So the first thoughts that spring to mind when writing the title of this blog post being… where am I going to start and how am I going to fit in even half of what i want to say.. So maybe I’ll start by attempting to define, in some way, what spirituality is first and foremost. Or at least my interpretation of it as it’s such a unique experience/journey for each individual. I think one of the main things to acknowledge at this point is that spirituality is something that’s quite often mistaken as a religion, but the difference being that unlike religion (a set of organised beliefs and practices typically shared by a group or community), spirituality is solely an individual practice, and you don’t have to be religious or part of an organised religion to be a spiritual person. I feel the word practice best describes spirituality as it is a positive and progressive perspective. It’s also an umbrella term used mostly to define those on a continuous journey of inner peace and for those who prioritise being kind and loving towards oneself and others too. Soo basically the most kick-ass practice, ever?
I also just want to add a little side-note to apologise in advance if anything that I say comes across slightly insensitive or without empathy. That’s genuinely not my intention. But i hope you can appreciate that it’s a bit of a difficult topic to try and cover in written form as a lot can be lost in translation.
I first stumbled across spirituality a few years ago, not really knowing what it was exactly and if I’m completely honest, with preconceived opinions that it was some kind of new conformist, hippy trend that was going to fizzle out in due course. Having said that, it was a topic that kept creeping up in different corners of my life whether I knew it at the time or not, and until I decided to try and figure out what it was exactly that so many people were raving about? I started off just researching and reading up online about some of the practices and immensely positive influences spirituality was having on individuals from all different walks of life. So naturally my interest grew and I bought a few highly recommended books off amazon. Lol. Now.. I’m not going to sit here and feed you some bullshit story about how I read a few books and they completely transformed me into some spiritual guru who deals with every situation life throws at me impeccably… of course not! I’m human and my emotions are raw. But what I will say is that a couple of years ago I was in such a different place, not really a negative place as such but one where I seemed to be more susceptible to negative emotions. And that’s because (with the exception of extreme life events of course, I’m talking more general adolescent life dramas), I now don’t see the point in getting myself all worked up about a situation that’s only going to result in the disturbance of MY peace. Of course I get angry and upset in certain situations.. But I’ve learnt how to embrace my emotions. I let them come but most importantly I let them go. And 9 times out of 10 I can recognise when I’m being irrational. But honestly, choosing to be less reactive and less opinionated in more and more situations, in my opinion, is the key to getting off the emotional seesaw of the mind. This up and down we experience is a pattern of suffering that we pass through, some of us several times a day, everyday, to greater or lesser degrees.. And although natural, these emotional swings are inhibitors to our ability to sustain inner peace and lasting happiness.
Experience has taught me that negative emotions are typically the result of an event/life stressor, but once that event/stressor has already occurred, there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can do about it. We cannot change what’s now the past, therefore it doesn’t make much sense for us to continue feeling the negative emotions associated with that past event. Hmm. I think what I’m trying to say is that, if you become comfortable with the idea that you’re ALWAYS going to feel shitty emotions at certain points in your life, you win. Negative emotions are absolutely inevitable. They happen to all of us all of the time. No matter what you do or how hard you try, life is always going to be comprised of failures and regrets for example.. But if you allow yourself to become comfortable with the idea of failure and/or regret from time-to-time, then it suddenly becomes an entirely different ballgame altogether. I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Law of Reversed Effort also known as The Backwards Law, introduced by mega influential writer and philosopher Alan Watts, but it’s a theory suggesting that negative emotions ultimately generate positive outcomes, if only you allow it to be so. And that, acceptance of ones negative experience in itself is a positive experience. For example, and I quote “the pain you pursue in the gym results in all round better health and energy. The failures in business are what lead to a better understanding of what is necessary to be successful. Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance”. I don’t really feel the need to elaborate.
An alternative theory from another well-known journalist known as George Orwell claims that the root cause of all of our problems stems from the idea that we have all become victims of our own success. Meaning that we’re all so busy watching the lives of so many happy, successful people on our phones, tv’s and/or laptops that we fail to realise that in doing so, we make ourselves feel inadequate. And that feeling of inadequacy very quickly leads to the fear that it’s not OK to feel inadequate sometimes, and THAT feeling is the source of the growing stress-related health issues, anxiety disorders and cases of depression (that have absolutely skyrocketed over the last few decades btw) that is slowly but surely coming to dominate our culture as we know it. And it’s not an unpopular view.
Worry and anxiety are fascinating emotions aren’t they. I read somewhere that the cause of all of our worries and anxieties is actually plain and simple – it’s a defence mechanism in which we’re trying to protect ourselves from whatever it is that we fear, and ultimately.. the negative emotions we expect to experience as a result of that fear taking place. But, excessive worry and anxiety are two of the most self-destructive and overwhelming emotions that we can experience as a species.. So isn’t it all a bit ironic? We’re essentially looking for an escape route. And ironically, we’re looking to escape fear, an idea that lives in our minds, one which doesn’t technically even exist. Fear and worry do not prevent problems, nor do they make us more able to handle them. They are IRRATIONAL THOUGHTS.
