Discover more from Expression with Fiona English
Searching for the Self
While moving house before Christmas, I came across a box of old journals. Out of interest, I pulled one journal from January 2013. I had…
While moving house before Christmas, I came across a box of old journals. Out of interest, I pulled one journal from January 2013. I had written down New Year intentions for myself. While some of the usual aspirations were there, the one that surprised me most was ‘bring spirituality into my life in a more meaningful way’. I don’t remember being so consciously aware of that deep need within me at the time. Nor could I have imagined how vividly I would live out that intention!
At the time, I was working for an asset manager travelling extensively working with institutional clients globally. I thoroughly enjoyed what I did. Investment was the perfect ground for my super nerd tendencies and all the client interaction and speaking work drew on my love of connecting and working with people. Yet despite how much I enjoyed it, when I look back now, I see someone with an overstimulated intellect and an undernourished soul. My journal entry in 2013 suggests that somewhere inside myself I knew that too.
Spirituality has turned out to be part of a calling in life for me. What began as my own search for answers about what spirituality meant in my life turned into a positive psychology MSc to research what spirituality means in today’s world and how it influences wellbeing. I didn’t realise when I set that intention for myself all those years ago, part of my professional focus would become helping others explore what spirituality means in theirs.
Spirituality is about connecting to yourself
At its most fundamental level, spirituality is about connecting within. Spirituality is not a solely a belief system in a higher power but a process of self-exploration in which we seek to reveal the divinity within ourselves. People refer to the spiritual path as a journey because it is the journey back to the most authentic version of ourselves. Our soul is like a magnet. Always trying to draw us in to close the distance between who the outside world is encouraging us to be and who we really are.
Spiritual wellbeing is about connecting to who you are. Spiritual connection is not born solely in rationality. Connection is a feeling. The over-intellectualisation of our cultures has moved us out of our hearts and bodies and into our heads. Anthropologically, this can be traced back the invention of writing and subsequently printing which led to the ascendency of left-brain cognition over right-brain musicality intuition and spirituality*. In that move over time, we diluted our connection with each other and our planet because we lost our connection with inner self. In my research paper on spirituality, I began with this quote*
‘Within each of us there is a silence — a silence as vast as the universe … When we experience that silence, we remember who we are’. Gunilla Noriss
This is why in every spiritual tradition; contemplative practices play a role. To reconnect, we must quiet the mind to hear ourselves properly.
Spirituality is about becoming ‘whole’
We all have a desire to experience ‘wholeness’. In transpersonal psychology or coaching, the belief is that everyone is on a path of psychospiritual development whether it is acknowledged or not. You are either consciously or unconsciously searching for your ‘whole’ self. To uncover the parts of you that are hidden. Our inner lives are rich with potential waiting to be revealed.
Abraham Maslow called this self-actualisation. Carl Jung referred to it as individuation; the path each individual takes to become whole. Jung viewed spiritual hunger as the root cause of many problems in the world and results in a ‘new form of existence, produced an individual who was unstable, insecure and suggestible’. Look no further than some of our current global leaders for evidence of his prediction.
Any spiritual journey involves an acknowledge of the life’s struggles
Every person I interviewed for my research spoke about accepting struggle as a part of life. The prevalence of this theme was particularly relevant given that there was no pre-set question in my interviews regarding struggle and spirituality. All participants were insistent that spirituality should not be framed as a ‘Pollyanna’ like experience of life. Rather having a spiritual practice helped cultivate spiritual connection which provided them with the tools needed to deal with and grow from the challenging moments in life.
I share their view. Today, I am braver, more authentic because I feel more aligned with who I truly am. My sense of contentment in life is fuller. Yet, I promise this has not been a smooth journey for me. When you embark on the journey back to yourself, you are committing to holding a mirror up to yourself and your life. It is a commitment to do the inner work and embrace an ongoing path of change. My ego fights with me regularly to return to the safety of my previous life and way of being. It was safer, less exposing, more certain. But a fulfilled life is not found in safety, it is found in meeting yourself and what life presents courageously. Part of my spiritual practice is to write openly about when I struggle or am afraid. Like any practice, the more I reveal myself, the easier it becomes. On mywebsite, I have the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell ‘We must be willing to let go of the life that we planned to have the life that is waiting for us’. That quote is not there to inspire others. It is there for me. To remind me daily that I choose the uncertainty of the life that is waiting for me.
*Vaillant, G. (2008). Spiritual Evolution. New York, NY: Broadway.