Welcome to Week 6 of our of Exploring Adult Spirituality Class. In this, our last class, I have no questions for you. Rather, I have thoughts for you to ponder.
If you feel a pull towards a particular religion or spiritual practice, study it. Read multiple texts, attend services, speak to practitioners and the spiritual leader. It should feel like coming home or a new adventure. Ideally it should feel like both.
If you are considering leaving a religion, also study it. Religion is a part of culture, family and identity. Children often get religious education, but many adults never study their own faith past the age of maturity. If all you have is a childish knowledge of your religion, you may not be aware of the full complexities addressed within it. There is a possibility that you don’t know what contemporary theologians are teaching, so read up. Approach your faith as a potential convert would and see if you can find the answers you seek. This will help you to leave or stay with grace and respect.
Often we define religious change in the negative. I no longer believe that. I am not that. Instead of subtraction, consider addition. Can you be a Buddhist Jew or a Catholic Yogi? Framing things in the positive may help you reconcile some seemingly disparate beliefs.
Get comfortable with paradox, contradiction and mystery. Spirituality opens new ways of seeing the world and new paths of understanding a purely empirical world view just can’t grasp. Earlier in these classes, I didn’t let you respond, I don’t know. That was to unlock shaky ideas that hide behind humility. In truth, being comfortable with not knowing something can be very liberating. It may possible bring you closer to the capital T truth.
Truth is always simple and it always feels like something you already knew, even if the thought itself is radically new. Truth resonates within you.
If you can’t decide between A or B, the answer is always C. Let me explain. If you keep weighing one spiritual practice against another and there isn’t a clear winner, stop. Don’t waste anymore time with A or B. Go find C. There is a solution you haven’t yet considered and that is the right answer.
Welcome to the evolution of your faith. Spirituality is a journey, not a destination. As soon as you have one thing figured out, something will shift and a new question will arise. It is not a backwards movement, it’s an indication of growth. Remember: spiritual life is never stagnant.
On a personal note, I want to express how deeply grateful I am that you have allowed me to be even the smallest part of your spiritual journey by participating in this class. I would appreciate it if you dropped me a line at email@example.com or left a comment, so I would have an indication of how this class was received. Your feedback will help me as I develop new classes. Please accept my gifts of love and well wishes for your future into your heart.
Welcome to Week 5 of our Exploring Adult Spirituality Class!
This week we will examine the practical side of spirituality: the actual spiritual practice. I love the word practice. It’s really beautiful when you think about it, especially within the context of spirituality. This week our class is about the ideal way you can practice spirituality. Too often ideals are mistakenly equated with perfection. There is a subtle difference. Ideals are totems to live by, whereas perfection is a penultimate state of being. If we hold ourselves to the standard of perfection in our spiritual life, we will struggle and suffer in our inadequacy because living in a state of perfection is unattainable for most (if not all) human beings. Living by ideals is different. They require work, perseverance and some sacrifice, but they reflect choice and are doable. Spiritual practices are exactly what the words imply. We practice living our spirituality. We try it on, move around, wiggle, see if it fits, and make adjustments as needed.
This week you will explore what your spiritual ideals are and how you can put them into practice. It is very possible that your ideals need to change, or that you need to change parts of your life to accomodate practicing your spirituality in a meaningful way. Keep in mind that spiritual practices are fluid. Where you are at this point in life and what resources you have may effect your practices. Answer the questions for your life as it is in the present moment, but hold on to them. It’s a good idea to return to these questions when a life circumstance has changed or some time has passed. As you grow, so will your practice.
Week 5 Journal Questions
What do you consider to be ideal components of a spiritual practice for someone at your stage of life on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis? For example, should there be prayer or meditation everyday? Studying of religious texts? Formal expression of gratitude? Should there be community worship or structured fellowship? What about service to others? Spend some time to get detailed and specific answers here.
Is there enough time in your life to practice your ideals?
If not, how can you make time or adjust your ideals?
If so, what is holding you back from practicing your ideals?
Describe your favorite holidays associated with religion.
Can you still participate in them if you change your practices?
Should you? Answer this from your heart, not your reason or someone else’s judgement.
