In my last blog Being Present for the Whole Beautiful Catastrophe I talked about how the holiday season usually brings up some of my childhood ‘stuff’, and it makes me especially grateful at this time of year that in my abundance I have the ability to be present for it. To work through it, to process it, to work on my gratitude practice, and to refer to spiritual teachings that I find useful and helpful.
It’s always a time of deep reflection for me, which I’ve learned to plan for. In a few weeks I’ll be going on retreat for 5 days, just before Christmas, to make the most of this time.
In my reflections I turn to sources of wisdom to help me navigate and assimilate what’s coming up, I spend time meditating on their meaning for me, I focus on gratitude for how far I’ve come in my journey so far, and I seek the guidance and grace of some great spiritual teachers (past and present) including my own spiritual teacher, Amma.
Having been raised a Christian by my quite religious ‘church elder’ mother, I wonder if perhaps after all this is the true meaning of Christmas? To reflect and be grateful for the gift of life, and the gift of Spirit in all the ways that it manifests Itself on this plane to guide us.
That’s a pretty broad interpretation, I know. And, I feel like even mentioning the meaning I personally take from a religious holiday is a bit dangerous! Because people can have some pretty heated views when it comes to religion. (No preaching of the gospel in the comments section, please!)
These days I consider myself as more spiritual than religious and I define the difference as: believing in God and Spirit as a constant presence in my life guiding me on my path, but not really believing in religious dogma.
Put simply: I believe in God, not religion.
I believe in peace and love.
I believe in abundance.
And I know that abundance thrives when both peace and love are present.
I still have a soft spot for Jesus… I believe he was a great enlightened master. I have a copy of the bible called the NIV Study Bible that has all of Jesus’ words in red and the rest of the text in black. It allows me to read through and focus only on the words of Jesus and nothing else, which is my preferred method of studying that particular scripture. I’ve heard there’s an even more advanced version available somewhere (which I don’t have) that has Jesus’ words colour coded by biblical historians into categories like: ‘yes he probably said this’; and ‘maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t’; and ‘nope, he probably did not say this’.
Why am I sharing this? Because I feel that it’s important to approach spiritual teachings of all sources with a mix of respect for what they may be able to teach us, but also to keep our heads on straight and not swallow everything whole without really questioning its relevance or integrating the wisdom into our lives in a day to day way. I’m into a mix of humility, pondering the meaning deep within, and testing things out in a practical sense.
I believe that when studying a spiritual teaching, it’s okay to take what really resonates and leave the rest. If I can’t truly integrate it and live it, in a way that enriches my life and the lives of others without causing harm, then it just isn’t practically useful to me.
Sometimes a teaching won’t resonate because it’s not true for me, period. Sometimes it’s maybe just not true for me yet. Either way, I have to find my own spiritual truths and allow for the idea that not everyone else’s truth will be the same as mine.
The mistaken idea that everyone’s beliefs and spiritual understandings should be the same is what leads to dogma, conflict and in some cases even violence.
My path is my path, yours is yours. We may be at different places in our journeys and our perspectives can be quite different as a result – without either one’s viewpoint or understanding being ‘wrong’.
So the worrisome (and sometimes dangerous) thing lies not the spiritual ideas contained in various scriptures, but the inflexible way that I see some religious groups interpret and apply them.
When our beliefs become dogmatic they can divide us and cause us to treat each other poorly and without compassion. When that happens, I feel they’ve lost their true spiritual meaning.
On the other hand, the fact that religious dogma is used in destructive ways by some people is not a reason to throw the spiritual baby out with the bath water. Holy scriptures can contain a lot of wisdom. I speak not only of Christian scriptures but also those of other religions. Personally, I especially love the wisdom contained in the Bhagavad Gita.
I don’t need to find one source for all the answers, and I don’t expect to. I’m content to stay curious, keep asking questions, keep my mind open to different ways of thinking, feeling and being… and search out that which helps me to walk lightly and joyfully on this earth.
This holiday season, I pray for the spiritual upliftment of all beings; for love, compassion, tolerance, peace, kindness and forgiveness to spread across the world; and for myself – that I might deeply embody truly loving and peaceful spiritual principles into all my thoughts, intentions and actions.
I’m grateful to be alive today. I’m grateful for you too, my fellow traveller. Peace be with you.
As always, scroll down and let me know in the comments if this post has helped you in any way.
To YOUR Abundance,
Julie Ann Cairns