I was sitting in a circle with about twenty five men and women in substance abuse and chemical dependency treatment. “Spirituality,” I said while scanning the room for immediate knee jerk reactions, “what comes to mind, when I say it?” The room erupted with mild gestures and sounds of discomfort and protest. I could see that some of the group members were preparing for yet another talk about Higher Power, and they were not in the least interested. Some responded bluntly with “bullshit, that’s what comes to mind”. Some took the time to talk about the hypocrisy of the church in which they were brought up, and how it turned them off to anything related to spirituality and religion. There was some talk about spirits, ghosts, and the supernatural. A couple of people humbly admitted that they were confused by the word, and didn’t really know what it meant.
I told the group that we were going to put religion aside. Instead, I asked them to spend a few minutes remembering, thinking about, or writing about a moment in their lives when they felt fully connected (and not under the influence of any chemical substance).
“Connected to what?” – was the immediate and expected reaction.
“To whatever it means to you” – I said, hoping that my vagueness wasn’t going to confuse them even more. It didn’t.
I asked everyone to recall as many details about that moment as they possibly could, and to try and really FEEL how it felt then. Some of the group members set back and closed their eyes, some leaned forward and bowed their heads. Some began to write in their journals. Their bodies were silently telling me about their experiences of true connection. It was as if everyone became a little softer…the whole room felt softer and more opened. Some had dreamy smiles on their faces. A couple of people where gently weeping. Most seemed significantly more relaxed. When I asked them to report their experiences, their voices were also softer, gentler, and often full of joy.Simple moments of play, creativity, and being with others can be deeply spiritual. In these moments we are unintentionally fully present to our here and now.
The reports were as diverse as the people in the room. Here are just a few I remember:
– “Sitting by the river”, “being in the mountains,”
– “Playing music with my friends”
– “Taking care of my horse” “playing with my dogs/ cats”
– “Holding my son/ daughter right after she/ he was born”
– “Being with my grandfather when he passed away” “Holding my son as he was passing away”
– “Doing my art work”
– Making love to my wife when we were both sober”
– “Helping my friend/ family/ stranger”
– “That look in my daughter’s eyes when we were playing…”
When I asked the group how it felt to re-experience their moments of connection, the answers included words such as “grateful,” “peaceful,” “relaxed,” “happy,” “sad but grateful,” “joyful, “energized,” “inspired,” and “alive”.” I don’t have any real spirituality in my life -I’m kind of an atheist, but when music can take me to the highest highs, it’s almost like a spiritual feeling. It fills that void for me.” —Jack Black
The link between Connectedness and Spirituality
In truth, we could have spent hours talking about the experiences that make us feel fully connected. The more we shared, the more I became convinced that any moment in which we are able to be fully present to the here and now (intentionally as in meditation, or unintentionally) can be such moment…a spiritual moment.
A sense of connectedness (to self, others, nature, or a Higher Power) is an integral part of spirituality, and is consistently reported by highly spiritual people of different faith traditions. The ability to experience connection and the belief in the interconnectedness of all things is linked to higher levels of spirituality, compassion, optimism, gratitude, self-actualization and happiness.“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
— Denis Waitley
How is spirituality good for you?
Research in the fields of Health Care, Mental Health, and Neuroscience continue to prove that regular spiritual practice:
– Benefits people dealing with chronic illness
– Correlates to better levels of mental health, regardless of religion
– Associated with lower levels of alcohol use during college years
– Beneficial in recovery from substance dependency and abuse
– Beneficial in treatment of depression
– Beneficial in dealing with loss and grief
Where to start?
Many of us feel that sense of connection through the practices of our religious rituals and through involvement in our religious communities. But for many, especially those who were hurt by their church or were never exposed to a healthy faith community, religion is not the path to spirituality.
Meditation is another path. This ancient practice is shared in one form or another among all faith traditions known to me. It has been studied extensively in the recent years and has been adopted and incorporated into the Western Mental Health field as a viable tool in treatment of depression and anxiety.
But what if you don’t have the attention span or the motivation to develop a regular practice of meditation? The folks in my Chemical Dependency group reminded me that we don’t have to be religious, nor do we need to know anything about meditation to be able to experience spirituality. All we need to do is more of the things that make us feel connected.
What makes you feel connected? Please share and help inspire others.
More info at http://www.lifebalancemissouri.com