Defining Your Own Spiritual Path
While I'm a Chicago girl by heart and birthright, I haven't always lived in the Windy City. I've also lived in Iowa, Indiana, New York, Colorado and -- for a mystifying eight year period - among the hills and canyons of rural Utah.
Sounds idyllic, right? Well, Utah was admittedly beautiful. However, it was also intensely lonely. For instance, I could not find one soul within a 75 mile radius with similar spiritual or political beliefs. I got along fine with those in my community, but it was very, very lonely.
This provoked me to delve into the world of online communities for the first time. I found a wonderful message board for moderate-to-left-leaning Christians who had no brick-and-mortar church nearby. This medium allowed me to connect with others and worship anytime, day or night, in a safe and supportive environment.
Looking back on that experience, I think I was defining my own spiritual path in order to achieve a sense of spiritual wellness. Unconventional? Sure. Spiritually fulfilling? Absolutely. It worked for me.
Several years later, I was back in Chicago and commuting to work each day on public transportation (a slight contrast to life in rural Utah). Life was hectic, I drank too much coffee and I didn't have many moments of solitude. One morning on the bus, while inhaling diesel fumes and wincing from the briefcase poking into my back, I realized that I was letting precious time slip away. My fifteen-minute bus ride each morning was my time of solitude. I simply needed to find it from within.
My morning commute became my daily "worship" practice. I would pray, meditate, and simply give thanks for the gifts in my life. It worked for me.
Yesterday, I read with interest about an innovative path to faith being offered in Chicago. Urban Village Church was developed around three principles: boldness, inclusiveness, and relevance. Its pastors host meet-ups in coffee shops, hot dog stands, and subway stations as a way to offer spiritual entry points for people with busy lives who may be turned off by traditional religious conventions.
The response has been phenomenal. It works for them.
Online, on the bus, or on a coffee shop stool - what's my point? That spiritual wellness comes in many forms and it's up to each of us to define our own spiritual path. We each need to find what works for us.
Spiritual wellness - which involves finding meaning, coming to terms with our existence, and ordering our experiences around these understandings - may or may not occur through a religious lens. Whether you are Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic, Christian, atheist, or a beautiful combination of multiple traditions, feeling a sense of spiritual wellness helps center us and fuels well-being in other areas of our life.
If you feel spiritually restless, as if you want to nurture this part of you but are not sure how, start thinking creatively. Ask yourself what kinds of "worship" you have enjoyed in the past. Large or small gatherings? Prayer in solitude? Reading sacred texts or inspirational authors? Taking a walk in the park and giving thanks? A cup of tea at sunrise? Maybe it's something you have never done before but always thought would be wonderful.
Then find a way to do those things, a little at a time. When I started praying on the bus, I noticed a difference immediately. It worked for me.
What works for you?