This is a little bit about my personal spirituality and experience. I know this is something completely different for everyone, as we all have unique experiences, even those who belong to the same religion slightly differ in certain ways.
First, I am very open minded. Not only tolerant of other beliefs, but highly interested. I enjoy learning about different religions and belief systems.
Personally I have always believed in a higher power, belief in God, belief in the universe, the energy, Spirit. In my life it has never really been a second thought that there is not some stronger force above us all. For me it has always been believed that there is more to life than what meets the eyes or what can be physically proven. But I’m aware that plenty of people do not see this way, and I always aim to be respectful of that.
Childhood & church
I’d like to share my personal experience regarding religion and spirituality. I was born and raised Unitarian Universalist, went to church and Sunday school every week (some exceptions.) Most people are unfamiliar with this religion, and it’s pretty hard to explain in just a few sentences… but I’ll try. Feel free to do your own research though.
UU is a non-dogmatic religion that welcomes all beliefs and backgrounds. It is an open minded society that focuses on charity and giving to the poor, as well as learning about other religions, most importantly being accepting and welcoming towards diversity and differences. It was very common for kids at my church to have a parent who grew up Christian and another parent who grew up Jewish, coming to this fellowship as a way of compromising two very different religious backgrounds. There are believers, agnostics, and atheists too.
I also grew up with Christian friends and relatives, and would often attend their church services as well. I went to many, many different churches and denominations in my childhood. I actually enjoyed it and liked seeing all of the differences. There were all kinds of services — some quite boring, some full of music and singing, some very fun with games and activities and good food, and some in which people spoke in tongue. I liked them all. Okay, except the super long and boring ones. Ultimately, I think my favorite one is Christmas mass, from almost any church.
So at my church, everyone would attend the service, and then the kids would leave for Sunday school while the adults stayed for the rest of the service. Sunday school had it’s ups and downs. My dad was actually one of my teachers one year. It was fun in my elementary years — we usually did crafts and games.
But middle school years were rough, and maybe it’s just that awkward age, but during those years I did not fit in with anyone. During those years, most of my peers did not believe in God or anything mystical at all, and most discussions revolved around that. That was something that made me feel very left out, because as I already mentioned this is something I’ve always strongly believed in. When we learned of other religions, it felt more like critiques and bashing on these beliefs rather than truly learning and understanding. So I did become quite frustrated with my church at this time. But I think that’s a very common age for pre-teens to become rebellious and cynical, that’s when everyone was in their emo phase, haha.
My parents would tell us that once we got to high school, we could stop attending church unless we wanted to. So during my pre-teen years, my older siblings would stay home or hang out with friends while I went to church with my parents. My dad and I started a tradition of stopping for smoothies on the way home. I still remember how delicious they tasted!
High school & college experience
Once I got to high school, I mainly stopped going to my church except on occasion or holidays. At the same time, I was also occasionally attending my friends’ and relatives’ church services. During my high school years, I suffered with some mental health issues, sort of fell into a bad crowd and made some questionable choices, which in turn caused even more mental health issues. I still felt that spirituality was important to me, but struggling to actually explore it. I asked my parents if we could go to a local Christian church and they agreed which was very nice of them, but that didn’t seem to help me. I was very spiritually lost. Maybe that’s what all teenagers go through? I wanted to feel more spiritual, but I failed to know how. I was really, really not in a good place. I knew that I needed guidance but I didn’t know where to find it. Maybe it was my dark night of the soul.
Entering college, I joined a Christian group. I actually switched colleges halfway through my freshmen year, in which I joined another Christian group. At first I really liked it. But something that bothered me was that I did feel a sense of judgment. There was a lack of openness, a very strong line between “right” verses “wrong” instead of focusing on forgiveness and redemption. I didn’t like this pressure to feel perfect, like I would be outcasted for thinking outside the box or doing something differently.
I think though that this feeling did go beyond Christianity itself. I joined like five different groups/clubs my freshmen year and by sophomore year I only had one, it was the dance team. This was a very awesome team with some great girls, but I also left this group by the end of my junior year. Mainly because my best friend on the team left, but also because I felt a strong sense of judgement here too. I know this sounds off track but I’m making a point in that this phenomenon probably goes beyond religion and has more to do with groups in general. When you belong to any type of team, religious or not, it becomes harder to think for yourself, to make your own choices without feeling judged.
During college was really when my mind expanded and I felt much more connected to spirituality. It was this time when I was reading much more books, learning about all kinds of beliefs. Before this time, I never believed in ghosts or aliens, but I certainly do now ever since. Studying reincarnation, mediumship, kundalini, I strongly resonated with all of this and still do.
To this day I have never really found a specific church or religion to belong to, and I’ve tried. What I feel now is that I still enjoy learning about all kinds of religions and belief systems. I continue to study and learn, as well as pray and meditate, and make spirituality an integral part of my life.
