When I decided to start making a conscious effort to develop my religious and spiritual life, I was at a point when life's biggest questions (Who am I? Why am I? What is God? What is the purpose of life?) needed answers fast. I was in college, when my goals and reasons for having them were important to figure out in order to navigate school. But these questions are also important for life in general.
Wrestling with these questions while trying to engage seriously in the spiritual side of life and reevaluate what I had already been taught or learned caused turmoil, confusion, resistance, instability, and a feeling of being lost. I was only truly able to grow when I made the following changes.
1. Release guilt.
We tend to get caught up in whether or not our actions are right or wrong. We've all made mistakes, done things we later regretted, and acted against others as well as ourselves. Some of these things have kept me up at night tossing and turning and begging for forgiveness or release. One day I heard a spiritual leader on the radio talking about how guilt did more damage to us than the "wrong act" itself. Something clicked inside of me, confirming that the worst thing I could do was to continue to hold on to guilt. I had to free myself.
It wasn't until I granted myself permission to let go of the idea that I had done something "bad" and accepted that it was mostly an experience to grow that I began to feel free and able to be a greater version of myself. Experience is our greatest source of knowledge and wisdom. Allowing ourselves to be and feel forgiven is not only healing and transforming, but is also one of the most courageous things we can do.
2. Recreate yourself.
Take a good hard look at yourself on every level: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. What has created your worldview? How have your upbringing, your experiences, your neighborhood, institutions, and environment shaped who you are now? Ask yourself, "Why am I me?" Then take the lens through which you see the world off. Why? A lot of the answers I could come up before I committed to change were external things.
This really made me sit back and rethink myself. If I hadn't grown up in this town or with this faith, who would I be and what would I believe to be true? At some point, you're no longer the product of your environment but a creator in your life, free to choose who you are. I personally wanted not to be so heavily dependent on my outside world, but to be driven by something greater, something more internal: my divine self.
3. See perfection.
A zen proverb suggests that when someone points at something, we initially tend to observe their finger instead of the object itself. We focus on things that don't serve us well or mask the truth. The proverb says, "To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?" Yet when life throws us transformative experiences, which can also be very painful, we're at a loss as to why these things are happening to us. We let the scariness and disappointments cripple us and keep us down, instead of seeing the situation for what it really is: an opportunity to heal and grow, which can transform us.
By being more mindful in life and observing things as they really are, we can be more like masters and creators and less like victims or reactors. It's a simple choice, and it will give you a great sense of freedom to see past the surface of our experiences into the perfection and blessing in all things.
I've found it to be an amazing experience to live knowing that even the seemingly problematic issues in my life are the answers to my prayers.
Photo credit: Sabriya Simon Photography