20 Dec Can anything be certain?
Are you a religious person? What about a spiritual person? Not much of either? Do you see much of a difference between being religious and being spiritual?
If you had asked me back when I started teaching yoga, I would have said I was not religious but I was spiritual. I figured religious meant dogmatic and spiritual meant in touch with the parts of myself that felt connected to the universe, energy, and nature; that part of me struggling to feel connected to some idea of God-with-a-capital-G.
Now I’m not so sure. To be honest I’ve felt disconnected from my spiritual self, and even a bit annoyed by the idea as of late.
Observing the confusion around me vis a vis the pandemic, science, science communication, politics, and above all, belief over the past couple years has made me feel that pursuing my own tenuous grasp on the ephemeral is not the counterbalance needed.
For me it’s easy to have my head in the clouds, to imagine some alternative reality and use that to soothe my anxiety over what’s actually happening around me. I don’t think this is terribly healthy for me anymore.
Embodiment and Wellbeing
What I need for my own wellbeing is to get embodied and down to earth. Participating in recovery is less traumatizing than sitting aside and pretending it’s not happening. In any case, I want to feel more alive, and to do that I’ve got to check in instead of check out.
But have I judged spirituality harshly? Have I recently been lumping spiritual practice in with head-in-the-clouds dissociation? The answer is yes, and I’m trying to untangle the two.
Why even bother? Because let me tell you, when I’m not cultivating my spiritual self with practices that balance my energy and reaffirm positivity and gratitude (for example) in my psychology, my descent into “nothing matters” is slippery and rather depressing.
Nothing Matters/Everything is Meaningful
I write this chuckling to myself. There’s a lot of humor in my vacillation between nihilism and fully bought-in spirituality. The humor is easier to recognize when I zoom out on my life and get a perspective that’s broader than my current point of view. Zooming out also makes it easier to see that I don’t always have the same point of view and chances are it’ll change again.
I wonder, if you’re a full believer in something, is there no doubt? Somehow, I doubt that.
So how do we do this? How do we take action in a world where so much is uncertain and certainty is hard to discriminate?
I don’t know. I’m uncertain!
Zooming as a practice
I can tell you something I do that helps. I told you above I found humor and a laugh when I zoom out on my life and see my folly, the perennial folly of being human. I also zoom in.
I magnify and look very closely at what I believe and ask myself the hard questions, which can sometimes feel like an existential mess because a lot of times I bumble through an answer and really don’t convince myself of anything.
It also feels incredibly powerful and self-possessed and helps me understand the nature of conviction and belief and differentiate it from concrete observation.
Concrete observation as in: we’ve used tools to measure the temperate outside is exactly 61.3 degrees. I can feel and believe that it’s freezing cold but know that in fact, it’s 61.3 degrees and freezing is 32. Thus, I probably wouldn’t argue that it’s actually freezing, I know that I just feel that way. Measurements are powerful in that way, aren’t they? This is why I love science. Which, as a rule, zooms in.
Back to religion and spirituality. Maybe it’s that religions hold systems of spiritual belief, ritual, and community within which a person can explore their own spirituality.
Maybe dogma is something imposed on a person by a leader who wants to soothe them of their existential dread (or perhaps excess income). Or maybe dogma is followed by personal choice to find solace in a semblance of certainty.
Maybe spirituality is the stuff of uncertainty and the term “spiritual” in common usage, as an alternative to “religious”, means taking a little from Column A and a little from Column B. Sampling what religious practices have worked out over centuries to do your own zooming in and zooming out. To participate with some guidelines in an ever-changing world.
To be alive is to be present. It’s not always pleasant, but it is…what it is. And I think it’s worth the angst.
Doing yoga helps.