A GREAT GOAL! (If anyone wants to run a marathon with me, that would be cool....otherwise I'll have to take my own advice...awkard.) That being said, please understand that everyone's spirituality and spiritual journey are different, and that you do what you need to do to reach the spiritual goal or level you want to reach. If that means walking into the woods for an hour every other day, go for it. If it means going to mass or service every day, do it. If it means reading a book that is so great that you forget about time, read that book. Practice your spirituality as if no was is watching, because: A. they're probably not and B. if they are it's not any of their business anyway.
3. You gotta take the weeds out of your garden
You are the only person that will be in your life the whole way through. Many people will come into your life; some take their shoes off and make themselves at home, they help you pay rent (give you advice), they help you plan parties and then they help you clean (there in the good and the bad), they'll have dinner ready on the table after you've had a long day (a shoulder to cry on or actual dinner after a long day), and then before they leave (moving away, moving on, dying, etc.) they put their shoes back on, give you a hug and walk out. Others will come in with their dirty shoes during the party, eat your food, leave the fridge empty, and walk out. You need both of these people at some point in your life. These people bring lessons, ideas, opinions and experiences that can help you form your own, and more than that, having both types of people teaches you who to have in your life because they're only going to be there for a part of it and you can only clean your carpet and buy food so many times before you run out of money (and patience).
4. You have to lose yourself to find your spirituality.
There are attitudes, opinions, and habits that form a part of you and hold you back from reaching your spiritual climax. A journey like this requires change, sometimes it requires transformation! Finding peace within yourself requires you to let go of negativity, and stay away from it. For example, this year for lent (a 40 day period where Catholics sacrifice something that is unhealthy for them to practice discipline and self-denial with the end goal of being a better disciple and honoring the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the desert sacrificing himself to prepare to become the ultimate sacrifice) I gave up judging people. HOLY GUACAMOLE! It was the most difficult thing I have ever done! I never considered myself a judgmental person, but I realized that even though I can stop myself from saying something mean out loud, it is A LOT more difficult controlling your thoughts. The first two weeks were the hardest for sure. I had to watch what I was saying AND thinking. After that, my main focus became my thoughts. I got pretty good at putting myself in other people's shoes and trying to relate to them. I let that judgmental part of me die in order to be a little bit better as a person. After lent, I felt different. It felt like I was somehow lighter, and not only cause I also sacrificed junk food and added a gym routine, but because I felt more positive, as if my inner light got a little brighter. "You cannot ask the darkness to leave; you must turn on the light." -Sogyal Rinpoche
5. "It's fine."
The greatest lesson that my spiritual buddy taught me is that in the end things are going to be fine. Some days are long and stressful and you won't find your inner peace ANYWHERE! Other days will be spent by the poolside, soaking up the sun and blasting 90's pop hits, very zen. Life is a rollercoaster, so strap down, hold on tight and keep your eyes opened to enjoy the view when you're on top. Without all those crazy, stressful days the calm, sunny days just wouldn't be nearly as appreciated or feel nearly as peaceful as they do.
Be grateful for the weeds and flowers in your garden, but make sure you're keeping it well maintained. Plant a few trees for the hot days when you need some shade and find someone that'll sit under that shade with you, but also get you out in the sunshine. Find someone that will wipe their shoes outside before coming into your life and offers to do dishes after you've made dinner. Find a person that says, "It's fine!" when things are falling apart and you're having a panic attack because things are fine and you will be fine. It's all part of the spiritual journey.
PS: I'm going to run a marathon before 2016 ends with or without someone to run it with, I'll let you know how that goes.
PSS: For Shaily.