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Day 9 – I am Grateful for My Faith and Spiritual Beliefs

I’m grateful for my spiritual beliefs

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ18xCZyEYk&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation” color=”beige”]

I spent the better part of my teens believing I was an atheist. I was well into my twenties when I looked back and realized that all along, with my head in the sand, I’d been praying, believing, ritualizing my way through the good times and the bad.

I don’t believe in ‘a’ religion. I do believe in intangible things. I’m grateful for that. Which shocked me to no end when I first had that realization, but at 28, I’m starting to realize that in a world shredded by disbelief, skepticism, negativity, loss of human connection,  the belief in something you can’t see hear touch or smell – is at once beautiful and thought provoking.

I am grateful for the belief in something beyond myself and the human world I know. However founded, unfounded, scientifically or wishfully based these beliefs may be, they get me through the day. I am grateful for the security of believing that there is a force out there that is watching out for me, supporting me and cradling me even in the most difficult of times. I am grateful that in the good times, this force is rejoicing in my happiness and sharing my excitement. I am grateful for the freedom to believe these things and not being forced into a box of subscribing to particular religious or dogmatic beliefs. I am grateful for the freedom to pick from different faiths as I wish. I am grateful that I live in a free world where I am not forced to supplicate to spiritual systems that make no sense to me. I am grateful for the comfort of the belief in a higher power. I am grateful for the ability to feel gratitude and the moral responsibility of sharing what I have with those that are less fortunate.  I now realize that those who believe in organized religion are not all that different for me. Like me, they too are looking for a strengthening set of beliefs that supports them, encourages them and gives them faith as they go about their lives. I am grateful for the realization that perhaps, spiritual beliefs are just a way for us to feel supported in our human existence, no more, no less. And I am okay with that. [/message_box]

What are spiritual beliefs?

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“A set of mutually supportive beliefs. These beliefs may be religious, philosophical, ideological or a combination of these… the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.”
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I read an interesting musing over at Live Laugh love mentioned above. In it, Life Coach, Vedam Clementi scrutinizes the meaning of spiritual beliefs.  He explains a simple (but very effective) concept of how our belief systems are made. Simply put, your mind keeps recording every situation, every experience that you encounter, how you reacted to it, what happened as a resold and over time, these cumulative thoughts, cause-and-effect-scenarios, rationalizations and experiences become your belief systems. Clementi further points out that  these repetitive thoughts need not be yours in order to be internalized and turned into beliefs, they can be inherited from others – friends, family, media, religious authorities. The very act of  repetition makes your mind believe these ideas to be true.

“Belief systems govern our lives. They determine how we look at something, how we perceive it, how we judge something, and our expectations about situations, experiences and life in general.”

Sometimes we get so stuck in these patterns of being that its difficult for us to look at these systems objectively and see if they’re actually true for us in that moment. In school, I had a teacher who described her religious beliefs in this very distinct manner.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]My religion is over a thousand years old. Its resilient because its been passed down over and over through countless generations. Many of its beliefs are logical, even desirable,  but these are old beliefs. Do the truths of shepherds, nomads and hunter-gatherers apply to me living in the 21st century today? Most of them don’t. I just take what makes sense to me and treat the others like interesting stories[/quote]

 Going back to Clementi’s observations, “any belief system is nothing more than a bunch of thought forms”. The thing about thoughts is that they only have the power you give to them. If you pay them no heed, thoughts by themselves are nothing. If you feed and nurture them however, thoughts can become powerful vehicles for action and change – both good and bad.

Which thoughts would you feed – the ones that serve you, or the ones that don’t? 

The answer to that question explains why  “spiritual but not religious” is such a popular term today. Below, I’ve highlighted insightful quotes from two writers that I thought had some interesting things to say on the matter:

John Cannon from Another Perspective put it very aptly:

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If one decides that the evidence proves the non-existence of a supreme being, then one must scrutinize their beliefs as to what, if anything at all, we have to look forward to once that wee spark of life within us is extinguished by age or hate or disease.

Every act that we each perform which creates a kinder, more loving and co-operative and hopeful future is the greatest act that mankind is capable of. The spiritual sensitivity that I seek is one in which we all behave with love and charity and decency towards one another. I seek a time when we learn just how much is truly “enough” and to share that excess with all.

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Another Blogger, Tracey Jackson from Gratitude and Trust puts it this way:

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]I believe in belief. And when I am enveloped by it, I let its power overwhelm me. Whatever you believe – for many this [Easter] is your week.  Love. Pray. Cry. Laugh. Feast. Rejoice. And then take that feeling with you, try and bottle it up, or tuck it deep in your heart.  And then on those days when one is not celebrating major religious holidays you can draw on it.  Take a sip from your belief cup.  Draw on that belief for sustenance love, and strength.  Give back, Be grateful. Trust. Because belief in any form is just that – trust. [/quote]

If you’re still skeptical and want more authoritative information on why engaging in spiritual practices is good for you, check our the following benefits of good quality spiritual care as prescribed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:

  • Improved self-control, self-esteem and confidence
  • Faster and easier recovery from illness,
  • Maximized personal potential
  • Improved relationships—with self, others and our environment
  •  new sense of meaning, resulting in reawakening of hope and peace of mind
  • Increased ability to accept and live with unresolved problems

 

Today’s Task

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. What does spirituality mean to me?
  2. What are the formative sources in my environment what shaped my spiritual beliefs growing up?
  3. Do these spiritual beliefs inspire and uplift or frighten and bind me?
  4. For the beliefs that uplift you,
  5. What internal resources are strengthened by my spiritual practices?
  6. What external support am I able to access as a result of participating in spiritual practices?

