The Spirituality Conundrum
Growing up in India as a person without any leaning towards spirituality or religion wasn’t easy. It is well-known that India is considered the spiritual capital of the world. People come from all over the world to “find themselves”. That some of them often get lost in the process of finding themselves is a discussion for another time and another place…probably on some beach in Goa!
I was surrounded by religion and spirituality, and yet never really took a fancy to that side of life. That isn’t to say that I was an atheist – at least being an atheist would have given me some kind of identity but I was mostly neutral. Now that’s not always a popular road to traverse, but being in the middle is just what I was born to do it seems, given that I’m a middle child!
As a science student and later an engineer, my mind was more tuned to rational thinking and even though I visited temples regularly with my family and attended countless lectures by famous people in the spiritual world, I didn’t find myself enamoured with any of it. My life just carried on blandly, busy with daily routines in my personal and professional realms.
One of my biggest conundrums, when it came to religion and spirituality, was an existential question –
“Does being religious/spiritual mean being fatalistic?”
A follow-up question could be “If all of our life events are predetermined, why should anyone bother doing anything at all?”
I confess that back then I assumed that the terms “religion” and “spirituality” were interchangeable as I felt they meant essentially the same thing. I realized much later that I couldn’t be further from the truth in that assumption.
If you are a believer in fate and destiny, I’d love to know your thoughts on the second question.
COACHING AND SPIRITUALITY
When I began my life coaching journey some years ago, I came across many philosophies that seemed to align perfectly with lessons from spirituality/religion. In fact, some teachings I had been exposed to many years ago in India and had all but forgotten crawled out of the woodwork of my memory bank!
Here are a couple of examples –
· In the personal development field, we often talk about the importance of overcoming the fear of change. I remember a verse from the Bhagavad Gita (which I learnt in my Sanskrit subject at school and later on, was a reluctant attendee at many lectures on the Gita that I was dragged to by others) which states “Change is the Law of the Universe so never fear change”. Pretty much the same philosophy, right?
· Back in the 90s, at one of the conferences in a company I worked in, the guest speaker was a swami – yes, a real swami in saffron robes! My mind had already switched off even before he started speaking as I couldn’t see the relevance of inviting a religious person to a corporate event. He began by saying something along the lines of “Some of you might be in this room against your will but since you don’t have the option of leaving, how about for the next hour you play a small game with your mind? Every time your mind goes “not possible” while listening to my talk, just switch the words to “might be possible”.” That opening line made me listen with interest and I actually learnt some useful things from that lecture. The fact that I still remember it some 30 years later is a testament to that!
We use a very similar philosophy in coaching by referring to “being open to possibilities”. By being open to possibilities, there’s no guarantee that the deck will be stacked in your favour but by having a closed mind, there is a pretty strong guarantee that the cards will almost certainly be stacked against you!
THE FOUR LAWS OF SPIRITUALITY
According to ancient Hindu philosophy, there are four main laws of spirituality. I had heard about this many years ago but it had disappeared from my memory until I recently saw a FB post about it. I marvelled at just how relevant these laws are to the way we live our lives and how useful this wisdom can be in our pursuit of happiness.
Law 1: Every person that comes into our life is the right person
We come across so many people during our lifetime. How about if we believed that every single person that comes across our path has entered our life for a reason? It might be easy to adopt this stance about the good and helpful people in our lives but how about those that we consider as undesirable? According to this law, even toxic people enter our lives for a reason, be it to teach us a lesson or to enhance our appreciation and gratitude for the good people in our lives. Wouldn’t this belief make it easier to deal with the negative people that so often tend to drag us down?
Law 2: Whatever happened is the only thing that could have happened
We spend a large portion of our lives regretting the things that happened in the past. “If only I hadn’t” or “I wish I had” are thoughts that typify most people’s lives leading them down the rabbit holes of regret, guilt, and unhappiness. If we could stop worrying about “what might have been”, wouldn’t it make it much easier to live in the present, an essential philosophy for a happier life?
Law 3: Anytime we start something is the right time for it
We’ve heard the expression “There’s always a time and place for everything”. Do we truly believe in it though? How often have we lamented the fact that “we missed the bus”? We tend to put things off because we’re afraid to take action and then we look back and wish we’d acted sooner. If we could remain steadfast in the conviction that things happen when they’re meant to happen, how helpful would it be for our mindset?
Law 4: When something ends, it ends
Sounds simple but hard to practice, right? The human tendency to stay stuck in events of the past and the unwillingness to move forward can be a huge burden on the body, mind, and soul. Think of a job loss, a broken relationship, or an acrimonious divorce and the stress these events bring with them. There’s no doubt that some goodbyes hurt more than others but dragging the chain around only makes the wound fester. It is much healthier to break free and move on. Accept that one phase has ended, and look forward to the next phase.
If you have a spiritual bent of mind, do give me your take on these four laws of spirituality.
The next time you find yourself feeling depressed, confused, angry, or anxious about:
- a person in your life,
- a situation or event that occurred,
- a phase or time in your life,
- a closure that you can’t get over,
think of these four laws, accept that everything in your life is happening just the way it should, calm your mind, and move forward.
After all, according to a Zen proverb, “no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place”.