Deep change in perception
Following college graduation, I found far more time to read and research — maybe not so much time, working full-time, but far more mental capacity to learn about what I want rather than a school ciriculim. I got much more into the esoteric, learning more tarot and astrology. But I also continued learning about other religions, as well as studying more of the Bible. I know all three sound conterintuitive, but I find a strong parallel between science, religion, and divination. All three involve looking beyond what meets the eye. Yet many would argue that they all go against each other.
Also following graduation, I really questioned many lifestyle choices I made. Not everything — I was very happy and proud of some things I did and went through. But I also felt a great need for an overall lifestyle change. While spirituality was becoming a greater part of my life, I really want to make it a true priority. I wanted to live in a new way.
I entered a relationship shortly after I turned 18, and looking back I can see that it was rushed and I was not emotionally ready, but there is so much horrible societal pressure to always be dating someone. It’s so easy for either person, especially the woman, to end up compromising too far. I knew that relationships were about compromise, but I didn’t realize how much of myself I was giving up. I didn’t know about standing my ground. Most of all, I compromised my spiritual beliefs, which were already quite shaky to begin with.
My boyfriend at the time, we were both somewhat similar and open minded, but very different spiritual viewpoints. Me, still having so much spiritual exploration to go through, I ended up compromising so much of it. I think this happens to almost everyone. You feel pressured to enter a relationship with someone before you even know who you are or what you believe in. As I first stated, everyone has unique spiritual beliefs, but I think it is important to find someone who is more on the same page as you in that aspect. Or at least know what your beliefs are before you bend them for someone else.
Battles with lust
In this part I am going to be talking about lust, so you may want to skip ahead past this part if you don’t want to read about this topic.
Spirituality, I believe, is important to lean on when you are dealing with addictions and temptation. We are all addicted to something and battling with something. One of the greatest temptations, at least for me, is lust.
I have a very, very different perspective of this compared to my youth. I am thankful that I grew up in a very sex-positive environment — but maybe in some ways not so thankful… I grew up like most kids watching adult sitcoms in which casual sex is often tossed around. Growing up with this mindset, yes I mainly blame it on TV, I felt I was raised to believe that physical intimacy is really no big deal. It’s something all adults, and a lot of teenagers, will do, and it doesn’t really matter — that was the mindset I was shaped into. I quickly saw that society sees this as fun, like a sport, rather than something important.
I was not raised in a church with nuns and priests constantly telling me that pre-marital relations is wrong. I was not raised with any fear surrounding this subject. And while I do think that extremist fear-mongering is never the answer, I feel like I probably should have been given more fear. A healthy amount of fear is good, I now see.
Looking back I would have made a lot of different choices. But attempting to make peace with the past, I remind myself that the past serves as an important lesson.
I hope I can make this clear in that I have no judgment for anyone else’s choices, and people should do what they want with their bodies. But I make this public because I also want to remind people that you don’t have to do what modern secular society expects of you. You are allowed to make your own choices. “Normal” doesn’t necessarily mean “right” if it’s not for you.
I was insecure about the decision I wanted to make, worried it was too late, and feeling like I had to give up my beliefs in order to hold onto a relationship that was fading away. But that is long over now. And since then I haven’t been able to make something work with anyone else so far, but that doesn’t change the choice I now make for myself. It takes a lot of confidence and sturdy faith in yourself to honor your beliefs. Battle with lust lead me straight into my own personal Hell.
The next man I open myself up to will be my husband. And when that comes, I will be prepared for possibly pregnancy. And if that doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen. If I am not meant to ever get married or have kids then I will eventually accept that and still live a full life. I would much rather do that than have to compromise my beliefs. If I do get married, I am really not even looking to having a wedding at all, what matters is having a legal bind. For me it’s not about partying or showing off the partnership, but to have a serious and law-abiding commitment is all I care about.
I feel that my spirituality is still a work and progress, but has becoming so much sturdier in the past year or so. I feel much more confident and sure about my beliefs, I don’t feel as lost as I once was. If I were to find a church that made me happy I would be open to that, but right now I find the most spiritual fulfillment on a personal level.
Simply by praying, expressing gratitude, meditating, and studying religious texts fills that hole in my heart. I try every morning when I wake up, and every night before sleep, to read a Bible verse. I like Joyce Meyer’s books, very simple and easy way to understand messages from the Bible.
I try to be a follower of Jesus’s words while I still learn from other spiritual leaders like Buddha. I find Hindu beliefs very important and eye-opening. I study mythology from ancient societies and ask myself what I can learn from these stories.
This ended up being more than just “a little”… more like A LOT. Yet still I only really covered a small portion of my thoughts on spirituality. I will definitely share more in the future. Again, I hope anyone who reads this can take it with an open mind, with a belief in personal choice, and with a refusal to compromise your true beliefs just because society says so.
I know for sure that the meaning of life is LOVE and that is one belief I will not tolerate from those who say otherwise!