7 December 2018
Finding Oneself: The Journey of Introspection and Spirituality
I have struggled with the idea of religion and spirituality my entire life. What does it mean to be spiritual? What does it mean to be religious? Are they different ideas or are they the same? It’s something that I have thought of and contemplated for a many years. I was raised in a household by a parent who identifies with Christianity but did not attend church regularly. My biological father, who I had a relationship with for a period of time in my life, is a Christian ‘fanatic’ and left a bad taste in my mouth regarding religion after he left my life. Is it fair for me to judge a concept one might argue is at the center of humanity based on the actions of two people? This is what comes to my mind when I think about spirituality and religion. Ultimately my thoughts always drift to the idea that somehow, someway, our place in this world is connected to spirituality and religion. I just can’t articulate why or address the areas that don’t make sense, like the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament or the idea that ‘women should always submit to their husbands’ or why horrible things happen in this world. It has taken a lot of soul searching to get here, but I do think I now have the foundation of a belief system I can buy into without feeling I am selling my soul to the devil, no pun intended.
In the beginning of time, what were we? Were we created by the universes clashing and creating yet another universe? Are we all descendants of Adam and Eve? Was it a big bang? If we were, in a sense, created by something bigger than us, were we created for a purpose or created for nothing other than to simply exist? What is our place in this world? Despite many unanswered questions, I believe in the center of all life there is an energy that connects and drives all creation. Regardless whether the energy was created inside of us at conception or if reincarnation is true and we all have an old soul, I believe we are all subconsciously driven by a power bigger than us. My belief is a matter of faith and flies in the face of many logical scientific theories. I do believe there is some kind of creator or higher power or cosmic spirituality, if for no other reason than life doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than consumption and death without it. That idea is too depressing to contemplate. If we live only to survive then logically it seems there would be no reason to have concepts like right or wrong, only individual satisfaction and survival. What kind of world does that look like? The Old Testament suddenly makes a bit more sense when thinking of stories like Noah’s Arc where the entire earth was flooded and all humanity was nearly wiped out. A can imagine a world with no right or wrong might be worthy of devastation. I have tried to seperate the idea of religion and spirituality, alas come full circle, and cannot conceive one without the other.
To me it seems that spirituality is our individual connection to a higher power, where as religion seems to be the defined rules a person follows to demonstrate dedication to a prescribed faith. There are too many connections in my mind between spirituality and religion to believe that one can exist without the other. Then I contemplate how introspection impacts each person’s belief in religion and spirituality. What is introspection? During research I came across a philosophy peer reviewed dictionary that summed up introspection in a way I was fond of, it states “ Introspection is the process by which someone comes to form beliefs about her own mental states. We might form the belief that someone else is happy on the basis of perception – for example, by perceiving her behavior. But a person typically does not have to observe her own behavior in order to determine whether she is happy. Rather, one makes this determination by introspecting.”.
Some might call the act of introspecting as learning emotional intelligence. At a young age, we are taught how to perceive others and to recognize how they feel. If a animals yelps in pain, they are hurt, if someone has tears in their eyes they are sad, if someone has a smile on their face, they are happy. What does it mean, ho ever, to recognize our own emotions? As someone who has experienced and learned a good amount about mental illnesses and instability I believe I am in a position to be both knowledgeable on recognizing my own emotion, but also, educated to know it’s and ongoing learning process. When someone struggles with mental illness, they often struggle to identify their feelings and why they are feeling a particular way. For example, sometimes I have a major response to be loud noises, when this trigger occurs I have intense anxiety. Other times it doesn’t matter and I am fine. In fact, I often intentionally blast my music in the car because I enjoy it. I enjoy the way the music engulfs my surroundings and blocks out the outside world. Why do these differences occur? To figure that out I need to be introspective. Introspection is learning and observing our own emotional and mental process in a way we can understand them, maybe even anticipate our emotional health.
How does introspection relate to individual spirituality and religion? I think of these concepts as each a partner in a healthy relationship. Each must be individually understood before they can be joined effectively. Introspection is the discovery and observation of our own mental and emotional processes. Many people consider religion and spirituality guides to discovering individual purpose. That a higher power in our life will lead us to find our true place in the world. The direction out life is meant to take. To find our place in this life we also must exercise introspection. I believe that introspection combined with the concept of both spirituality and religion, answers the grand-all question we all ask ourselves: What is my place in this world? Your place in this world is defined by both intrinsic introspection, and the extrinsic spirituality that drives you. You must understand yourself to be spiritual, and you must be spiritual to find yourself; they interlocked for eternity, and only to show their hidden answers to each individual who understand the concepts of understanding yourself and to understand the energy that drives this world. Your place in this world? It’s exactly where you are right now; in the ever-longing journey to find yourself.
1. “Introspection.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,