If you are considering a big change, are you willing to celebrate new holidays?
Would you mind if you never quite feel comfortable in that? Many holidays include a sense of coming home. If you change your celebrations, you may never quite have that familiar feeling again. Are you OK with that?
What about family? Yes, this is a BIG question; give it a BIG answer.
1. Choose a span of time ranging from 2 -7 days to live the ideal practice you created in the first journal question. Ideals are tricky. It’s hard to know when they must be adjusted for reality and when they should remain the gold standard to which you need to hold yourself accountable. Very few people actually spend any time living their ideals completely. Mostly ideals are relegated to an exercise in imagination or romanticism. By assigning yourself 48 hours or more to live up to your ideals, you will get a better understanding of their importance and level of realism. Once you choose the amount of time you have for this activity, do not adjust it if you find it challenging. Stick it out and see how that changes your perspective on the first few journal questions.
2. Look over your day-planner or jot down how you spend your time for a few days. Add up the time you spend on each activity, such as watching TV, making phone calls and running errands. See if you can be more efficient. Identify any time guzzlers and look for a solution. Do you need less time relaxing and more time sleeping? Is there a commitment you made that is taking up too much time? If you want to incorporate living an ideal (or a scaled-down version of ideal) spiritual life, you must make room for it. Unless you have vast quantities of free time, you must remove something from your life to make room for something else. Only you can determine what that is.
Next week is our last class. I will synthesize the concepts that we have explored and leave you with some ideas to consider. As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Have a beautiful week.
Welcome to Week 4 of our Exploring Adult Spirituality Class.
This week’s class is a little bit different than the previous classes, because you will select journal questions based on your current circumstances. Last week we delved into the family with whom you were raised. This week we are examining the family we create as adults. To fully address everyone taking this class, there are three categories of questions: Married and Deeply Committed Couples, Single People, and Parents. Chose the one or two categories that fit you at this particular moment in life. Everyone will complete the same activity listed at the bottom of this page.
What I mean by deeply committed couples is either engaged to be married or in a marriage-equivalent gay relationship. If you are in a serious relationship that has not yet become a lifetime commitment, I recommend answering the single person questions. This is not to belittle your relationship, but it is important to examine your spirituality and your life as it is today rather than a projection of what it may be in the future. To find yourself, you must always look in the present moment. .
Married or Deeply Committed Couples Partnerships can be wonderful tools or terrible obstacles when it comes to cultivating a strong sense of spirituality. The most important factor is not who your partner is and what he or she believes, rather it is your ability to accept your partner’s spirituality for what it is. It can be frustrating, maddening and ultimately heart-wrenching when two people share a love and a life together, but have different spiritual paths. And yet, even when two people are completely in sync in terms of religion, their spiritual journeys are always separate. That is because spirituality is an individual experience. Many aspects of it may be shared and fellowship is key in many people’s spiritual practices, but the nature of faith and belief is that it ebbs and flows. There are times when spirituality is as effortless as breath, and then something shifts and old doubts, questions and even anger can surface. Respecting that your partner has a complex spirituality independent from you (whether or not they admit it) can lead to greater understanding, peace and compassion.
That being said, the choice to marry is the choice to share your life completely with someone else. Although a part of the self will always retain autonomy, marriage is a union. Your spouse is truly your partner with whom you can explore life. How wonderful! When you brush aside the petty and not-so-petty disagreements that arise, you ultimately share a love that is pure, true and divine. Your knowledge of love comes from your family and central to that is your partner. Even if you don’t talk about spirituality often, your relationship has taught you the fierceness, determination, compassion, gentleness, passion, honesty, complexity and simplicity of love. If love is the foundation of the universe, think about how much your spouse has taught you about life, simply by loving you and standing next to you.
Journal Questions What does your partner believe? Answer without asking him or her first.
Are you sure? Sometimes we have beliefs and questions we never utter to ourselves, let alone another person. Find a quiet, casual time to listen to your partner without judgement or thoughts of how their beliefs affect you. Ruminate over your spouse’s beliefs. You love this person deeply and have chosen them as a life partner; their ideas are extremely important and can be illuminating even if their personality seems less serious.
What are the similarities and what are the differences between your beliefs?