The first spiritual/self-help book I ever read was called ‘The Art of Happiness’, I read it about 3 years ago and I still refer back to some of the pages now. It’s a classic, perfect for beginners and one which I’m sure many have heard of and even read themselves. This particular book was such an interesting read for me because it was written in interview style, by the Dalai Lama – a spiritual leader who believes that happiness can be achieved by systematic training of the mind, and a psychiatrist who poses questions regarding some of the many issues of humanity (pain and suffering, anger and hatred, self-created anxiety and self-esteem, you catch my drift). Generally this genre are all similar versions of the same teachings, teachings that attempt to alter your perception and thought patterns, conscious and subconscious, when dealing with all different kinds of emotions, during all sorts of challenging life events.
Happiness is another interesting one isn’t it because surely everyone wants to be happy.. Happy enough to live a life one can reflect on with a strong sense of gratitude and satisfaction. So why isn’t everyone happy? I guess you could argue that if you have to spend your life searching for happiness you’ll never find it. Which I agree with to some degree. And that’s because (speaking in regards to those with typical gene and brain chemistry), I strongly agree that happiness is a frame of mind. It is not a destination you will arrive at via materialistic or egotistical assets. It is a state of mind. A way of thinking. A way of LIFE.
I’m pretty confident that this approach to life has made me a happier, more compassionate and understanding person. I see the changes it has had mostly in my relationship with myself but also in my relationship with my Mum who’s been an addict for last 15 years or so. She wasn’t around through all of the most important years of my life, as I grew into a woman and for that reason I was angry at her for a long time. But over recent years my perspective and outlook on the whole matter has changed considerably. I’ve learnt how to show compassion in situations I don’t fully understand but most importantly, I learnt how to let go of shit that weighs me down. Mastered the art in fact. And I do it for MY OWN happiness and MY OWN sanity. I.let.that.shit.the.fuck.go. Again, life is alwaysss going to be made up of negative experiences but how you deal with them and how you let them affect you and ultimately your life is COMPLETELY within your control.
Another idea I want to put forward is the one where if you realise and I mean TRULY realise.. that you are the only person capable of making yourself happy as well as getting yourself to the places you want to be in life, a lotttt changes. I’ve known for a while now that nobody apart from me is in control of my life, my choices or my happiness and this realisation came to me when I decided I wanted to move away from home. Once I decided what I wanted I quit my job, went back to college and somehow got the grades to get me into uni. Best decision, ever. Some would probably find it embarrassing to admit that you could literally spell ‘fudge’ with my GCSE’s, but I don’t. It was apparent from primary school that my home-life was somewhat different to that of my friends and, given that for the best part of my life, my living situation was (and very much still is) surrounded by the recurring cycle of addiction, rehabilitation and relapse, the odds of me succeeding as well as my peers in school were most definitely against me, ha. But i suppose it’s OK because I was so lucky in so many other ways, a roof over my head and a warm bed to climb into at night. Which, already makes me richer than 75% of the worlds population HOW insane is that thought let alone that statistic. And because I’ll never let the events of the past dictate my future or influence me as a person. Why? Because I don’t deserve it to. Deep man. And considering that I’ve gotten myself to where I am today, from re-sitting my GCSE’s at college, to moving out, graduating and becoming a MSc student, I think ya gals doing alright. Take that as yet another example of how nobody is going to do for you what you can do for yourself. Don’t forget that you are your biggest investment and that your mind is a very powerful thing when you learn how to use/control it.
I thought it might be fun to share a few of the teachings/practices that have impacted my life over the past 2-3 years undoubtedly. So, without sounding too basic bitch and in no particular order..
No.1 NOT EVERY SITUATION REQUIRES A REACTION. A personal favourite. Simple yet absolutely fucking genius.
No.2 IF YOU GIVE OUT LOVE AND KINDNESS TO ALL, YOU WILL REAP THE BENEFITS.
No.3 ANGER, HURT AND SADNESS ARE REAL AND RAW EMOTIONS. EMBRACE THEM. LET THEM COME, LET THEM GO.
No.4 SELF-LOVE IS THE KEY TO LIFE. FUCK.
No.5 ANYTHING THAT COSTS YOU YOUR PEACE IS TOO EXPENSIVE. (Tying in with no.1).
No.6 CONTROL YOUR MIND & THOUGHTS OR THEY WILL CONTROL YOU!
No.7 YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN ADMIRE SOMEONE ELSES BEAUTY WITHOUT QUESTIONING YOUR OWN.
No.8 LEARNING TO SEE THE POSITIVES IN SHIT SITUATIONS REALLY IS LIFE CHANGING.
No.9 IF YOU WANT IT BAD ENOUGH, ITS ALREADY YOURS.
No.10 EVERY FORM OF LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL AND SHOULD BE RESPECTED.
I know it’s going to be a controversial area of discussion because when is it not.. but I intend to keep my blog as real and as honest as possible, therefore I think it’s appropriate to mention that No.10 has probably been the most influential lesson for me personally and as a result, I’ve now been meat-free for over 3 years! I found that switching to a more plant-based diet just seemed to fit in with my morals and way of life so much more. That being said, I don’t judge anybody for their life choices. This is just one of my personal life choices that I’m deciding to share with you as it’s totally relevant. For anyone who’s interested, adjusting my diet to a more compassionate one really has enabled me to adopt a healthy, positive relationship with food that is 100% sustainable and I feel fucking unreal in my mind, body anddd soul.