I come from a family that is traditionally Hindu, which is a religion replete with a rich repertoire of celebrations, traditions and rituals. As a young girl, these gave me a great sense of spiritual fulfillment. As I got older however, I found myself not gaining the same sense of meaning from them. When people asked me at meetings for holistic health professionals what was my “spiritual practice”, I found myself shrugging and throwing up my hands saying, “I guess I don’t have one”. I didn’t light candles, I didn’t meditate, I didn’t really subscribe to a particular set of religious principles.
One day while driving in the car (this is where I get most of my epiphanies – the others happen when I am day-dreaming instead of studying), it dawned on me. I asked myself, if I didn’t have a spiritual practice, then why did I never in my life feel empty? I realized it was because I always have had a reason to live, and that reason was that I have always approached life with a sense of mission, my mission being to find a way to decrease suffering in this world. I knew that I have always felt a sense of purpose, and I have always attributed my sense of fulfillment to this. It occurred to me, however, that my sense of purpose is what helps me find meaning in life as well. Finding meaning in life, making sense of the meaning of life, helping one cope with adversity – are these not what spirituality is for? My desire to decrease suffering makes me feel good about waking up in the morning when things are pretty bad, which is a lot like what the very traditionally hindu spiritual practice of my youth used to feel like. My mother often quotes an old Telugu saying that roughly translates to “Service to man is service to god”, after which she often exclaims in Telugu “You can spend all your time and money trying to accumulate good Karma through prayer, or you can spend your time doing good” Couldn’t agree more mom.
Readers – What have you all found helpful to define your sense of spirituality?