If you shifted your spiritual practices, how would that affect your partner? How would if affect his or her family?
Is there a way to be true to your heart and your love?
If not, think more deeply. These two things should be aligned. Perhaps time could help.
Single People Single people have an amazing advantage when exploring their spirituality, because spirituality is essentially an individual experience. You have the ability to focus on your own heart without having to factor in a partner’s beliefs which can be both distracting and side-tracking. Cultivating a strong spirituality before you commit your life to someone else enables you to choose a better partner and retain your core beliefs within the context of any new relationship. Of course not everybody wants to be married, and even if that is your goal, it is important to see yourself as whole, rather than half of a person looking for completion. This week’s questions are related to the family we create as adults, so the questions are mostly related to finding a partner. Sometimes people put on a false face when they are single because they don’t want to appear desperate, less-than or someone to be pityed. It is quite possible to be both content in life and hopeful for someone share it with. Accepting that duality can lead you to greater honesty, self-acceptance and understanding.
Journal Questions Quick right down your gut response to this question: Do you lack love in your life right now?
If you do, could you fill that gap yourself?
If you don’t, explain who in your life fills you with love. And how.
Do you believe meeting a partner is the result of fate, luck or timing?
In what way (if any) does God factor into that?
How important is it to find a partner who shares a similar spirituality? Could religion lead you to someone? Could it drive you away from someone?
Being single gives you freedom and the ability to spend your time as you see fit. Now is an excellent time to explore different spiritual practices. If you are drawn to any extreme religious or spiritual experiences, this may be the best time of your life to explore them. If you long to mediate in an ashram in India or go on a religious pilgrimage to the Holy Lands or even devote many hours a day to prayer and meditation this time of individuality is your opportunity for a radical religious adventure. Write down any and all daydreams you have about spiritual adventures. Keep this list at the forefront of your mind and see what happens.
For Parents and Potential Parents The love you have for your children is probably the closest example of Divine love that you will ever experience. You create them, nurture them and love them more than you ever thought possible. These days parenting is complicated and parents are overloaded with choices they must make for our children. To vaccinate or not? Public, private or home school? How many activities? Which ones? To top it all off, it is your responsibility to guide your child’s budding spirituality. You are the one who must explain God, life and religion to your child. It is normal to feel woefully inadequate for this task, but it is vital that you don’t neglect it. Culture is very powerful and teaches us lessons about life whether or not we are aware of it. It is impossible for a child to be completely shielded from all messages from society, so as a parent you must provide some degree of spiritual guidance. Your participation in this class indicates two things: you value spirituality and you understand it is an ongoing process. It is OK if you can’t answer all of your child’s questions about life, so please don’t make the mistake of waiting until you figure everything out before you begin teaching your child. These questions are designed to help you solidify a few of your core beliefs and to encourage you to consider the ramifications of religion in your child’s life.
If you don’t have children you can still answer some these questions, but be forewarned: having an actual child radically changes most people’s pre-conception perceptions of parenting. Be open to new ideas when a child enters your life.
Journal Questions What values or ideas does your child need to live a meaningful, happy life?
Are you actively teaching your child those lessons now, or are their holes which need to be filled?
What beliefs and traditions have you already exposed your child to?
If he or she is verbal, ask them to explain God or draw a picture of God.
Would a change in your spiritual practices be confusing or ostracizing to your child, or can it be done gracefully?
Many childhood milestones are marked by religious ceremonies and traditions. If you are considering changing your religion, how will it feel for your child to miss those ceremonies? Consider you child’s feelings, your co-parent’s feelings and all the grandparent’s feelings.
Both parents must be on the same page about what to teach your child even if you are presenting multiple faith options. No question here. Have a frank conversation about what and how you will teach your child about spirituality. Don’t let it get heated. Find a compromise if needed.
Week 4 Activity for Everyone
1. Because this week’s journal questions may be extensive for some participants and they involve having serious discussions, you only have one activity this week: nourish someone you love. This person needs to be someone you consider a part of your created family. It can be a spouse, a lover, a dear friend or a child. Choose one meal this week to cook for this person. Make sure the menu is both delicious and healthy, but it needn’t be elaborate. While you prepare the meal keep your beloved at the forefront of your mind. Think of all the good wishes you have for this person and project them into the food you are cooking. Nourishment happens on many levels, so who is to say the love you put into their food won’t reach every cell of their being? Keep this a secret. Let it be a private blessing of love and nourishment.