 

bitter

Day 6 – I am Grateful for the Ability to Release All Bitterness, Resentment and Dissatisfaction and Emerge Resilient

I am grateful for the ability to release all bitterness, resentment, dissatisfaction, so that I may see the blessings I miss while taking part in the everyday busy-making of life.

Sometimes we are so focused on the things that are wrong in our lives that we barely notice the good things that we are right under out noses. It takes a chance encounter, a life changing experience, a thought provoking conversation before you open your eyes and look around you with a different lens. When you do look around with a fresh perspective, you realize the beauty you were searching so desperately for, the one that you have been taking for granted, has been with you all along. You were just too caught up in the drama, the bitterness of things that didn’t go our way.

Resentment and bitterness can cloud your vision. Bitterness is a vice that holds you in its grip long after the offending incident has passed. Here’s the interesting part. When bitterness festers into resentment, it pollutes your entire being. Often, it also pollutes your relationships, your aspirations, your environment.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4VbVNg7F3U[/youtube]

I once cared for a terminal cancer patient who had lost it all. I mean this in a literal sense. When he was diagnosed, he lost his job, his physical abilities, his beloved garden, even his wife who left him for a more physically able man. Yet, every time I saw him, he was polite, even kind, always trying to make others feel comfortable. When I asked him how he stays so positive, he replied with words that I will never forget.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]“I have a few days left to live.  I refuse to let cancer win by spending those precious moments checking off the things that didn’t go right for me. Wherever my wife is, I hope she is happy. We don’t need two people suffering through this horrible illness.”[/quote]

His generosity of spirit brought tears to my eyes – but it was his utter lack of bitterness that left me stunned. This man who had been served the worst imaginable circumstances, was sending cosmic goodwill to the one person who should have been by his side but had deserted him in his worst time of need.

[message_box title=”AFFIRMATION” color=”beige”]I am grateful for the human ability to forgive and move on. I am grateful for the release of bitterness, for dissatisfaction , grudges, and resentment. Releasing pent up bitterness not only frees the other person from the shackles of your negative energy, it also ironically frees you , releases you and cleanses you from whatever pain you are holding in your heart. I solemnly resolve to release all bitterness from my mind. I choose to remember instead the liberating power of a joyful mind. Regardless of the awful things I’ve been through, the heartache that loved ones have inflicted upon me. Regardless of the countless personal dreams I’ve seen crash and burn, I promise myself that from this moment forward, I will release the failures – both mine and those of other people. Starting from this moment until my last breath, I resolve to choose freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from resentment. Freedom to focus on positive things that will drive me in the direction of my dreams instead. [/message_box]

So here’s the thing…

In order to turn your disappointments into learning opportunities,  you need to nurture a mindset of resilience. Resilient people bounce back from disappointments and failures, using these setbacks as rungs on the ladder to success. Resilient people:

Remain accountable.  They own up to their part in the problem. They make no excuses. They never play the victim card.

Remain optimistic.  In the best-selling book, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author Elaine Fox talks about the fear-seeking brain and the pleasure seeking brain. Those that have a sunny disposition are optimistic, friendlier and also likely to get more of what they want out of life. This is based off of actual research. So remain optimistic – it might just make the difference between achieving our dreams – or not.

Have strong boundaries. Many people confuse being a people-pleaser with being compassionate. Resilient people create and exercise strong boundaries for themselves. When people walk all over them, they react by reinforcing their boundaries, clarifying what is acceptable to them, and what they will not stand for. They do not react with complying and then feeling bitter or resentful.

Avoid self-bashing.  As important as it is to not let people walk all over you, resilient people realize that it is also unacceptable to beat yourself down. Whatever mistakes you may have made in the past, forgive yourself.

Ask for help. Resilient people know when they are in need of help and seek it. They recognize the fact that if they do not tend to their issue, it will only get bigger and take more energy to resolve.

Learn from challenges. Resilient people don’t dread challenges. They relish them. Opportunities to learn, grow and to refine their methods in their quest for success. Challenges are just learning opportunities in the grand scheme of things.

Stop seeking control. Resilient people recognize that everything in life will not be under their control. They learn to be flexible and roll with the punches life throws at them. They learn to let go of the petty things and choose to focus instead on what matters to them.

Embrace change. Resilient people welcome change. They know that change, both good and bad presents opportunities for personal growth. They learn to accept change and even thrive in it.

This list was inspired from (but not exactly the same as) ’10 ways to be better, not bitter, through deep challenge’ by Kathy Caprino

Today’s Task

I want you to start noticing how you feel inside. Start noticing how incidents throughout your day make you feel either positive or negative. Grab a piece of paper, make three columns:

Column 1: Notice the events that trigger feelings towards the negative end of your emotional spectrum. Simply make a note of them without analyzing, making inferences or judgements

Column 2: Write down your reactions. Did you react with your gut? Did you think about it first? Do you believe that negative statement in your head or one someone else has said is true? Is your reaction external (verbal communication, physical action) or internal (introspection, anxiety, brooding)? How does your reaction impact your thoughts.

Column 3: Identify the underlying issues. Did the comment about your weight strike a nerve with you because of larger body image issues. Did your brother’s comment about getting a ‘real’ job make you feel inadequate? Rank each incident from 1 to 10. 1 being very important, 10 being  not so important. How important is this issue in your life. Which ones align with your goals? How much energy should you expend on it?