by Cynthia Dollins
While thinking over this past week, after Christmas and before New Years, I was watching the news on all the New Years traditions that the Southern United States still adheres to. Things like eating greens for financial security in the coming year, not taking your trash out on New Years for luck, and black-eyed peas for something my great gramma used to tell me, but I find myself forgetting. The South is full of superstitions, as most places are, but I woke up this morning thinking about those. I was wondering where they came from - like the fear that if you sweep your house after dark, you'll sweep your good luck away because you can't tell the difference without the light - and I realized that some things are universal, no matter the religion a person holds themselves closest to.
When talking about spirituality, I try and focus on the common grounds that all people who consider themselves spiritual share, not unlike superstitions that cross regions, families, and belief systems. I researched it online; I found that there are two sects of people - those who believe spirituality is a part of organized religion and those who believe spirituality is the opposite of organized religion. I also found a startling amount of similarities in all belief systems that can be classified as spiritual. I may have missed some, but if I do, please point them out in the comment section below.
I was reading about different beliefs this morning on beliefnet.com, and I realized that all belief systems have a love for stories. Most of the Bible is written in a story format, and to see it translated into a contemporary version makes you realize how true that is (Try The Word on the Street or The Message Bible). This morning, I read a story from the Dalai Lama about wisdom. In the parts of the Qu'ran I have read, it was a storyline. The Native American tribes not only told their stories, but acted them out with elaborate costumes and music. Humanity has an awesome connection to the story, and even as the smallest child, we beg to hear more. We soak up the events that are relayed with not only a plot, but learning character and morality by the experiences of others.
We, as a human race, are fixated on stories. We spend millions and billions of dollars on cable TV, books of all sorts (novels, biographies, poetry collections...) and then movies. Hollywood makes money off of the telling and retelling of stories, and then once it's off the big screen, we pay more money to rent or own it. At campfires, after dark, people tell ghost stories. The news has headline stories and stories of events that happened and events that will happen. Your grandfather has his favorite childhood story. Your mother tells you the story of when she first fell in love.
Our hearts thrive on stories.
Most people who consider themselves spiritual believe that there is something bigger than humanity at work. Whether it is a god or goddess, Mother Nature, or simply a belief in existential energy, there is something much bigger. We don't just exist. We weren't just an accident. We aren't just alone in this huge world and even larger universe. There's a point and a reason for life.
Whether meditation, praise in song, or taking a walk in nature, nearly every belief system has a form of worship. There is something deeply spiritual to feel a deeper connection with the Divine. I was walking with my husband's step-mother recently, who is Norse Pagan. She was explaining to me a bit about her beliefs and she told me that even the act of being outside was worship. Planting flowers was worship. Pruning and caring for her prized jasmine plants was worship. She said that simply connecting was enough. I thought that was vastly beautiful, and found much of myself as a Christian in that description. I have found myself singing internal praises at a beautiful sunset and the feeling of connection to God is what my soul needed.
Something Bigger than Death
Most belief systems do not state that when your heart stops beating, it's like the lights have gone out and that's the end of the story. Actually, in many, that is simply the beginning. Whether it be a life after death, reincarnation, or something else - there's an explanation. A story. A continued role to play. A reward or punishment. It doesn't just end.
Morality and Human Nature
I've found that most belief systems contain a code of morality that seems to start much the way the oath doctors take: Do no harm. There is also an explanation of human nature that essentially describes our emotions to love and hate, to protect and harm, to be generous and to be mean. There is also a focus on becoming better than you were before. There is a growth process built in to all this, and to some, spirituality is more about the journey of growth than the simple existence of a belief structure.
The major religions of the world put a large focus on prayer and meditation, but they don't have the monopoly on it. Many belief systems contain a belief that a human can cry out to the Divine and that prayer will be heard, and possibly answered. It's often been said that as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school. Humorous though it may be, humans have a deep desire to have something beyond themselves help them change circumstances.
Supernatural Intervention and Miracles
And finally, the answers to prayers. The cancerous growth that disappears before surgery. The car that narrowly missed you on the way to work. Needing to stop for a band-aid and ending up late for work the morning the twin towers fell. We all seem to have a deep belief that we are not alone in this big mess of a world. We all see things that we can't explain and we don't know if we want to explain, but somehow, it ended up the way we hoped it would. We read about them in Reader's Digest, we hear them from people we meet at work, and friends tell about them in hushed awe-stricken tones over the phone. The supernatural at work is something that keeps us all going, and heaven knows humanity needs that much.
About the Author
Cynthia Dollins works in corporate America and is well known within her company for her training manuals and easy to understand instructions. She rediscovered creative writing during college and is currently an author on a site for Writers.
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