As always, you can contact me at email@example.com. I have enjoyed answering several of your questions and hearing about your journey. You can also comment below if you wish to share something with others. Have a beautiful week.
Welcome to your third class in Exploring Adult Spirituality. If you are just joining us, please start at the beginning.
This week we are exploring family. Even though spirituality is individual, we exist with others. Your relationships with others can be an enormously powerful aspect of your spiritual life, particularly those within your family. You can’t choose the family you were born into, and without a rare and dramatic severance, you are stuck with those people for life. Some family members are close allies and friends. Others are people you have apparently nothing in common with except for DNA and a shared history. Both are opportunities for important life lessons. Family members with whom you are close are most likely your strongest examples of love. They can spark feelings of generosity and empathy that carry over into the way you view the world at large. Difficult relationships within a family provide tremendous opportunities to learn to practice compassion, kindness and loving detachment. Learning to live with people you don’t always like and learning to respect people whose opinions are in direct opposition to your own are immeasurably valuable lessons. We would never choose to be friends with someone who was diametrically opposite of us, but family challenges us to open our hearts to differences we may have otherwise chosen to avoid, thus enabling our own spiritual growth.
Choosing a religion or spiritual practice is a personal decision, yet it will have ramifications in your family. Depending on your own unique situation, this may or may not matter much, but it is important to consider. It is common to revert back to our old roles when interacting with family members. In our adult lives we feel mature, capable and reasonable, but when we return home for the holidays we transform back into our misunderstood, angst-ridden, teenage selves. Family patterns are extremely hard to break. Many people find themselves either cowering in the corner, throwing tantrums, feeling superior or rebelling. If you recognize one of these patterns emerging in yourself while you explore your spirituality, be careful. Those are all states of reaction, not the platform of calm truth you need as the foundation of your spiritual life. Operate from a balanced, compassionate state of being.
Week 3 Journal Questions
How important is family to you?
In what religion or spiritual practice were you raised?
Do your parents or siblings still practice that faith?
Have you ever had an adult conversation with your parents or siblings about their personal spirituality for the sole purpose of understanding them better?
Was much effort put into your spiritual upbringing? Why or why not?
Are you a rebel? Does your family see you as a rebel?
Do you have a hard time expressing yourself to your family?
Are you close with your family? Discuss individual family members.
How important is religion to your family? If you were to practice another faith (or stop practicing any faith), would that be upsetting to any close family members? With a compassionate heart, explain why they might feel hurt.
How close do you live to your family? Do you see them on holidays?
Would a change in your spiritual practices mean someone you love would distance themselves from you?
If the answer to the following question is yes, could you live with that? Should you live with that? Consider this carefully. They may be the person who would sever the relationship. They may be in the wrong; however, the loss is equally shared. Is there a way to mitigate the damage? Is it possible for you to to keep your beliefs private as an act of respect and compassion, or would that make you feel like a liar, a hypocrite or perpetually misunderstood? Are there any old feelings of rebellion or superiority surfacing? It is important to operate from a place of peace.
1. Spend one day this week allowing everyone you encounter to be right. Accept a secondary position with grace. This means letting people cut you off in traffic, giving in your side during a disagreement, accepting criticism. Challenge yourself not to feel either smug or weak in this position. Try to feel this as an act of independence from the pettiness of the moment. In the big scheme of life we all want peace and harmony, but sometimes in the minutia of the moment we sabotage this goal. Allowing others to be right, doesn’t necessarily make you wrong. It can make you free to be the person you really want to be.
2. Review the previous two classes’ questions with one family member in mind. Think about how that person would answer those questions or complete those activities. Notice any gaps in your knowledge of this person. Look for the whys in their reasoning. You don’t need to actually write out their answers. The point is to see their spiritual journey as something separate from you. Often times family and religion are so intertwined that we forget the individuality of our loved one’s spirituality. Sometimes we see our family members more as the role that they play within the family than as the complete person they really are.
