DEAR KRISTIN: I’ve turned into a loyal reader of “Take My Hand,” which surprises me (no offense) because so much of what you write is deeply spiritual and I am not a spiritual person at all.
This is the very reason I’m writing you today: Because for the last six months or so, I’ve been feeling a deep desire to connect to something larger in life than just myself. I don’t really know what to do with this feeling, but I do know that I want to respect it. It’s kind of comforting to feel like I might be part of some larger, loving force in the world -- especially since there’s so much hatred and cruelty swirling around us today. I welcome this spiritual growth ... but I also want to be cautious. Any words of wisdom? -- READY TO GROW, BUT HESITANT
DEAR READY: First, I want to thank you for reaching out and expressing yourself with such honesty and intention. We are so conditioned to live our lives in strict linear progression that we often leave little to no room for spiritual exploration and development. When stirrings like yours occur, we don’t know what to do with them because our brains are not trained to embrace this kind of new growth. So give yourself a little hug for listening to these new stirrings. By listening to them, you’ve already propelled yourself forward on this journey. It’s already been set in motion. Your awareness is expanding beyond self; yield to this expansion.
As you nurture this awareness -- if you choose to nurture it, and I certainly hope you do -- chances are good that it will change the way you think. The way you live. The way you interact with others. In my own experience, the act of sustaining and nurturing a healthy spirituality sets my world on a new axis. I know that I am not alone. I know that I am part of a collective whole. This allows your vision and your perspective to become more expansive.
You and you alone must decide whether to feed this spiritual flame that seems to be growing inside of you. There are baby steps that lots of people take to begin their journey, and though these are not intended to be recommendations, I share some steps that work in my own life. The key is to keep it simple.
Become more aware of (and responsible for) how you emit your own energy into the world. Start smiling more. Practice kindness. Compliment others. Learn to listen to others mindfully and with greater intention. All of these are intentional acts that generate positive energy and strengthen your connection to the world around you.
Spend more time in nature. Take a walk every day. Make time to gaze up at the sky or to follow the flight of a bird overhead. Next time it snows, stick your tongue out and catch a flake. When‘s the last time you tasted a snowflake? Connecting with the natural world shouldn’t be fleeting or random, but purposeful and intentional. We are part of the natural world. Why wouldn’t we make more of an effort to strengthen the connection to that which we belong?
Consider creating purposeful pockets of peace throughout your day. Fill those pockets with stillness, with quiet reflection, with prayer -- with whatever you like. Consider speaking with a member of the clergy or a spiritual leader.
The state of our spiritual condition is dependent upon our ability and willingness to feed it and nurture it. If you don’t feed your spirit, it will suffer.
I understand your caution and hesitancy, because this feels very new to you. But I also applaud your awareness, and your driving desire to connect to something larger than yourself.
Whether or not you know it, your journey has already begun.