Hello everybody, welcome to episode 139 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Hope you had a light breakfast today everyone, because today’s question is dense. We’re going to dip our toes into talks about religion, spirituality, and ya know, small, non-controversial things like that. Today’s viewer is unsure of whether or not she belongs in a particular religion, and has found herself lost because of it. Let’s see if we can help her find her way…
QUESTION: “What is Spirituality? I've tried being religious (I'm a Parsi) but that was more of a family thing. I tried taking up Buddhism, but now I'm beginning to question that too. I have faith in a higher being, I believe in doing good, I have values that I want to abide by “religiously”, but I don't think I can follow anything that has a regime, guidelines, norms, to-dos and goals to reach. Am I weird? Am I unrealistic to believe that rules/regulations are not meant for me (in spirituality)?”
You're Not Weird for Feeling the Way You Do
Ok, this is a really good question and an important discussion topic; not to mention a new one on the show. I believe only one question has come in regarding religion and it was about 100 episodes ago at this point. Time flies when you’re having fun.
My answer to your second question is very quick, and it is no, you’re not weird for feeling the way you feel. Not by a long shot.
Let’s break down spirituality so I can show you why you’re not weird.
Spirituality is What You Want It To Be
You ask what spirituality is, and I say it’s whatever you want it to be.
Spirituality has been the cornerstone of many world changing decisions and actions since the beginning of the human race. It has torn countries apart, been responsible for the death of perhaps billions by now.
Since then, it has also been used as framework for many to change their lives and the lives of others for the better through acts of enormous love and charity.
Spirituality has been the driving force behind humongous amounts of good and bad. For this reason, it’s taken extremely seriously.
But the truth is that it’s not spirituality that has made all these waves, rather, it is the idea or the perception of spirituality.
Believing in A Higher Being
We forget that in spite of the huge impact we associate with spirituality, it is still, like anything else, an idea. It’s something that man has decided is important, and therefore any narratives surrounding it are man-made.
So why should the definition you put on it be any more or less valid than the definition anyone else has put on it? I’m sorry for waxing philosophical here, but we only ever have our ideas about things, and that includes the concept of spirituality and thus how to live based on the beliefs we hold.
Rest assured there are a lot of people like you out there who have the same hybrid of believing in a higher being even if they don’t know what it looks like, wanting to live by good values and generally be a good healthy presence for the world they live in and the people the encounter.
Stepping Outside Belief Systems
However, some religious or ethnoreligious communities (perhaps you feel the Parsi community is one of them) have particularly traditional religious ideals. Because of that, people who are in or around these communities find it more difficult to question religion or feel comfortable disagreeing with what’s been established.
It can be very easy in these circumstances to fear admitting to new belief systems, or even to give oneself a chance to develop them without self-inflicted or socially-inflicted judgment.
Maybe you find yourself in this spot; uncomfortable stepping outside the belief systems you’ve grown up around. This worry is natural, but it doesn’t mean that your feelings or beliefs are wrong. Know that there are many others out there, some who grew up in tight religions and some who grew up in loose religions, that have turned to a sort of agnosticism – not claiming to know exactly what is true, but trusting themselves to behave well and be good citizens regardless.
A Genuine Spiritual Practice
At the end of the day, I encourage you to ask yourself what value there is in identifying as Buddhist, Parsi, or anything else if you’re not completely sold on it.
Do you find it less than admirable to not be affiliated with any specific religion, and if so, why? To me, if you or anyone is participating in religious practices that they don’t believe in, then why do it?
Why go to church on Sundays if you’re going to act like a degenerate the rest of the week, violating all of the doctrines you claimed to support?
It’s not genuine, and your spiritual practices would theoretically follow your genuine beliefs.
I suggest that you and anyone else start by being clear about what you believe in, and go from there. If your beliefs, untethered by what others have tried to condition you into believing, happen to line up with a pre-established religion, then great. Join them and thrive with them.
But if your true beliefs do not fully align with something that already exists, then abide by your own set of behaviors and rituals.
Following something you’re not 100% sold on does no good for anyone. It’s quite clear that not all people who claim to be a part of a religious sect behave accordingly. Some do, which is wonderful. But for those who don’t, what are the benefits for them or anyone? Nothing really. If anything, they’re being deceitful and disrespectful towards those who follow the religion with true passion and vigilance.
So whatever you choose to do, know that the most integrity will come from honesty with yourself and others.
I’d say the most sacrilegious and spiritually destructive choice would be to engage in some kind of spirituality just because you feel you should, and not because you actually want to be there.
Avoid that if you want to stay on my good list.
That’ll do it for today, folks. Yes, spirituality in one way or another is a big part of our lives and the life of society at large. So in the midst of conflicting beliefs and practices, always seek to keep your participation honest, open and respectful. Not too different from anything else, really. Not at all.
If you’ve got a question you’d like answered on the show, I hope you’ll send it on in. We love hearing from you all and helping you. You can email questions to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll help you out, give you an answer quickly through email, and of course keep your identity anonymous. So don’t be shy.
Thank you for stopping in, everyone. Be sure to tune in next time, where we’ll seek to help a teen navigate some complicated changes they’re going through. Until then.