Again, please feel to contact me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also now leave a comment if you wish to share something. I hope you do. Have a beautiful week.
Welcome to the second week of our Exploring Adult Spirituality Course. If you are just joining us, please start at the beginning.
This week is going to be very different than last week. Exploring your childhood involves memory and sometimes nostalgia. There is also a bit of detachment when you write about your past because you are no longer that person. When you were a child, you didn’t have much control. Life happened to you, rather than by you. As an adult you now have the power to make choices and shape your life into a reflection of your values. This control was something you grew into and worked hard to get, but as you know, it also comes with an enormous responsibility. At the end of a day, at the end of life, the meaning and happiness you have is a result of the way you chose to live.
You may find this week’s journal questions startlingly direct. In our society we tend to dodge questions and hedge our answers about spirituality for the sake of politeness and the appearance of being non-judgemental. There is nothing wrong with that, but at some point everyone must own what they believe. If you never say it out loud, how can you possibly live it?
Answer each question fully as it comes. No skipping or darting ahead. As a reminder, don’t get hung up on the language of my questions. The word, God, is used a lot this week, but don’t be put off if you have a different image of divinity. Tap into your understanding of the universe to interpret the questions in terms which are relatable to you.
Week 2 Journal Questions: Current Beliefs
Quick: answer this yes or no, only yes or no, do you believe in God?
Define and describe God. Some people see God as a male, female or otherworldly spirit. Others see God as a collective conciousness or presence. Challenge yourself to answer this with something other than, “I don’t know.” That is a stock response, even though it is truthful. Write what you believe. It is OK to have contradictions in your description.
Is it important to you to have an explanation as to the beginning of time? Why?
Is it important to you to have an explanation as to what happens after death? Why?
Children must take a great deal of knowledge from authority figures. Adults have fully developed reason and are naturally inquisitive and skeptical. We still look for authoritative sources, but there is a choice in whether or not we believe them. As an adult, can you accept an authoritative answer to the previous two questions without reservation?
What questions would you ask God if you could? These questions should be genuine and relatively personal. What, specifically, would you like to know to help you live a happier, more meaningful life?
Now, answer those questions yourself. Again, “I don’t know,” is a cop out.
Are your answers good?
Are they good enough?
Would any answer be good enough?
Is your present idea of God drastically different from your childhood idea of God? If so, what is the change? When did this happen? If not, what are the similarities? What are the differences?
Week 2 Activities
1. Set a timer and spend five minutes in front of the mirror without any make-up. Rather than examining your pores, stare into your own eyes. What do you see? Who is that person? Years can go by when we never get a good look at who we are. Mirrors are usually places where we prejudge ourselves before going out in the world to face judgement. Not today. Take five minutes to see who you are underneath the mask of presentation.
2. Step outside of your life for some quiet time this week. A spot in nature is ideal, but you can go to cafe you don’t usually frequent. The point is to step outside of your daily routine. Look at the world around you and take some time to connect with that energy. Now look back at your life from the vantage point of an outsider. What does your life look like from this perspective? Do you like what you see? Does it feel like you?
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Have a beautiful week. Namaste,
Welcome to the first week of our Exploring Adult Spirituality Class!
This is a free, 6 week, online class created to help you explore your spiritual beliefs and how they connect to your past, your family, and who you are today. People of all beliefs are warmly welcomed. If you haven’t seen our preview, I encourage you to do so in order to have a better understanding of this class.
1. Each week we will explore a different theme and you will be given questions to answer in a journal. Please set aside an hour or more to do this. This is not like algebra where quick, correct answers are the goal. Go beyond the glib response to what really matters. Allowing yourself time and space to answer these open-ended questions will help you access the more thoughtful parts of your mind. Also, the ritual of setting aside a specific time each week to take the class will have its own benefit and meaning. These classes will be posted on Sunday mornings, but you can choose whatever time works best for you. I do recommend consistency.
