My parents exposed my siblings and me to numerous religious paths growing up. My mom was raised Presbyterian, my dad Methodist. They were always drawn to mysticism, and they converted to Catholicism after their second child. Beginning in the early 1970s, Eastern spiritual teachings began playing a pivotal role in their lives, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. I have a sister named after St. Teresa and a brother named after Shiva (the Hindu “destroyer and transformer”), and my siblings’ godparents include nuns, priests, swamis, and ministers — many of whom we broke bread with over long meals and philosophical discussions often late into the evening.
True seekers, my parents were constantly questioning how and where they could feel closer to God. As dysfunctional as my family was, my parents understood that spiritual nourishment was as essential to their individual and family’s well-being and health as good nutrition and exercise. In fact, sometimes their focus on nourishing our souls overshadowed everything else.
Self-Care in the Spiritual Arena: Seeking Meaning & Purpose
Lately, when I speak on the topic of self-care to large groups and introduce the four areas of renewal — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual — many people share that they feel their greatest area of need is in the spiritual arena. Surprised? In fact, over the past fifteen years, I’ve heard many clients express a recurring dissatisfaction or boredom with their lives. Some say their lives are, technically speaking or superficially, “fine.” They’re healthy, have hobbies, like their work, and spend time with their families, and yet they feel that something is missing.
In countless conversations, people express that what they most need and want is to live a purposeful life, one ripe with meaning and a deep sense of connection to themselves, to others, and to God (or a higher power). They want to feel their lives matter, to experience heartfelt community and know that they “belong.” And they desire to revel in the mystery of life, to know that life is more than a “thing to be managed.”
The Need for Spiritual Nourishment or Renewal: Connection to Spirit
Ultimately, I believe our need for spiritual nourishment or renewal is tied to our desire to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves — we want to sense our oneness with the Divine or the universe. This sense of malaise or dissatisfaction is what leads us to start exploring life from the inside out. When there is unrest, we want an anchor, just like our children want their security blankets.
The desire for a safe harbor is prompting us to search out ways to enhance our sense of inner peace and connection to the Divine. I believe it’s our birthright and responsibility to nurture our inner world, our connection to Spirit, and to create space for spiritual renewal through the paths of reflection, contemplation, stillness, ritual, service to others, and spiritual community.
Everyday Spirituality in Everyday Actions
A couple of years back I dedicated a summer to researching the topic of everyday spirituality. I was very curious to learn where and how people find connection to the Divine in their day-to-day lives, if at all. I interviewed a diverse group of sixty men and women (ages twenty-eight to sixty-six) and challenged them to stretch beyond their beliefs or assumptions — such as that to experience God they must join a Zen monastery, sit in a pew, go on a retreat in Bali, or meditate or pray for three hours a day. I wanted to know how and when people connect to the Divine — while they’re unloading the dishwasher, grocery shopping, disciplining their child, driving carpools, meeting with coworkers, or helping their kids with homework.
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I was overwhelmed with the enthusiastic and thoughtful responses from the people who agreed to participate in my survey. They shared their “doorways” for connecting to God or the sacred in the everyday. Here are the main ones:
• Spending time in nature was number one for the majority of people.
• Some people cited body movement, whether that was dance, breath work, qi gong, yoga, or jogging.
• Prayer and meditation included any practice in which people consciously took time to connect with the Divine.
• Many mentioned simply living in the present by embracing this moment and releasing the past and future.
• Service to others, or being in an intentional community working with a group toward a larger goal, put many people in touch with their interconnectedness. One example was assembling a jungle gym for their school.
• Many also mentioned practicing simple acts of gratitude: regular, spoken or unspoken moments of deep appreciation.
• For some, artistic expression was high on their list: singing, playing an instrument, painting, writing, and sculpting.
• Playing with their babies or small children helped some experience pure joy in the “now.”
Finding and Using Your Portals for Spiritual Renewal
Surprisingly, of the respondents who said nature was their number one path for experiencing God, only a small number said they regularly spent time in nature. Most acknowledged that being in a spiritual community was beneficial, but you don’t have to go to church or gather with others to feel God, although personally I find it really nice to have this support for our family, particularly as our son moves into his teens.
Sometimes we may think we need to create “special conditions” or visit sacred places to connect to our spiritual nature, but God is everywhere — in the creek behind our home, in our family members’ eyes, in the stars overhead, in the stories we share at dinner — just waiting to be experienced.
What are your portals for spiritual renewal — those things your soul needs to be nourished? Do you consciously take time to feed your spirit through these pathways?
*Subtitles added by InnerSelf
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA 94949. www.newworldlibrary.com.
©2013 by Renée Peterson Trudeau. All Rights Reserved.
Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life
by Renée Peterson Trudeau
About the Author
Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life balance coach, speaker, and author. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and numerous other media outlets. On the faculty of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness, she leads life balance workshops and retreats for Fortune 500 companies, conferences, and organizations worldwide. Visit her website at http://reneetrudeau.com/