Spirituality is the ultimate form of connection, and I wanted to discover what it can offer to someone who is not religious. So in the final challenge of the year, I decided to investigate a range of spiritual practices. Every day, I invested at least an hour doing a spiritual activity, such as meditation, yoga, reading contemplative texts, and attending various spiritual services.
In the past, I’ve never thought of myself as a spiritual person. I’m not religious, and so coming into this month I wondered how and if spirituality would fit into my life. Despite my agnostic beliefs, I promised myself to keep an open mind in exploring what it means to be spiritual.
An early revelation came while attending service one Sunday. In his sermon, the minister spoke of a spiritual life as one that has a higher purpose and is in service of something larger than yourself. It’s a life based on goodness and compassion, not aggression or ill-will towards others.
This portrayal of spirituality deeply resonated with me. Truth be told, I always found it unsettling that my life was so void of spirituality, like I was missing a key ingredient to living an authentically full life. Yet my entire yearlong experiment in creating change has focused on doing good in the world, through small daily gestures of contribution, kindness and compassion. Could it be that I’ve been leading a spiritual life all along?
A breakthrough moment came during a weekend meditation retreat at a local Buddhist centre. In between meditation exercises, one of the speakers talked about the interconnectedness of trees in a forest. He explained how trees share nutrients and water through an underground network, the bigger trees feeding the younger ones, making the entire “community” of trees stronger as a whole.
Inspired by this thought, one day I spent an hour in contemplation in the forest behind the university where I teach. It was a grey and drizzly day. But, instead of feeling bleak and alone, I saw the world around me in a different way.
Breathing in the oxygen-rich air and regarding the beauty of the forest around me, I saw the web of life of which each of us is a part. We are indeed all connected. The art of being human and living a meaningful life – dare I say a spiritual life – is to nurture those connections in service of something greater than ourselves. Like the trees in the forest, we need each other in order to thrive.