Two Exercises For Tapping Into Your Spirituality, No Matter Your Faith
In my first few classes in graduate theology school, the professors asked, “What do you believe?” The emphasis was not on accepting a particular belief, understanding, or words but rather, “What do you believe in and why?”
I found this question so freeing. Having been raised Lutheran, I’d felt like I had to unquestionably embrace the creeds and confessions that were part of Sunday services. Now theology professors were giving me permission to explore all the facets of “faith.” I was allowed to discover what beliefs and ideas resonated with me as I delved into the history of ancient civilizations and the roots of why and how religious and spiritual traditions came into form.
You don’t have to call it God
I see my soul, my essence, as grounded in oneness with something larger than myself. I most often call that “something greater” God or the Divine. Yet there’s a whole range of other words that fit too—like Source, Oneness, God, Allah, Great Spirit, the Infinite Field, love or Love, universal energy, a higher power, the quantum field. The vast range of religious and spiritual traditions across the world all have different names for this something greater, and each name speaks to a particular understanding of it. (If you find discord with this last thought, look up the term religious pluralism, another eye-opening concept I learned about in graduate theology school.) Each of these terms might be accurate, but each is also limited. It reflects just one perspective, one aspect, or one kind of experience of the greater something. The more I walk with people who are exploring their faith, meaning, and purpose and wanting to feel more fully alive, the more I think our words can only begin to touch on what that something greater is like. The whole of it is ultimately unnamable.
If you’re just getting used to the idea of being part of something larger or greater than yourself, don’t worry about what to call it. Don’t get hung up on what others call it either. Language is limiting.
What’s important is to be open to the feeling of it. Where, when, and how have you felt a sense of being connected to something greater, a sense of being interconnected with others, a sense that you’re not alone even when you seem to be? If you can, recall a time you felt this way. Maybe you were on an evening walk, watching the sunset over the water. Or perhaps you were walking on a lakeside path, and you were greeted by a family of small birds scurrying toward the water. Or maybe you were outside and felt a warm breeze carrying a fragrant lilac smell and saw small flowers floating in the air.
As you picture that scene, can you open again to the feeling tone in your body, to a resonance with something more? What does it feel like? A sense of energy? A deep knowing? A glimmer of something beyond? A sense that there’s a presence with you?
Again, don’t worry about the language. Just feel it.
Maybe you experience a deep pulling of ah. Maybe you feel a sense of something bigger, and maybe an expanded, fuller breath comes in. Maybe you breathe in the preciousness of just this moment. Maybe you feel like you’re settling into a deeper, fuller space within yourself.
Perhaps any held fear drops away, and you just know that in this moment all is OK. A wonderment comes through you, or a pulsing aliveness moves through your body. You feel an interconnectedness with all. A feeling of oneness and warmth fills your body.
Or maybe a feeling of coming home surfaces, the mirror is clear, and you understand why you are here.
I experience this feeling as an internal vibration that quivers within me. I also experience it as love. To me, our soul, our essence, feels like love; the felt sense of oneness and interconnectedness I feel through my soul feels like love; the something greater feels like love.
These are all examples of what something greater could feel like. What does it feel like to you?
Feel into something greater
The feelings or experience of something larger can arise spontaneously or under certain conditions, such as when you’re spending time in nature. You can also create space for them. Here is a short breathing exercise to help you move into your body, heart, and soul and feel what is already present.
Relax your body, perhaps sitting in a chair or comfortably standing. Notice your breath coming in and going out through your nostrils. Breathe in and breathe out.
Slowly let go of all external and internal distractions and just breathe. Let there be room for silence and stillness.
Breathing in, feel your belly expand on the in-breath. And breathing out, feel your belly recede. Can you feel the cool air flow through your nostrils as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out? On your breath in, can you feel the air turn and go down into your chest?
As thoughts come into your mind, let them pass, like white clouds moving across the blue sky. Come back to your breath, breathing in and breathing out, one breath at a time.
In this moment, just notice what is.
Next, spend a minute noticing what you see.
Then notice what you hear.
And then notice what you feel.
Continue breathing in and breathing out.
Gently bring yourself back to your breath when your mind wanders. Your fast-chattering mind will slow, and your soul will have room to expand and just be.
Spend as much time as you wish here, breathing in and breathing out and feeling your soul. Notice what else you may be feeling or experiencing.
What does it feel like? Just feel whatever is arising. Just be open. Just feel and experience what you are experiencing. If words arise, that is fine, and then come back to what you are feeling.
You don’t have to call it God. Let words drop away. Be open to the experience. Let your body soften and relax as you breathe in and breathe out for the next few minutes.
Opening the door to something greater — just a little
If you’ve read this far, you may be thinking, I’m not sure I believe in anything more.
My message to you is, be open.
When you are open to the idea of something greater, even just a little, you will experience a greater sense of aliveness, love, and joy. Might there just be more to this thing called life and being alive? Maybe there is more than what our analytical, intellectual brain can figure out. Spiritual traditions throughout the world share mystical stories and teachings. All dial in to the everyday mystic who connects with something more, something greater, and a sense of union and oneness. Maybe all these stories are speaking to a common experience that we all can experience too.
[T]he true self is in the middle of our chest, in our spiritual heart. So, to get from ego to the true self I said: “I am loving awareness.” —Ram Dass
Reach out to something greater
Sit quietly and let your body relax.
Notice if you are holding any tension or tightness and just breathe into that area for a minute.
Put your hands over your heart area and just breathe.
Breathing in and breathing out, let your body soften and relax.
Now invite help in. You might say, “Help me. Be with me. Fill me with your love, light, and peace.”
Just be open.
Allow spaciousness and stillness to enter.
If your mind wanders, it is OK—just come back to your breath. Breathe in and breathe out.
Spend the next five minutes being open and receiving.
Afterward, take a moment to reflect on your experience. What was it like for you? What did you notice? What did you feel? Maybe make a note of it in a journal. And be open to whatever comes and whatever you may experience next.