2. Take each question as it comes, rather than perusing the list for what looks interesting. The questions have been arranged in a specific sequence to build upon or challenge earlier answers. It’s important to capture your initial gut response as well as your more thoughtful answer. Please feel free to go off on tangents. These questions are designed to get you thinking, but they will not tell you what to think. Perhaps a tangent holds an important memory or insight. Go with it, but then return and answer all the questions posed.
3. The journal questions should be written by hand in a journal or notebook set aside for this purpose. Writing is a different verb than typing. The process of moving your hand across a page helps you access deeper levels of thought. Also, detaching from electronics and media will help you ground yourself in the present moment, an essential aspect of spirituality. There is an easy-print button at the bottom of this page, so you can take the questions with you.
4. Answer every question even if you feel you don’t know the answer. Nobody will see your responses, so feel free to be wrong. Just be something. Write down what you think is the truth.
5. After you have answered this week’s questions, let them sit in the back of your mind throughout the week. Your subconscious is a very powerful tool, so let it work on these grand problems while you live your life. On Saturday return to your journal and read your previous answers. Expand upon your thoughts, or jot down new insights or questions that popped up during the week.
6. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond to all questions, and I will answer whatever I can.
7. Please don’t get caught up on any semantics. This class is designed to deepen and enrich people with very different beliefs. Using language that incorporates every person’s particular faith or practice is impossible. The words God, universe, religion and spiritual practice are all used interchangably. Please don’t get caught up on the details of the words, and miss the meaning behind them.
Exploring Adult Spirituality: Childhood
Who we are today is partially a result of who we were yesterday. This week we’re travelling back in time to access our first thoughts about God and the meaning of life. We often think of spirituality as primarily an adult journey, but children have an active and inquisitive spiritual life. They try to make sense of the world on a daily basis. Once they can identify that the sky is blue, they start to ask why it’s blue? And who made the sky? And how did they make it? And why, again. Children are eager to understand this brave new world they’re exploring. Remembering your early ideas about God and life may connect you to a core belief you have long discarded.
We’re also trying to identify a time when your spirituality changed. There may have been a specific event, or over time your spiritual life may have paled in comparison to other concerns. Look back to that change with the lens of memory and with the fresh eyes of an adult. See what you couldn’t see before. Understanding what happened will help you understand why it happened.
This week it is particularly important to let these questions ruminate in the back of your mind, because we are recalling childhood. Memory is a tricky thing, like a refection in a pool of water. If you grasp it too quickly, the image will blur and you’ll see nothing. Be patient and things will slowly come into focus.
OK, here’s the teacher speaking, “Please answer all your questions in as complete an answer as you can. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out of this.” Classic school instructions still hold true. I wonder what else does?
Week 1 Journal Questions: Childhood
What would the five year old version of you have colored if asked to draw God?
Describe your image of God when you were ten.
When you were fifteen.
When you were twenty.
In what (if any) religious practices did your family participate? How did you feel about it?
As a child what were your private ideas about God and life?
Describe a person from your childhood whose spirituality made a strong impression on you.
Was religion a source of happiness, stability, confusion, control, or fear for you while growing up? Was that constant or did it change at some point?
Did religion give you a sense of belonging, or a sense of exclusion as a child?
Questioning beliefs is a part of growing up. What were your questions? Did anything specific happen to trigger them?
Did those questions ever get answered? If so, how? If not, are they still your questions today?
Week 1 Activities
Look through old photos or journals to help you recall your past ideas at some point this week.
Ignite your memory through your senses by playing old music, cooking a dish from your childhood, or stopping by a fragrance counter for a whiff of a familiar scent.
Revel in the past with as little judgement and sentimentality as you can muster. I know it’s a fine line, but find it. Balance on it.
Our FREE 6 week course, Exploring Adult Spirituality, begins September 12. I hope you join us. Please tell your friends about it. Here’s a little preview:
Check out our Making Groceries column in Food. It's a back-to-basics idea designed to wean us from processed food as we rediscover the process of making food. Each food is profiled with recipes, cost calculations, taste comparisons and an effort evaluation.
I am Rebecca Cofiño, founder of mamaguru. I am a mama, a yogi, a cook, a writer and a wife currently living in Miami. Please explore our categories to find information, insights, recipes and more! Tell your friends and facebook friends about us and have a wonderful day.