By Deb Matlock
Spirituality is one of those concepts that can be defined as many ways as there are people. Awe, inspiration, connection, mystery…these are some of the words I often hear related to the idea of spirituality. For some, religion and spirituality are deeply intertwined and for others, the two could not be more separate. I like to think of spirituality as dancing with the mystery of life, death, and everything in between.
Spirituality is a universal concept that transcends culture, gender, place, time, etc. It has brought people together and torn us apart. It has allowed us to see the sacred in life and nature and has also been known to discourage love of the earth. Spirituality can surprise us and look very different than we might expect. Some of the most spiritually-focused people I know do not mediate, journal, or go to church. And others locate those very endeavors at the center of their lives. Spirituality is one complex and personal topic for sure!
Our Unique Journey
Each of us can have our own unique, challenging, inspiring, and creative relationship with spirituality if we so choose. We have life experiences, dreams, visions, inspirations, heartbreak, opportunities, successes, failures…all of which can lead us willingly (or not) down our own spiritual paths. Nobody can tell us that what we experience or feel is wrong. Rather, it is up to each of us to decide the relevance of our experiences and integrate them into the fabric of our lives.
Sadly, I have repeatedly seen people get caught up in the idea that a “guru” or teacher of some sort is needed for them to fully experience their spiritual life path. As one of the most personal journeys, our spirituality is often a very vulnerable and powerful place. At times, a mentor can be truly important to help us stay focused and process our experiences, but that should be a very different relationship than that of a student and guru-type teacher. Over the years, I have walked out of a few workshops where the person leading the program was stating definitively spiritual principles that went completely counter to my own deeply personal and meaningful experiences. One of these leaders even went as far as to tell me my experience was not valid! I was stunned and swore in that moment that I would never offer a workshop or program where people’s own life experience was not welcome. Instead, I knew I wanted to cultivate a sense of empowered spirituality in all my personal and professional work.
So, what is empowered spirituality?
According to the Merriam-Webster website, empowered is defined as “having the knowledge, confidence, means, or ability to do things or make decisions for oneself.” To be empowered, we need to have confidence in our experiences, feelings, and passions. We need to know our journey is valid and perfect in all its imperfections. And…we need to know that any mentor or teacher we choose to bring on our journey with us is there by our invitation to support our process, not impress their own process upon us.
Our experiences are sacred. Our feelings are windows into our hearts. Our passions lead us to our purpose. Our spirituality can be very empowered if only we value our experiences, trust our hearts, and stay open to our ever-changing dance with the mystery. My wish for all is a strong sense of embodied spirituality to have as a thread throughout this amazing life journey.
Deb Matlock grew up in the mountains of Colorado and is deeply committed to nurturing the connection between people, animals, earth, and spirit. She has spent twenty-five years working as a professional environmental and humane educator and naturalist. Additionally, Deb offers shamanic-style spiritual guidance, animal communication, nature connection workshops, and retreats through her business, Wild Rhythms. She is passionate about helping people find connection and deep spiritual meaning in their lives and in the places where they live. Deb holds a Master of Arts in Environmental Education from Prescott College and is pursuing her doctoral degree in environmental studies at Antioch University New England.
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